What is a constitution and what is its purpose? Stated simply, a country’s constitution is the fundamental laws and principles of a country or state on which all other laws are based.
All permanent organization of individuals, whether public or private, must have basic rules or laws for its establishment and for the conduct of its activities. A country normally has a centre and local governmental systems of government and both rests on constitutions.
In a democracy, sovereignty rests with the people and the enactment of a constitution is a function of the legislature composed of elected representatives.
A constitution, to be successful, must be both stable and flexible. There is no model or single constitution similar to one another since the history, geography and diversity of people and countries differ from one another. Every country has its own unique blend of history and people. There are parliamentary and presidential systems of government which we are familiar with through direct experience. There are also con-federal, federal, quasi federal and unitary constitutions.
As opposed to an authoritarian form of government, there are common characteristics found in constitutional democracy like separation of powers, checks and balances, rule of law, democratic elections, peaceful transfer of power, independent press, free and competent judiciary, freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of religion, freedom of association, respect for fundamental human rights etc. This list is by no means exhaustive, but gives the fundamental features of a good constitution that will stand the test of time. The methods of amending or replacing the constitution are also provided by the constitution itself.
Sri Lanka is in the process of enacting its fourth constitution since the country gained independence in 1948. The republican constitution enacted in 1972 and the presidential system of constitution adopted in 1978 has failed to produce stability and peace in the country. Both these constitutions laid the foundation for a bloody civil war that lasted for 25 years. They imposed the will of the 75% majority Sinhalese on the 25% national minorities, especially the Thamils. They ignored completely the language rights of the Thamil people by installing Sinhala as the sole official language. In a constitutional democracy all citizens must be treated equally if the country is to progress towards political stability and economic prosperity.
The land locked Himalayan country of Nepal, after years of instability caused by a Maoist insurgency and a unitary constitution, failed to achieve stability, peace and prosperity.
Nepal, until the abolition of the constitutional monarchy was the world’s only country with Hinduism as state religion. The country is now formally a secular state with constitutional democracy. Due to the arrival of various settler groups from outside through the ages, Nepal is now a multiethnic, multicultural, multi religious and multilingual country. Central Nepal was split in three kingdoms from the 15th century until the 18th century, when it was re-unified under the Shah monarchy.
Nepal experienced a struggle for democracy in the 20th century. During the 1990s and until 2008, the country was in civil strife. A peace treaty was signed in 2008 and elections were held in the same year. In a historical vote for the election of the constituent assembly, Nepalese parliament voted to oust the monarchy. On 18 May 2006, the House of Representatives unanimously voted to curtail the power of the king and declared Nepal a secular state. On 28 December 2007, a bill was passed in parliament to amend Article 159 of the constitution – replacing “Provisions regarding the King” by “Provisions of the Head of the State” – declaring Nepal a republic. The bill came into force on 28 May 2008. King Gyanendra, who came to power in 2001 after the tragic murder of the previous king, abdicated the throne. Nepal’s first president was chosen by parliament the following month.
On 21 November 2006, Nepal’s decade-long armed conflict ended with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) between the Government and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). A central pillar of the accord is the writing of a new constitution that grants equal rights and opportunities to all Nepalese people. In April 2008, elections to the Constituent Assembly (CA) were held. The original timeframe of completing the constitution by 28 May 2010 proved too ambitious given the competing political agendas and the need for extensive public consultation. As a result the term of the assembly was extended four times and the last deadline was for 27 May 2012 to prepare a draft constitution. However the Assembly was not able to produce a constitution and it was dissolved on 27 May 2012.
After a few months’ stalemate, the political parties agreed to go for a fresh mandate under an interim election government. Elections to the second Constituent Assembly were successfully held on 19 November 2013 and subsequently a new government and a new 601-member Constituent Assembly were formed to formulate a new Constitution.
Nepal is bordered by China to the north and India to the south, east and west. It is separated from Bangladesh by a narrow Indian corridor and from Bhutan by the Indian state of Sikkim. Nepal is home to eight of the world’s tallest mountains, including Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth. Here is a brief profile of the country.
