A group of young professionals have made submissions to the latest Parliamentary Select Committee appointed in July to go into constitutional changes required to resolve the national question, with the primary objective of upholding democracy at all levels of governance processes in the country. The young professionals group includes Parliamentarian Vasantha Senanayake, Waruna Padmasiri, Supipi Jayawardena, Mohamed Hisham, Prabhu Deepan and Selyna Peiris.
The “Senanayake Proposals”, as its been called, have already been shared with all leaders of political parties representing the Parliament of Sri Lanka, all the first-time MPs in Parliament and the President. The group is seeking support from these stakeholders as well as civil society to consider this as a base document for discussions at the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC). The group strongly believes that the proposals represent the needs of moderate Sri Lankans, including young people of all ethnic groups, rural or metropolitan.
Some interesting features of these proposals include a broad, inclusive preamble followed by recommendations for additions to the Fundamental Rights enshrined in the constitution including Right to Life along with amendments to Article 12(2) and Article 13. They have also proposed changes to Fundamental Duties section with the amendment to reflect the need to have provisions for monitoring the effective implementation of state policies at all levels of government with any inconsistencies with the provisions of the articles being subjected to the review of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka.
The proposals also call for removal of the power of the President to dissolve Parliament before the end of its term while introducing a 2 tier legislation assembly with the Parliament and a Senate. The senate will be headed by a Vice President who will be appointed by the President for the proposed 5 year term as President. While the proposals call for limiting any candidate from contesting for the office of President for more than 3 years, introduces a fixed month (January) for Presidential elections followed by assumption on duties on the 04th of February.
Among other interesting aspects of the proposals, the provisions for a fixed number (25) of ministerial portfolios with 21 pre-defined ministries, the introduction of the concept that Cabinet ministers are appointed from outside the parliament with the parliament being given oversight functions for all activities including appointment of high posts, parliament consisting 225 members appointed through 3 different mechanisms to ensure a broader representation and the complete overhaul proposed for the current provincial council system with more constituent responsibility for provincial councilors are novel and noteworthy.
The proposals also consist of a broad and a novel set of recommendations on Judiciary, Decentralization of Powers and Devolution of state functions with a heavy emphasis on accountability and right to information for the public.