21 November, 2018

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An Appeal To All Sri Lankans On Formulating A New Constitution

By S. Krishnananthan

S. Krishnananthan

This is in response to the article of Dr. Laksiri Fernando on “An Appeal To Tamil Political Leaders On ‘The New Constitution”.

Instead of appealing to Tamil Political Leaders, Dr. Laksiri Fernando should have appealed to the Sinhala political leaders because the Sinhala political leaders have a long history of being obstinate and even going back on agreed proposals. The intellectuals among Sinhalese are not better. Despite these reservations, I more or less agree with his intention and concern and I hope my intervention only enriches the attempt made by Dr Fernando and provoke lively serious discussions towards arriving at a consensual final product.

However I, as a Sri Lankan wish to submit my appeal to all Sri Lankans of all ethnicities that particularly includes all politicians and others even in the joint opposition because the final product have to be the result of an all inclusive effort so that all Sri Lankans irrespective of any differences could maintain allegiance and pledge ownership and be proud of the final outcome.
At the outset, I subscribe to the theory that the Sinhala community being the majority community should be given the rightful place without jeopardizing the equality of all citizens resident in the country.

Having acknowledged this reality, I humbly place before you all a brief outline that could be the basis for formulating a compromised version that is acceptable to a wider section that cut across communal and religious differences. Let me be brief.

1 Nature of State: Sri Lanka shall be a unitary state with extensive power sharing with the provinces.

2 Sovereignty: Sovereignty rests with the people

3 Religion: Foremost place be given to Buddhism, but the state shall be secular in the allocation of resources and treat all religions alike.

4 Form of Government: The form of government shall be Presidential accommodating the 19th Amendment to the constitution and improving on it. Let the President be the symbol of national unity and safeguarding territorial integrity of the country rests primarily on the President.

5 Electoral Reforms:

5.1 Local Authorities: The Local Authorities elections shall be conducted on the first past post ward system without the proportional representation system and measures shall be taken to depoliticize and to evolve a people centered development oriented vibrant system of local governance at the grassroots level. Subsidiarity and proximity shall be the guiding principle and local issues take precedence.

5.2 Provincial Council: The Provincial Council shall have a mixed First Past Post within an overall proportional representation system with the participation of political parties for balanced regional development. Provincial Councils will automatically enhance democracy by the involvement of all communities and religious groups in the periphery

5.3 Parliamentary Elections: The Parliamentary Elections shall be conducted on a district based proportional system with national seats as at present. This will satisfy minor political parties and ethnic and religious minorities. This system will encourage the professionals to gain representation at national level. The First Past Post system is not required for Parliamentary elections. Parochial interests should not be allowed to gain ground during parliamentary elections.

6 Merger: The Merger of Northern and Eastern Provinces may be set aside permanantly, but the provincial boundaries could be adjusted in consultation and with the consensus of the people of the respective provinces.

Dr Laksiri Fernando mistakenly mentions that North East merger is in the 13 Amendment. It is not so, it is only in the Provincial Council Act No 42 of 1987.

7 Language: The Official Language shall be Sinhala, Tamil and English and we propose to build a trilingual Sri Lanka without any compulsion.

8 Language of Administration: The 16th Amendment to the Present Constitution shall be incorporated in full in the new constitution. In this instance The recommendations of the sub-committee on Fundamental rights that proposes innovative Language of Administration provisions shall be accepted in full

9 Power Sharing: The Power Sharing shall be territorially not ethnically based, but designed to address the ethnic concerns of different communities living in the provinces.

10 Center-Periphery Relations:

10.1 – The sub-committee report had made a series of satisfactory recommendations and all the recommendations shall be seriously considered for inclusion in he new constitution.
The recommendation for the establishment of “Rajya Sabas” for every ward is also a welcome move.

The subsidiary principle should be the basis for the different tiers of governance and the 4FS should be clearly defined to ensure viable units.

The 4F s are

  • Functions
  • Functionality
  • Funds and
  • Freedom

If I may elaborate,

  • Functions at each level shall be clear and without any duplication and ambiguity and irrevocable.
  • Functionality is the officers handling have clear job description and unity of command. There should not be any duplication. there should not be two masters one in the provincial Council and the other in the Central Government for any officer .The Grama Niladaries and Divisional Secretaries function under the Provincial Councils
  • Funds shall be adequate timely, predictable over several years. A need-based, performance –linked, normative expenditure assessment shall be used.
  • Freedom denotes autonomy at each level .The three tiers are independent.