Country – The Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal
Population – 26,371,000
Capital – Kathmandu (741,000)
Area – 147,181 sq. kilometres (56,827 square miles)
Language – Nepali (58%) Maithili, Bhojpuri, Tharu, Tamang, Newari, Anhadi, English and many other languages and dialects (2011)
Religion – Hindus (81.3%) Buddhists (9. %), Muslims (4.4%) Kirant (3.1%) Christians (1.4%) (2011)
Currency – Nepalese rupee
Life Expectancy – 59 years
GDP per Capita – U.S. $1,400
Literacy Percent – 45
Nepal has been a unitary country since its inception in 1768. Hinduism is the predominant religion and is also home to Lumbini, the birthplace of Siddharta Gautama, the founder of Buddhism- the country’s second largest religion. The country also has minorities of Muslims, Kiratans and Christians. It is a multiethnic nation with Nepali as the official language. A monarchy throughout its history, the aristocratic Rana dynasty administered Nepal’s government as hereditary Prime Ministers until 1951. A multi-party democracy evolved until 1960, when King Mahendra enacted the panchayat system. In 1990, a parliamentary government was permitted by King Birendra. Communist Maoist insurgency and mass protests against the authoritarian King Gyanendra in 2005, which led to the abolition of the monarchy in 2008.
Finally, after many years of struggle, the 2nd constituent assembly promulgated a new democratic constitution which came into effect on September 20, 2015. President Ram Baran Yadav announced the promulgation of Constitution of Nepal at a special meeting of the Constituent Assembly. This is the seventh constitution of Nepal. An overwhelming majority of 598 lawmakers endorsed a total of 308 articles. The approval of the Constitution has a deep meaning for all of those involved in the 1996 – 2006 Maoist conflict.
The new Constitution establishes a federal system, with seven provisional states and three levels of government: federal, provincial and local. In other words Nepal henceforth will be a secular federal democratic republic with decentralised power to the states.
The term “federalism” is derived from the Latin term foedus, i.e. covenant, referring to the fact that such a covenant is usually the starting point for the merger of two or more political entities. Federalism is a system of government that establishes a constitutionally specified division of powers between different levels of government. There are usually two main levels: (i) a national, central or federal level; and (ii) a state, provincial or regional level and local level. Federalism thus allows distinct ethnic communities, defined by their territorial boundaries, to exercise guaranteed autonomy over certain matters of particular importance to them while being part of a larger federal union through which shared powers are exercised over matters of common concern. One of the main benefits of federalism is that it provides a framework for the recognition of ethnic, religious, linguistic or other cultural communities, reflecting their desire to be recognized as a people with a distinct identity and particular interests.
A proposal to declare Nepal as a Hindu nation instead of a secular state was rejected unanimously.
The new constitution establishes Nepal as secular and federal democratic republic with bicameral parliament. Executive rights of the country shall vest on the council of ministers while the president would be ceremonial head-of-the-state. It establishes independent judiciary and competitive multi-party democratic system with periodic elections. Enshrines fundamental rights, civic freedom, human rights, voting rights and full press freedom etc. to its citizens. Power sharing and autonomy can foster peaceful accommodation and prevent violent conflicts among culturally plural societies. By allowing ethnic groups to govern themselves in cultural and developmental matters, it lessens their conflicts with the central state. Many of the conflicts of the identity movements are in cultural issues like religion, language, education and so on.
The preamble of the new constitution says: “Realising a dream cherished by the Nepali people since the past 65 years, the new constitution will formally take the country towards a federal structure from the existing unitary structure that remained rooted in the country for 240 years.”
The preamble of the constitution also mentions people’s competitive multi-party democratic system, civic freedom, fundamental rights, voting rights, full press freedom, independent, fair and competent judiciary and building of a prosperous nation with the commitment to socialism based on rule of law.
It took eight full years after adoption of the interim constitution in 2007 to promulgate the new constitution. With this Nepal now stands as youngest federal republic in the world. The enactment of the new Constitution was not easy, it was highly strenuous and tortuous but the legislators finally succeeded.
Nepal is not the only war-torn country to opt for federalism as part of the solution to its problems. Several countries have adopted or readopted federalism after armed conflict. Mexico (1971), Argentina and Venezuela (more than once), Nigeria (1966-70), Ethiopia (1991), Spain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sudan, Iraq, and the Democratic Republic of Congo are some other examples.
There are 25 federations in the world today representing 40 percent of the world’s population. At the beginning of the 21st century, this is a remarkably popular form of government. It provides unity in diversity.
