21 October, 2020

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Secure Socio-Economic Justice And Rights Through The New Constitution: Civil Society Tells Constitutional Assembly

A total of 99 organisations and 83 individuals have joined hands to urge the members of the Constitutional Assembly and in particular the Steering Committee, to ensure that the new constitution of Sri Lanka is underpinned by a substantive recognition of the obligations of the state to further social and economic justice and rights.

In an open letter dated on September 13, the signatories called on both the Constitutional Assembly and the Steering Committee to also take immediate measures to ensure fullest levels of transparency in the process. “This includes rendering all submissions, reports and official record of deliberations public and ensuring that sufficient time is set aside for meaningful public scrutiny and discussion of the draft constitution thus produced,” the letter said.

The letter was signed by 99 organisations representing social movements, trade unions, and organisations working to protect the rights of women, minorities, farmers, fishers, workers, teachers, persons with disabilities, sexual minorities, and the environment, and endorsed by 83 individuals including academics, scholars, lawyers, teachers, social activists, writers, human rights defenders, journalists, and professionals from various backgrounds.

We publish below the letter in full:

We, the undersigned organisations and individuals, call on all members of the Constitutional Assembly, and in particular the Steering Committee, to ensure that the new constitution of Sri Lanka is underpinned by a substantive recognition of the obligations of the state to further social and economic justice and rights. Firstly, we note that this will be in keeping with the large number of submissions made in this regard to the Public Representations Committee on Constitutional Reforms (PRC) from across the country. This is clearly reflected in the PRC’s own extensive recommendations on social and economic justice, especially those contained in the report’s chapters on the ‘Directive Principles of State Policy’, ‘Fundamental Rights’, ‘Public Finance’, and ‘Land, Development and Environment’ respectively.

Secondly, the new constitution must unequivocally crystallize Sri Lanka’s own post-independence history of public provisioning in areas such as health, education and social welfare. This is central to ensure more effective safeguarding of basic entitlements and rights central to freedom, dignity, well-being and human security. This is also critical in the light of the social, economic and environmental costs of monetary, fiscal and trade policies that are widening inequality and precariousness, sharpening regional imbalances, and weakening social policy; processes that have been aggravated by the war as well as post-war approaches to reconstruction and development.

Thirdly, we stress that the constitution must a) place obligations on the state to ensure distributive justice through inclusive, equitable, regionally balanced and sustainable development and b) provide recourse to citizens to claim and enforce their rights in regard to these obligations. This is in keeping with the letter and spirit of Sri Lanka being not only a democratic but also a socialist republic. Moreover, this is also in keeping with Sri Lanka’s obligations as a state party to the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights—under which it must take deliberate and concrete steps towards meeting its obligations—as well as its commitments to goals under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Fourthly, we call on the Constitutional Assembly to ensure that through their recognition in the Bill of Rights or as Fundamental Rights, the constitution enables the judicial enforcement of economic and social rights with respect to: education, health, food, water, adequate housing, social security, a living wage, decent and safe work, freedom from forced evictions, and a safe, clean and healthy environment. A Bill of Rights or a Fundamental Rights chapter that only recognises civil and political freedoms not only undermines the indivisible and interdependent nature of rights and entitlements but also seriously imperils the well-being and security of a large section of the country’s population.

We also underline that there is no evidence suggesting that judicial enforceability of economic and social rights inevitably leads to excessive judicial encroachment on policy or unreasonable constraints on the Executive’s or Legislature’s power to allocate and expend resources. On the contrary, it can and does lead to greater accountability and checks and balances on the objects and outcomes of social and economic policy.

Fifthly, we stress that a constitution that fails to address deprivation, distributive injustice and inequality between and across the peoples of Sri Lanka and its different regions will not secure the foundations of justice or peace but sow the seeds of future conflict. A constitutional order that formalizes a polity of contradictions in which political equality sits alongside social and economic inequality will eventually threaten the structure of political democracy itself. The Constitutional Assembly and the Steering Committee are duty-bound to guard against this by ensuring a constitution that guarantees civil, political, economic and social justice for all.