10.2 Financial Transfers:

The bulk of the transfer from the Center to the Provinces and Local Authorities shall be in the form of Tax Sharing based on a norm based formula and the release is automatic independent of whims and fancies of Treasury or any Central Authority.

As tax is collected, the provincial share will be credited to the respective provincial fund If at all there is a Grant let it be an Equalization Grant to make final minor adjustments.

However the Provincial Councils are required to enhance their own tax base so that in due course, the provincial Councils could become self financing as far as possible.

Balance Development is also a desirable outcome, but not at the expense of specialization. An Equalization grant is recommended to bridge any short in the shared Tax Revenue and the own revenue of he Provinces.

Thus the funds of the Provincial Councils consists of

  • Own revenue
  • Shared Tax revenue
  • Equalization Grant
  • Any Loan- Local or foreign

10.3 Foreign Loans:

The provincial Councils shall have the power to negotiate for loans from foreign sources provided a representative of Treasury is also participate as a member of the negotiating team.

10.4 Finance commission: The Finance Commission is an independent commission, not an audit commission. The mandate of the Finance Commission shall be to recommend to the Government adequate shared taxes and equalization grants to the Provincial Councils to meet the needs of the provincial Councils. Once the recommendation is made, thereafter the Finance Commission has no role to play in the implementation.

The provincial councils has the autonomy to prepare their own budget/ Financial Statement. Once it is passed by the Provincial Council, their shall not be any impediment by the Finance Commission or by any other central authority to interfere in any way in the internal affairs of the provincial Councils.

10.5 Auditor General: The Auditor General shall audit the Provincial Councils and Local authorities.

10.6 Concurrent List: The concurrent List need not be abolished, but the bulk of the items in the present list are transferred to the Provincial List leaving the residue under the Concurrent List.

10.7 National Policy: National Policy shall be formulated for key sectors such as Education, Health Environment, Water, Pollution, Gender, Human Rights, etc with the participation of all stakeholders, but the implementation could be left to the three tiers of government. it need not be exclusive o the center.

10.8 Governor’s Power: Let Governor be the nominal and ceremonial head and the power’s of the Governors are re defined as per the recommendations of the sub- committee on Centre Periphery Relations and the elected councilors were granted pivotal role in running the Provinces with minimal interference for the Governor.

11 Fundamental Rights

The sub Committee Report looks excellent, but any curtailment or suspension of fundamental rights whether temporary or permanent during emergency should be done away with.

All fundamental rights are made enforceable and punishable in a court of law

Groups Rights like Individual Rights should be given more emphasis.

All minority rights including LGBTQI rights are recommendes for inclusion .

It is a welcome gesture that almost the entire provisions of 16th Amendment are reproduced in the Sub Committee Report on fundamental rights.

12 Prerequisite: Before I conclude let me make an appeal to the Government for immediate action, despite inaction being the hallmark of the present government

  • to release all lands taken over by the government during the conflict to return to the rightful owners
  • to release all detainees held in prison under PTA unconditionally and
  • to account for all the missing persons due to conflict
  • to create a conducive atmosphere .

These issues are not directly related to formulating a new constitution, but as a confidence building measure, a positive response will go a long way in the healing process and assure significant minority participation.

Let us together formulate an all inclusive constitution that could pass both the two third and referendum hurdles with an ease that is incredible.

*S.Krishnananthan a retired Deputy Secretary/Director, North East Provincial Council, Eastern Provincial Council  and  finally at the time of his retirement, the Northern Provincial Council”.
Mr Krishnananthan had previously during 1998-99 worked as National Consultant in the UNDP funded Project on “Fiscal Devolution”

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Latest comments

  • 1
    3

    These seems relatively reasonable proposal at first reading. But a closer look appears to seek too much power for the provincial councils eg power to raise funds from a broad albeit with approval of the treasury. For what purposes one might ask loans are to be raised or is this just carte blanche ?

    Again why should the local authority elections be held on first past the post basis and the National elections on the basis of proportional representation ?