Today, United States, Switzerland, Australia, and Canada are examples that federalism can provide stability as well as prosperity. Each of these has been under the same constitution for more than 100 years. The United States federal constitution is 240 years old, Canada will be celebrating its 150th birth day next year, and Australia is 115 years old and Switzerland 168 years, replaced by a new constitution on April 18, 1999 that established 26 cantons.
UN Human Development Index measured 175 countries according to their economic prosperity, respect for rights, and quality of the lives of their citizens. Out of the top 20, eight, are federations.
Of course federalism does not automatically create success. It ought to have an appropriate structure. There are are a great variety of federal forms or structures. Federalism has succeeded in countries that are multi-ethnic like Switzerland, like Canada with French and English, India with many different languages and religious groups, Nigeria with 51% Christians and 49% Muslims and so on. Upholding rule of law is a must, otherwise federalism will not work.
It will be seen there are significant similarities between Nepal and Sri Lanka. The question is will Sri Lanka learn from Nepal the birth place of Buddha?
Ruhunaputra / July 18, 2016
Had Nepal a referendum, the vast majority would have rejected themail new constitution wholeheartedly, including its provisions of secularism and federalism. This was a made in Europe constitution and will be gradually abandoned with inevitable changes in Government. Nepal has had several constitutions since 1960.
Thangavelu is a political agent of the church and Sumanthiran. He is a now senile Christian convert who viciously supported the LTTE until its defeat in 2009. He was in fact a leader of an LTTE front organization in Canada. The LTTE was church sponsored to undermine Buddhism and Hinduism.
Veerakatti / July 18, 2016
Very well put, Ruhunaputra!
Thanga’s article is a cut and paste from Wikipedia and other sources. The current Nepalese constitution was controversial from the very start. Thanga says “A proposal to declare Nepal as a Hindu nation instead of a secular state was rejected unanimously”. This is once again a false statement. Many legislators boycotted the vote. Immediate unrest broke out for different reasons in the Terai, home to 35% of the population. The constitution had to be amended in the first month of its existence and is still a source of dissension. The current Prime Minister has already lost his majority in parliament as the Maoists have left the administration. The PM is likely to lose a vote of confidence this Thursday. He will likely remain in power despite not commanding a majority as the constitution is silent on the issue. This is a very flawed constitution. It has not resolved Nepal’s post monarchical endemic political problems. The British Ambassador, the European Union and ex-President Carter all pushed for it in various ways. I agree with you that there will be a succession of Nepalese Governments and that this constitution will also die a natural death. A democratic and constitutional monarchy led by late King Birendra’s grand daughter can not be ruled out. Ex-King Gyanendra remains widely unpopular though but King Birendra was loved. Thanga does not know Nepal and should not write on things he knows nothing about! He is indeed a pro Sumanthiran character. I suspect Sumanthiran is an American stooge. Now connect the dots!
David / July 18, 2016
Stupid article with full of lies and nonsense. Nepal is still experimenting with its politics. India is bulling Nepal and one day India will annex Nepal.
Nepal is so lucky that they don’t have Tamil nutcases. SL Tamil’s demands are unrealistic, unreasonable, unjustified, immoral, etc.
Sri Lanka does not need a new constitutions, just get rid of the 13th amendment.
Since Sri Lankan forces successfully defeated the Tamil invaders, no need to budge for their ridiculous demands.
Tamils must learn to live peacefully in Sinhala-Sri-Lanka.
lal / July 18, 2016
Your question Mr T
“The question is will Sri Lanka learn from Nepal the birth place of Buddha?”
Sadly, the answer is no. The reason is, lot of your Tamil people have embraced terrorism and hatred for Sinhalese and Muslims therefore Buddha, Shiva, Rama and Krishna put together have no hope of salvaging.
Do you expect the world to thank you people for the art of suicde murder too? Ask the people of Nice and Brussels.
BBS Rep / July 18, 2016
“A proposal to declare Nepal as a Hindu nation instead of a secular state was rejected unanimously.”
Needless to say this Nepal found a way forward. All religions have been a curse on humanity. The least a government associates with a particular religion, the best government based on human rights that could be delivered.
“The question is will Sri Lanka learn from Nepal the birth place of Buddha?” Very unlikely. Firstly we do not have quality leadership with foresight in Sri Lanka. All are interested in narrow agendas mostly to enrich themselves and their kith and kin. Secondly our education and indoctrination since childhood on Mahanama Myths and the protection of the vested interests of the army of monks in saffron robes are the main stumbling blocks towards pluralistic secularism.