We note, finally, that an expectation reiterated time and again during an inclusive and participatory PRC process was that the new constitution would result in a fresh social contract between citizens and the state. As is clear from PRC’s report, central to this expectation is the enshrining of social and economic justice and rights, which are judicially enforceable, within the constitution. A failure to do so will amount to a betrayal not only of this expectation but also of the PRC process itself.

Indeed, we note with grave concern that the current post-PRC phase of the constitutional reform process has been very non-transparent, whether with respect to the working of the Steering Committee, the six Sub-Committees, and the Panel of Experts or the overall time frame and process. Contrary to articles 4 and 11 of the resolution that converted Parliament into the Constitutional Assembly, no meaningful attempt has been made to institutionalise transparency and disseminate or broadcast such information to the public.

The lack of transparency is almost certain to have adverse consequences for the rights and interests of those on the socio-economic margins of the polity. We therefore call on the Constitutional Assembly and the Steering Committee to also take immediate measures to ensure fullest levels transparency in the process. This includes rendering all submissions, reports and official record of deliberations public and ensuring that sufficient time is set aside for meaningful public scrutiny and discussion of the draft constitution thus produced.

Endorsed (as of 13 Sep. 2016) by 99 organisations country wide including social movements, trade unions, and organisations working to protect the rights of women, minorities, farmers, fishers, workers, teachers, persons with disabilities, sexual minorities, and the environment. It has also been endorsed by 83 individuals including academics, scholars, lawyers, teachers, social activists, writers, human rights defenders, journalists, and professionals from various backgrounds.
List of organisations and individuals who have endorsed the statement as on date

