By Sarath Wijesinghe –
Constitution is the supreme law of a country from which all the other laws are generated and derived. Many countries have written constitutionals on different models. Current 1978 Constitution of Sri Lanka has its origin from 1947 Saulbury Constitution which has subsequently transformed to the 1972 Constitution until the present Constitution which is a Unicameral Presidential system was enacted. There were promises by successive governments to abolish the Executive Presidency in Sri Lanka though there was no agitation from the people who are undecided on the form of governance for which they never participated at the enactment. They had to accept the Supreme Law bestowed upon them by the legislators. The current government has agreed with the people to abolish the Executive Presidency and the process is not in motion by way of a bill to the Parliament for the purpose of, (1) Abolition of the Executive Presidency (2) Electoral Reforms and (3) Devolution.
It appears that the government is planning for the enactment of a New Constitution based on and to achieve the above objects. Did people vote for a new constitution or only the abolition of the Executive Presidency is a matter the people are aware of when the process of constitutional making is fast moving with appointment of committees and taking steps of implementation with a target and a deadline. Is it necessary and safe to voyage through the most dangerous path of creating a new constitution when there is a safe method which satisfies all the stakeholders and players in the political and constitutional arenas? Out of the above three topics devolution is the most complicated and contentious. Provincial councils imposed by the 13th Amendment was thought to be a panacea which has been proved a failure and a white elephant. Whilst “MR” has given freedom to live peacefully after 30 years of miserable war “Maithri-Ranil” combination managed West having given unlimited concessions expecting/demanding more and more demands from the West and the North with traditional and strong sentiments and aspirations for a federal or Quasi Federal Sri Lanka for which the South will be vehemently against. This is an opportunity to be made use of carefully and promptly as there is no compulsion for a new constitution except the promise to abolish the Executive Presidency. This opportunity should be gabbed without delay with all sectors and sections of the country. Obviously it is difficult to satisfy all the parties, but give and take process may show results. Changing the entire constitution will disturb the current workable trend.
New Constitution or amendments to the existing Model?
If the requirement is for the purposes above, is there a need for a new constriction with rough rides and dangerous pit halls. It is a complicated maize and it would have been sensible to avoid the complicated process of going through a difficult journey when there is safe and short path most difficult being the devolution, 13th Amendment and Human Rights which is a most complicated and contentious issue which has taken a different turn in the world events and the world economic and political order. Issues demands and pronouncements appear to change expand and demanding from all sectors including the international community and the NGO’s who are still silent awaiting until the drafts of the constitutional making is put forward to the country and the world. In a survey by a leading TV channel 93% do not require a new constitution indication the general trend. Indian Constitution is the largest with 444 articles which is a forceful living document and the USA though one of the smallest with seven Articles are vibrant and active with the participation of the citizen. Most important requirement for a constitution to be active and lively is the citizen participation and the genuine involvement based on the needs of the community. There is a notion that changing the constitution tested over thirty years is the panacea for all odds is a matter to be reconsidered when compared to the rough ride ahead in the formation of a brand new constitution to the satisfaction of the Nation still exhausted after 30 years of miserable war and bitter memories. It is still not too late for us to be sensible and practical in the interest of all. Will the President be able to sale through against the traditional tide of long rooted nationalism backed by “Maha Sanga” will be an important factor and whether the President and the Government is popular and believed is a matter left to the citizen who is now advanced and politically educated.
People Participation and confidence
There appear to be no genuine and active participation of the citizen though a committee of 25 have been appointed to hear the voice of the common man. Do these members represent a broad spectrum of the society is a moot issue as many members belong to a particular political ideology which has aroused the suspicion of the common man in this “Cultural Nation” geared to practice humanity freedom and respectability by permitting all races and religions to live in harmony from time immemorial to date unlike other parts of the world including the Western democracies. Steam Rolling” the process with political manoeuvring and exerting pressure/perks will bring long and short term disasters to be averted at any cost and time is needed to a cooling period and time. What is the hurry for a complete overhaul the system when only the required amendments could be made with least resistance when the country needs at this stage the economic prosperity over app other priorities. Is the amended constitution an obstruction for economic deployment is the main question to be considered.
We are on the main cross road after 30 year of miserable war and it is time to reap the harvest of the peace dawn with the blood and sweat of all citizens and the opportunity is before us to build our nation belongs to all communities equally. Undoubtedly we have been bestowed with one of the most beautiful countries in the world with highly skilled and gifted citizens with enormous resources unlike in Israel the main resource being the human resource which they exploited in transforming the barren land without water or resource 70 years ago to be one of the most powerful agritcultire and IT based countries in the Middle east amidst enemies right round. Proper Foreign Policy and a stable and people friendly Supreme Law are the main requirements for the development of a Nation expecting to lead Asia economical and politically being one of the most senior members of the United Nation and a mature and seasoned democratic model which is a living example to the world for being most peaceful and friendly to all on the motto on our foreign policy based on “Friendly with all and angry with none”. 1.8 million of our brethrens are employed overseas winning over the employers as genuine intelligent and hardworking. In Philippine 10 of the population is employed overseas when our expectants, employed overseas and Diaspora are capable educated and making the presence felt in the world. It is time to give preference for nation building and development with less attention to the constitutional making which should take the normal course of events. It needs lot of discussions thinking and time considering the different and different journey ahead.
In the process of assisting the Nation in the Constitutional Making process a Seminer is organised at the OPA Auditorium on 25th January from 6.00 to 9.00 (organized by Sri Lanka 2050- admission free) on the topic “CONSTITUTIONAL MAKING” with speakers, * Professor G.L Peiris – former Minister of External Affairs,*Hon Vijitha Herath- Member of Parliament*, Srinath Perera PC and member of Provincial Council (UNP),*Manohara de Silva PC,*Kumar Arumpalam P.C. Former Additional Solicitor General,*Sri Lal Laketileka Coordinating Secretary to HE the President and Attorney At law,*D L Mendis a former Ambassador UN expert and a Lawyer, with His Lordship Marshoof PC former judge of the Supreme Court as the Moderator and Sarath Wijesinghe former Ambassador to UAE and Israel as the Convenor. Admission free and you are advised to come early. (0777880166/3100064/0724164561-0724164561)
Therefore, it is the duty of the civic minded citizens to take part at the deliberations and the governance too should carefully win the citizen over to gain fullest cooperation and participation.