Amarasiri / July 18, 2016
RE: Will Sri Lanka Learn From Birth Place Of Buddha?
“It will be seen there are significant similarities between Nepal and Sri Lanka. The question is will Sri Lanka learn from Nepal the birth place of Buddha?”
Thanks, quite interesting analogy. Even, in Buddha’d birthplace, the Hindus predominate. Why?
Will Sri Lanka Learn From Birth Place Of Buddha? No. Why?
In Sri Lanka they have Sinhala rather Para-Sinhala “Buddhism”, that is neither Buddhism or Hinduism.
Sinhala “Buddhism” is a cult, promoted the Monk Mahanama in the Mahawansa along wit its lies and imaginations. That has crept into the politicians. So, even with 3 constitutions, the problems are not adequately addressed . Why?
Is the 4th constitution the answer?
The answer is blowin’ in the wind….
ranjith / July 19, 2016
Right or wrong we sinhalese believe and accept this is traditional historical native land of sinhalese . Tamils traditional historical native land is tamilnadu. if they want any independent state. they should have it tamil nadu not here. Our constitution should be changed with that basic with mind historical traditional native land of sinhalese . Any changes should not harm that basic principles.no matter Buddhism is a cult or whatever sinhalese practiced it for more than two thousand five hundred years with mixer of their ancestors animistic belief.That too should be preserved and safeguarded by basic law the country.
Mahawansa may be a myth. but Tamils produced fabricated lies to justify their home land theory.those should not be accommodated in any legal documents.What’s right this Canadian citizen has to advise us to accept Nepol type of constitution here as well.it is up to our local people to draft it with basics principles in mind. sinhalese native land claim Tamils separatist idealism and Islamic expansionism. In any event separatism expansionism should not be encouraged as those ism may lead to war.
you mind your language Amarasiri you have no right to insult sinhalese with your para words. sinhalese are native to this land even UN accepted norms. As sinhalese are the people who built great civilization here.
sr / July 20, 2016
Yes, good argument, Sinhalese are the people who made the civilization known to the world so it is Sinhalese land. (not to worry Tamils)
The concept of Vaddha aththo being highlighted on CT by Amarasiri and Native Vaddha doesn’t have any significance.
The meagre Vaddha population living scattered should be taken to the mainstream; to relieve them from economic and social backwardness.
dayal / July 18, 2016
you are sadly mistaken.. you want our mother country to learn from nepal. we are trying to teach the world about hundreds of things. ex:how to defeat terrorism free education, hospitality etc. we want even the western countries to learn from us. once our radio announced that foreign delegations were coming to study our education system (in 1973) and what to do with the excess rice produced. we used to laugh at india and they came with a big army merely to project their strength and almost about to capture our land. this was mainly because of our (JRS’) big mouth. so pl. do not advice us to follow any underdeveloped nation.
soma / July 18, 2016
But Vadukkdai resolution is demanding outright separation which is still the position of diaspora and many others in Jafna. Right?
RW – VP pact gave into Tamils much more than simple federalism. Were the Tamil political class satisfied? Supremely confident of their military apparatus and modus operandi of terror they decided to go for the Vadukkdai goal unmindful of the cost in blood. Sinhalese should not forget this lesson.
Thamilan / July 18, 2016
There is nothing Sri Lanka has to learn from Nepal.
Sri Lanka ( Ceylon) had the best democracy(in Asia) until SWRD came in 1956 and brought in racist politics and we are still suffering from it.
Ajith / July 18, 2016
I don’t know why you are talking about Buddhdism to Srilankan Singhale. Do you know Buddha couldn’t do anything to change the Singale and ran away from this land long time back.Srilanka is now called a butcherland. They love blood because they say that they are born to Lion and it is in their gene killing is predominant. Learning is part of a human nature, not belong to animals. Look at the past six decades and count the number of people massacred in the name of Buddhism. SWRD was murdered by a buddhist monk. Do you think Buddha taught to kill to the murderer? 1958, 1962, 1970, 1977, 1983, 1989, 2009 bloodbaths in this land in the name Buddha? Do you think Buddha guided and sponsored these maasacres?
jim softy / July 18, 2016
Christian Tamils preaching buddhism To Sinhala people.