Organizations

Ampara District Organic Farmer’s Society
Ape Shakthi Women’s Organization, Polonnaruwa
Arthacharya Foundation, Galle
Batticaloa District Fisheries Solidarity Organization
Bio Diversity Research and Information Training Centre, Badulla
Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ)
Centre for Human Rights and Community Development (CHRCD), Kurunegala
Centre for Society and Religion (CSR)
Centre for Women’s Research (CENWOR)
Ceylon Federation of Trade Unions (CFTU)
Ceylon Teachers Union (CTU)
Ceylon Workers Red Flag Union
Commercial and Industrial Workers Union (CIWU)
Dehena Participatory Foundation, Kandy
Devasarana Development Centre, Kurunegala
Diakonia
Digili United Farmer’s Organization, Matara
District Fisheries solidarity organization, Addalachenai, Ampara
Domestic Workers Union
Ekabaddha Praja Sanwardhana Kantha Maha Sangamaya , Ratnapura
Environment Conservation Trust (ECT)
Environmental and Community Development Information Centre, Rathnapura
Equal Ground
Food First Information and Action Network (FIAN) – Sri Lanka Chapter
Friends of the Earth, Sri Lanka
Future in Our Hands Development Fund, Badulla
Grameeya Swashakthi Athwela Organization, Galle
Grassroots Training Institute, Kegalle
Indigenous Seeds and Environmental Farmer Organization, Anuradhapura
Isuru Jeewithodaya Foundation, Nuwaraeliya
Jaffna District Fisheries Solidarity Organization, Jaffna
Jana Vijaya Environmental Farmer Foundation, Rathnapura
Janawaboda Kendraya
Janothsa Development Foundation, Rathnapura
Kalewani Farmer Organization, Batticaloa
Kalutara District Fisheries Solidarity Organization, Beruwala
Kandurata Environmental Development Forum, Kandy
Kandurata Women’s Foundation – Kandy
Kilinochchi District Fisheries Solidarity organization, Poonagari
Law and Society Trust
Manawa Praboda Foundation, Anuradhapura
Mannar District Fisheries Solidarity organization, Mannar
Mannar Women’s development Federation
Miridiya organization, Polonnaruwa
Motivation Sri Lanka
Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR)
Movement for the Defense of Democratic Rights
National Association of Trade Union Research and Education (NATURE)
National Fisheries Solidarity Organization (NAFSO)
National Front for Good Governance (NFGG)
Negombo Lagoon Fisher People’s organization, Negombo
NGO Consortium, Batticaloa
Nikasala Community Organization, Anuradhapura
Oxfam
Pahala Uva Community Development Institute, Monaragala
Pahatharata Community Organization Forum, Matara
Passara Citizen’s Forum, Badulla
Peasant Information Centre, Kurunegala
People to People Dialogue on Peace and Sustainable development, Negombo
People’s Movement for Community Awareness, Vavuniya
Plantation Community Development Forum, Badulla
Plantation Social Development Institute, Nuwaraeliya
Praja Abilasha Land rights Network, Negombo.
Praja Sahayogitha Sanvidanaya, Polpithigama, Kurunegala
Praja Shakthi Development organization, Karuwalagaswewa,
Program for Women’s Economic Social Cultural Rights (PWESCR)
Progressive Farmers’ Assembly, Polonnaruwa
Puttalam District Fisheries Solidarity Organization, Thoduwawa
Red Flag Women’s Movement
Rural Women’s Front, Galle
Rural Workers Organization, Urumpirai
Samadanam, Kandy
Savisthri
Senarathgama Environmental Farmer Organization, Kandy
Shramabhimani Kendraya, Negombo
Siriliya Women Farmer organization, Mahiyanganaya
Small Farmers’ Organic Produce Production and Collection Society, Kandy
Southern Fisheries Organization, Galle
Southern Fisheries Organization, Matara
Sri Lanka Nature Group (SLNG)
Sri Vimukthi Fisher Women Organization, Negombo
Suriya Women’s Development Centre Batticaloa
Suwashakthi Sanwardana Parshadaya, Mahiyanganaya
Swami Nadaraja Nandaji Child Rehabilitation Centre, Batticaloa
Tissa Jaya Child Welfare Foundation, Kandy
Trincomalee district fisheries solidarity organization
United Farmer Federation, Anuradhpura
United Federation of Labour
United General Employees’ Union
Uva Community Development Centre (UCDC)
Uva Paranagama Suwashakthi Parshadaya, Badulla
Uva Rural Development Foundation, Monaragala
Uva Wellassa Women’s Organization, Badulla
Vishwa Shakthi Sanasa Organization, Nuwaraeliya
Women’s Resource Centre, Kurunegala
Women’s Rural Development Society, Ampara
Women’s Action Network
Women’s Coalition for Disaster Management Batticaloa
Women’s Development Centre, Kandy