    How does one reconcile the statement
    ‘Foremost status to be given to Buddhism but the state shall be secular’ By definition giving preference to one religion negates the secular nature of the constitution does it not?
    I do not understand the need for ‘pre-conditions’ to be attached to constitutional reforms.Does it imply that the author of this piece will reject the constitution even if it totally represents in substance what he has demanded because the pre-conditions have not been met?
    Reconciliation is a two way, hand by hand path and cannot be achieved if there are no accommodations or compromises made by all sides of the communal divide.
    Too often when it comes to constitutional reforms what seems to be emphasised
    is the divide between the Sinhalese Buddhists and the Hindu Tamils.Lets remind ourselves the 25 year old war between the state and the LTTE -the sole representatives of the Tamil people, harmed all of us irrespective of our ethnicity or religion. Today there is tremendous goodwill among the majority of the elected members of Parliament including the official opposition. Let us wait until the new constitutional provisions are published with out trying to scuttle the boat before it reaches the port.

    God bless Sri Lanka

    • 0
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      S. Krishnananthan

      RE: An Appeal To All Sri Lankans On Formulating A New Constitution

      “This is in response to the article of Dr. Laksiri Fernando on “An Appeal To Tamil Political Leaders On ‘The New Constitution”.”

      Yes. The curse of the Britiish and the curse of the Paras with average IQ of 79, in the Land of Native Veddah Aethho.

      Para-Sinhala, para-Tamils, Para-Muslims, Para-Malaya, Para- Portuguese etc., get your Para acts together and move on.

  • 3
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    S. Krishnananthan, What do you mean by your submission that the Sinhala community – being the majority community – should be given the place that is rightful. And, once one community is hand picked for, whatever, does that not skew the democratic process.

    By the very nature of the form of governance, the rightful place for the majority community is automatically assured in a democracy. The vantage position to make the majority decision (not majority colour or creed). In light of this, I consider your view inimical to democracy.

    The comments expressed under Dr. Laksiri Fernando’s article have pointed out its weakness. Here is a sample:

    This article is asking the weaker side to give more (i.e moderate their position) whilst staying silent on the stronger side wanting all. Richard Kaz, February 20, 2017 at 7:34 am.

    Now, three days later, you are arguing for ‘the rightful place’. Doesn’t the sure prospect to cast the majority opinion – assured by its numerical superiority – give that community its rightful place.

  • 1
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    Dear Writer,

    There are many social, political and economic issues to be resolved by the Sri lankan people. I do not think that constitution making or drafting is the main solution to the existing problems.

    If you are in Sri Lanka, walk to a Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim villager and ask him whether he needs a new consitution. He or she may say that they have many burning issues, such as how to find their day to day meal, instead of considering the constitution making for Sri Lanka.

    Please watch the following statements made by the former Professor and Chancellor of the University of Sri Jayawardanapura about the constitution:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znn5anJbvq0

    • 0
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      Sunil Dahanayake

      This is about christians and Tamils wanting their dominence in the country and over powering of Sinhala buddhists.

      Read the Geneology of Tamils who talks a lot. They had begun in South India. their great grand parenets were govt employees in south India. When they came here, their king was Sinhala and Tamil mixed, later they were married to and had names of portugeuse, dutch, British, Sinhala.

      Now they want their own country.

      • 0
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        Not own country, they want the whole country. Haha deal with it. Sinhalese should be sent back to bangaledesh.

    • 2
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      Sunil Dahanayake

      “There are many social, political and economic issues to be resolved by the Sri lankan people.”

      You are completely wrong. This is a thrice blessed island and not true that we have such problems.

      “I do not think that constitution making or drafting is the main solution to the existing problems.”

      If that is the case why do we need a constitution which still cannot solve social, political and economic issues. Lets get rid of it, obliterate it, expunge it, ……

      FYI

      Constitution Of A Country

      The constitution of a country is a set of rules regulating the powers of its government and the rights and duties of its citizens.

      If this doesn’t educate you tell us what else will?

  • 1
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    My first question is why do we need a new constitution? The obvious answer is that the existing constititution has completely or partially failed in meeting the requirements of the people or failed to bring people together. There was no constitution in this land before British rule in this island most of the problems what we are facing today are only relevant to the Sinhalese majority rule after 1948. So, the fundamental problem is associated with the Sinhalese majority rule or the unitary system of governance after British rule. It is the unitary system or those who took over the charge of governance under this system was wrong. What is the point in making a new constitution with the same unitary system which failed throughout its life period?