Even muslims come and preach buddhism and say behave like buddhists.
ranjith / July 18, 2016
they wanted us to be a person like chief incumbent of nalanda. when bakthiar approached retired to his own cell and started meditating. ultimately got entire monk community killed and complete destruction of nalanda.
socrates / July 19, 2016
According to your religion I have the freedom to practise my religion. According to my religion I have the freedom to kill you. Therefore according to your own religion I have the freedom to kill you.
ranjith / July 18, 2016
we have to learn nothing from Nepol that sandwich nation between India and China.Indians and Chinese desires is dominated there.Desires of locals can not be highlighted in anyway.Locals have to live with or have to learn to live with as per political desires of two big neighbors. But we have to learn lots from Sudan and Serbia I suppose
Through out the history of our country and from the very inception of sinhalese nation we were forced by south Indian nations mainly Tamils to be killers.Even though our culture had being nourished by Buddhism.As such our main legal document very foundation of the country should not be harmful to very existence or continuation of our country as unitary sovereign nation.our heritages should be protected our culture and identity should be preserved.
When compare with south Indian four state population and distribution of their descendants through out the world, we sinhalese specially sinhalese Buddhists are minority .majority are very jealous of small nation having sovereign country and performing well to keep that country’s territorial integrity despite all the odds.always conspiring to break it down. as our ancestors wanted us to stand as proud sinhalese Buddhists nation among world we need our future generation to do the same.our forefathers paved the way for us with their activities in the past. Same way we have to do the same.otherwise history will label us as cowards.
Paraya’s theory of amarasiri is not be applicable at all as all nations now existed all over the world are not native to those countries or lands.Human evolution took part mainly in four areas of the world negroid from south Africa, Caucasoid are from Georgian region, mongoloid from central Mongolia and Australoid from east Australian region.As such entire Indian nation is parayas. Now UN accepted norm is nation who built civilization in the area native to them and belongs to them.we sinhalese’s ancestors built great civilization here. with great irrigation systems.wonders like sigiriya. As such this Island is native land of sinhalese. our adopted religion or philosophy is Buddhism. that nourished our culture. before that we were animists. you may see ruins of it all over with abode or vimana dedicated to various deities and unique rituals performed in respective places.Latter Hinduism made very big impact on those rituals or cults. with their presence here as invaders and supplier of queens to our kings.
Being Buddhist does not restrict people fighting for their mother land and very existence of their race and religion. that is the rights and duty of everybody. in the war or any important law making process.
jim softy / July 19, 2016
Non PhD / July 19, 2016
Whether Mr.T was a supporter or sympathiser of LTTE is not an issue.
For me there are many take away points from his analysis which was written in simple English.The supremacists who made irrational or below belt comments, are clearly showing the world SL by and large still on the slippery slope and haven’t reached the bottom to get up and ascend again.
What’s the point reviving Nalanda to past glory when majority of the majority in SL continue to show their hatred against SL Tamils and India.
Wish Lord Buddha reincarnate in SL and request the people to follow what he preached 2500 years ago.
vas / July 19, 2016
This is another of those articles advocating division of the country on ethnic grounds and destabilisation. The christian advocacy of federalism is a reflection of the needs of the vatican and the west which is destabilisation and exploitation. Look at the LTTE episode and the wests response to the surpression of terrorism ,another excuse to impose its will through human rights violations and look at the destabilisation of the middle east what Blair and Bush created sold to the world as Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, Libya, now syria where its surrogate Saudi Arabia and the Gulf is funding a sectarian war etc. Do we really think that he west did not think of the consequences of their actions.
Buddhism is the assessment of reality and the advocacy and orchestration in this article is completely out of reality. What Sri Lanka needs is unity not federalism and getting rid of the 13th amendment and the rid the country of the thugs and drug dealers who have infiltrated the provincial governments.. For that we need men of honesty , integrity and vision to lead us not slaves of the west.
Gajan / July 19, 2016
Before you put the carriage before the horse, do talk about the TNA to which you are whole and sole internationally.
Do tell the readers, what democracy and working methods exists within the TNA.
Last month, Sumanthiran appeared in the Deepam TV in London with Mangalasamaraweera’s new friend, Suren Surenthiran of GTF.
In other words, Sumanthiran ignored even the President of the TNA in UK.
Wheevern he is in UK, he doesn’t contact any members of TNA in UK.
If Sumanthiran would have done the same in Canada, what would have been your re-action?
How long you TNA can cheat the people with this calibre of ignorant articles.