Individuals

Ahilan Kadirgamar
Ajanee Casinadar
Ananda Galappatti
Anuratha Rajaratnam
Athula Samarakoon
Athula Kumara
Balachandran Gowthaman
Balasingham Skanthakumar
Bishop Duleep de Chickera
Buddhima Padmasiri
Chandra Jayaratne
Chulani Kodikara
Dr Danesh Karunanayake
Deanne Uyangoda
Dhanushka Rajaratnam
Dileepa Witharana
Dr. Dinesha Samararatne
Dinushika Dissanayake
Elangeswary Arunasalam
Ermiza Tegal
Gamini Kulatunga
Halik Azeez
Hans Billimoria
Dr. Harini Amarasuriya
Dr. Harshana Rambukwella
Harean Hettiarachchi
Herman Kumara
Hilmy Ahamed
Dr. Jayadeva Uyangoda
Jayantha Dhanapala
Jeyashanthini Winifred
Kalyani Suntharalingam
Karthiyayini Sathiyaseelan
Kayathri Thangarajah
Krishantha Fredricks
Kumudini Samuel
Dr. Kumudu Kusum Kumara
Lakshman Gunasekara
Dr. Liyanage Amarakeerthi
Madhava Meegaskumbura
Mahalaxumi Kurushanthan
Mahinda Hattaka
Marisa De Silva
Mirak Raheem
Muhammed Muzzammil Cader
Dr. Muttukrishna Sarvananthan
Nalini Ratnarajah
Dr. Nimalka Fernando
Dr. Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri
Padmini Weerasooriya
Pavithra Kailasapathy
Dr. Pradeep Peiris
Prabhath Jayasinghe
Primal Fernando
Rajaletchumi Kandiah
Dr. Rajan Hoole
Rashmini de Silva
Prof. Rohan Fernando
Ruki Fernando
Dr. Dr Ruvan Weerasinghe
S. Arivalzahan
S.C.C.Elankovan
Sanjeeva Mathripala
Sarala Emmanuel
Dr. Sepali Kottegoda
Setheeswary Yogathas
Shenali De Silva
Shreen Abdul Saroor
Silma Ahamed
Dr. Sitralega Maunaguru
Stella Phillips
Prof. Sumathy Sivamohan
T.M. Premawardhana
Tehani Ariyaratne
Thyagi Ruwanpathirana
Upul Kumarapperuma
Dr. Vagisha Gunasekara
Velayudan Jeyachithra
Vernusri Puvanedran
Viola Perera
Wasanthakala Piradeepan
Zahabia Adamaly
Zainab Ibrahim

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    [Edited out]

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      This statement should talk about need to eliminate corruption to ensure economic justice, rights the balanced growth and stop unfair taxation.
      VAT is about the poor subsidizing the rich and corrupt politicians and their cronies.

      It should make the link between the political culture of corruption and croniyism which is the main reason for the lack of economic rights and justice for the people.

      People should organize a massive protest against corrupt politicians.
      The politicians and their culture of Corruption and tax free life styles and SUVs is the biggest reason for the people having to pay VAT, causing greater economic inequality and being deprived of economic justice and rights.

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        Good job this statement tho to much jargon and very few actionable points.

        These dudes should organize an anti-corruption and pro-economic rights National movement and march to EDUCATE the public on the need to hold corrupt politicians and their cronies ACCOUNTABLE.

        The movement should target CORRUPT POLITICIANS who are the reason for the lack of economic rights and justice in Sri Lanka.

        Economic and Social Rights are neglected by international donors who are pushing the Ranil-Sira govt’s neoliberal economic policy.

        Ranil has asked US’s Mackinsey Company to run a Central Program Management Unit and the Prime Ministers Office is saying that Mckinsey helped Malayasia’s transition, but during the Malaysian PM is accused of massive money laundering and steeling from a Sovereign wealth funds in Malaysia, at the same time that Mckinsey was working in the PM’s office?!

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    RE: Secure Socio-Economic Justice And Rights Through The New Constitution: Civil Society Tells Constitutional Assembly

    “Constitutional Assembly and in particular the Steering Committee, to ensure that the new constitution of Sri Lanka is underpinned by a substantive recognition of the obligations of the state to further social and economic justice and rights.”

    Yes. Must secure Socio-Economic Justice And Rights for ALL Citizens, and must not allow the Monks, Priests and Mullahs to elevate religions traditions and Myths above individual civil rights of the Citizens.

    All citizens must have equal rights, and the Law must be above Religious laws.

    This means that the Mullahs cannot forcefully marry off Muslim Girls, without their consent and signature, until they attain the age of 18.

    This also should apply equally to Samnaeras, young boys being inducted to be monks, and destroy theit childhood.

    So. the citizens should have a bill of rights, guarantied by constitutions.

  • 0
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    Well,

    Moreover, this is also in keeping with Sri Lanka’s obligations as a state party to the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights under which it must take deliberate and concrete steps towards meeting its obligations—as well as its commitments to goals under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

    The international Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural rights are here.

    http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CESCR.aspx

    In order for the rights to apply the community must be a “Peoples” or a “Nation”. The only people that match the legal criteria are the Sinhala people and perhaps the Veddhas.

