By Karu Jayasuriya –
National Movement for Social Justice highlights the importance of a multi stakeholder approach to respond COVID-19 pandemic
The National Movement for Social Justice wishes to emphasize the importance of every citizen in their responsibility to come together in collective thought and action to face the current pandemic situation faced by our country.
Today, we are faced with an unprecedented health situation caused by the alarming increase in the rates of infected cases of COVID-19. The pandemic which is not only limited to Sri Lanka has been a global threat since the beginning of 2020. As the situation unfolds in Sri Lanka, we foresee the important role each and every stakeholder should play to assist the affected people and make every precautionary action to ensure the safety of all others.
While the government will continue to play a crucial and a central role supported by the health and defence services, ensuring the effective engagement of all key stakeholders is important. As the pandemic situation is unfolding with new challenges, we underline the importance of a collective response involves representation of all political parties, religious leadership, industries and the civil society.
We are confident that the present government has the goodwill and the necessary constitutional power to address this critical situation. As we know, the present success of the government’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak as well as the President’s commendable efforts to contain the drug menace have been able to be achieved at a time when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution has been in place. Let us also be reminded of the fact that, Sri Lanka was able to defeat one of the deadliest terrorist groups in the world when the 17th Amendment to the Constitution was effective. That reform too had introduced independent commissions and certain checks and balances on the executive branch of the government. The much publicized argument for the need of excessive executive powers for efficiency and effective governance, therefore, is an out-of-context abstraction.
In the present situation, we wish to make the humble request to the government to reassess the challenges set out by the proposed 20th Amendment and as very clearly stated in the election manifesto of the ruling party to lead to the design of a new constitution through positive and wide public consultations. In order to bring context to the present discourse on a new constitution, we suggest to study the successful precedence for a drafting a new constitution with the participation and agreement of all parties. Although the draft constitution of year 2000, could not be realized due to petty political differences of a few, we recall with gratitude the important role played by Prof. G.L. Peiris in this regard. Therefore, we wish to request you to make use of the existing rich experience and expertise within the country, in order to design a new Constitution through the means of a White paper and make a wider public and stakeholder consultation.
Finally, it is our very humble request to the President, His Excellency Gotabaya Rajapaksa, to make every effort at this crucial moment to combat the pandemic and ensure the safety of all the people. At the same time, we would extend a kind invitation to all religious leaders, political leaders, and civil society activists to join hands with the government in this national endeavor towards the design of a new Constitution to strengthen democracy and uphold the safety and rights of all people
*Karu Jayasuriya, Chairman – National Movement for Social Justice