    Unless we change the system or those who responsible the violating or misusing the system, there is no purpose in bringing a new system. For example, the constitution states that each individual should be treated equally means the law should be applied to all with the same scale. When you talk about majority Sinhalese should be given the right place or Buddhism should be given right place in the constitution, the equal become meaningless and worthless.

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      Ajith:

      My first question is why do we need a new constitution? The obvious answer is that the existing constititution has completely or partially failed in meeting the requirements of the people or failed to bring people together.

      what do you say, now there are new immigrents in the country and change the constitution to accomodate immigrents. British don’t have a constituion. Instead, they have a privy council. those men never take decision to compromise their value system, culture or the mazjority. Every immigrent talk English and try to be english.

      Only in sinhale, they want to be Tamils even though their great grand parents were employees in the south Indian govt. Even these Tamils, except the harijan kallathonis, are not true Tamils. they are Sinhala, Portugeuse, Dutch and British mixed. Even todate they get married to Sinhala, english, European languages speaking people.

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        Jim softy,

        I think ou are very soft kallathoni. Don’t forget your immigration status.Sinhale are the original kallathoni’s to this beautiful Tamil land. Only your Sinhale like SWRD, DS Senanayake, Junior Jeyawardena, Mahinda Percy all not only speak English but also have their names in English. Do you know what language Lion speak? Do you know what Language kallathoni Viyaya spoke?

  • 0
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    Another crappie article to drum up support for the fake “Tamil ” cause.

    Respectable sir, don’t you really really have anything good to ite about Sri Lanka? Don’t you have anything to write to enhance the lives of Sri Lankans? There are so many areas we Sri Lankans are dying get information on. Why are you so poor?

    Tamil terrorists are gone and the separate state concept does not fly.

  • 1
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    This is an idiotic proposal to please the Sinhalese. The writer fails to understand what the Tamil people have been struggling for. The writer proposes:
    – No North-East merger
    – No federalism
    – Maintaining of the Unitary Status
    – Foremost place to Buddhism

    He is basically proposing to deny all major requests of the Tamils! He is proposing not to offer equality by keeping the foremost place to Buddhism.

    Excellent choice and approach to resolve the problem! The Sinhalese sure know how to deny the Tamils their rights, no need for another Tamil to preach to the choir.

  • 0
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    Jim Softy,

    Thanks, In UK also, Irish, Scottish, weles refuse to be assimilated and hence different degree of devolution.

    The British are not fools

    In Sri Lanka also Tamils refuse to be assimilated, only way out is either “kill” them or come to some understanding with them.

    The choice is yours

    which one you prefer?

    When selecting the “Killing’ alternative be aware of the consequences!

  • 0
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    Not necessary for a new constitution.
    Lets move on with what we have as there is no time to waste as lot up catch up is to be done is stuck with transport as no Volkswagen are coming out of Kuliyapitiya..

    • 0
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      Well said.

  • 0
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    Dear Krishnananthan and all participants,
    I give an applause as I am amazed by the author being a Tamil and not so responsible as the new Yahapalanaya Government that undertook the responsibility for reconciliation of all citizens to think of giving a higher magnitude of devolution to the majority race than that of other races in spite of the fact that the war crimes and periodic destruction of Tamil lives and property were carried out periodically by the majoritarian Governments! This is a man Sri Lanka must hail like how the Cabinet Ministers hailed Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan for saving the Sinhalese leaders from persecution by the British in 1930s He is really a gentleman. Giving respect gets respect just like what you do to others is what you get back. He looks a well read and educated and really qualified as a leader compared to all the leaders under whom Sri Lanka suffered for the last 70 years and got rolled down to the precipice it is in today.

  • 0
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    Thanks for all the valuable comments already made and to be made

    At this stage i want to make a simple clarification to all,

    What I had proposed is a package, not a piecemeal approach.

    Hence look at the parts through the whole, not the parts separately.

    I am studying all the comments carefully and I will respond to all when I respond to Dr Laksiri Fernando.

    Please bear with me some more time, but let us be continuously engage with each other

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