    Law Dictionary: What is NATION? definition of NATION (Black’s Law Dictionary)

    A people, or aggregation of men, existing in the form of an organized jural society, inhabiting a distinct portion of the earth, speaking the same language, using the same customs, possessing historic continuity, and distinguished from other like groups by their racial origin and characteristics, and generally, but not necessarily, living under the same government and sovereignty.

    http://thelawdictionary.org/nation/

    Following the conclusion above it must be understood, the existing devolution, Tamil language provisions and Tamil cultural holidays etc are in excess of what the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights requires a country to provide.

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    Didn’t realize the NGOs are the biggest employment agency for the Elite, Anglican and Vellala community in Colombo.

    Didn’t notice any Waahabi signatories though..

    It must be bringing in a lot of scarce FX to help Batalanada Ranil and Bodhi Sira to pay for all the foreign expertise which they are harnessing to give our inhabitants Yahapalanaya.

    The latest is Mackinsey Consulting Group, which is going to tell the above Yahapalana Duo how to increase our Dalits GDP per Capita income to the same level as Malaysians.

    Mackinsey is going to do it in 3 three months, but the bill is 3.5 Million in US Dollars.

    Does anyone know what the Per Capita Income of Malaysians?….

    • 0
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      The latest is Mackinsey Consulting Group, which is going to tell the above Yahapalana Duo how to increase our Dalits GDP per Capita income to the same level as Malaysians. Mackinsey is going to do it in 3 three months, but the bill is 3.5 Million in US Dollars.

      How it is possible for a Law firm to advice how to increase GDP of Sri lanka.

      those companies give a percent commission to every one who gives business.

      so how much Malik Samarawickram get from this deal ?

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    Good attempt to get ECONOMIC RIGHTS on the agenda! Corruption has eaten into economic rights and justice in Sri Lanka.

    Today VAT is foisted on the people and the corrupt clown Rajitha Seniviratne says that the people have to pay for Mahinda Jarapassa’s billions worth of Loans.

    If Jarapassa took the loans he and his family should pay them back! Why should the people pay Jarapass’s loans?

    Why is that financial criminal and his family and cronies enjoying SUVs and over seas trips at the people’s expense? This is the bloody joke of the IMF and World Bank’s trickle up polici[ies – make the poor people of the world pay for the corruption and criminality of the Global 1 percent which include 3rd world dictators whose stolen funds are parked in off shore bank accounts that invest in the Western Capitals and keep their stock markets going.

    IMF and World Bank are supposed work to reduce poverty and in charge of GLOBAL FINANCIAL GOVERNANCE but are against the Economic Rights of the POOR as shown in VAT tax.

    The Ayahapalanaya GOvt. of Ranil-Sira must ask the IMF and World Bank that turns a blind eye to global financial corruption, to track and research and ensure return of looted funds to pay off the gigantic national debt accumulated by Mahinda Jarapassa family and cronies, rather than imposing VAT on poor people to pay for the excesses of the global 1 percent.

    IMF and WB should investigate Panama Papers revelations and other off shore bank accounts of the corrupt politicians who have looted Sri Lanka and ensure return of the funds to pay off national debt rather than ask poor people to pay more taxes so the corrupt politicians can continue to be part of the global 1 percent that is the IMF’s clientele.

    IMF and World Bank with their army of useless EXPERTS who should be tracking down looted wealth in off shore accounts and ensuring return of this looted wealth to poor countries, rather support the corrupt political elite of Sri Lanka who constitute a SUPER CASTE of parasites that rules the Miracle of Modayas.

    The politicians one and all – SLFP and UNP – have ruined Sri Lanka and continue to enjoy impunity and immunity under Rani-Sira Ayahapalanaya govt. with the support of IMF and World Bank.

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