RTLHRC, NPC canvass CSO’s support for constitutional reforms | Daily News

RTLHRC, NPC canvass CSO’s support for constitutional reforms

Activists from Right to Life Human Rights Centre (RTLHRC) and the National Peace Council (NPC), met representatives of Civil Society Organizations (CSO)’s in Deniyaya, Weligama and Matara over the weekend to canvass grass root level support in favour of the proposed reforms to Sri Lanka’s Constitution.

“Every Sri Lankan should be given the right to live in peace and harmony, irrespective of their ethnicity or religious belief,” said Executive Director of Right to Life Human Rights

Center, Phillip Dissanayaike, explaining the need to make changes to the existing Constitution.

“One of the main pre-election promises given by the present government was to abolish the Executive Presidency and it is our duty to compel the government to fulfil their promises,” he added.

“We look forward to three major changes being made to Sri Lanka’s Constitution,” said the Chief Organizer of ‘Purawesi Balaya’ (Citizens Power) Senior Journalist Gamini Viyangoda. (‘Purawesi Balaya” is a social movement comprising of artistes, intellectuals, professionals and civil activists who threw their weight behind President Maithripala Sisrisena’s successful bid for presidency).

“The first is to abolish the Executive Presidency, the second is to devolve power and the third is to change the electoral system,” he noted.

“At present it is the ideal time to make changes to the Constitution, as there is peace in the country and the government in power is a coalition between the two largest political parties. We should question ourselves as to why we need a new Constitution? Is it because we are not satisfied with the present Constitution? If so why aren’t we satisfied with it and what changes do we need? Each and every citizen of Sri Lanka was given the opportunity to propose what changes should be made. Please convey this message to your members,” he said.

“This Constitution was introduced in 1978 by president J. R. Jayawardena, but from 1994 onwards every presidential candidate who was elected had promised to abolish the Executive Presidency which they never fulfilled. Each one of them have proved to varying extents how the power they yield could be abused. And it is for this reason that we should take this opportunity to see that it is abolished.

Power should be devolved to the provincial administrations to prevent ethnic unrest in the future. Devolution of power is not a threat to the sovereignty of the nation but ethnic uprising is!”

“The interim report of the Steering Committee of the Constitutional Assembly of Sri Lanka is not a draft. The suggestions made are open to discussion and only the most agreeable changes would be included in the initial draft,” he added.

“The present Constitution is destroying our political culture,” said reputed author, poet and actor Lucien Bulathsinhala. “Bribery and corruption is rampant in the state service. The people have distanced themselves from arts and cultural activities. We need to change this system,” he added.

“You are misleading the audience!” accused V. G. Piyadasa. “You mentioned that the Sri Lanka Freedom Party promised to abolish the Executive Presidency. That is not true because senior ministers like Nimal Siripala de Silva have reiterated that the SLFP was against abolishing it. You also specifically named some Buddhist clergy of making racist statements which is also incorrect,” he said before being interrupted by a section of the audience permitting Gamini Viyangoda to answer the accusations and prevent further criticism.

“Power should be devolved to a certain extent with the provincial administrations,” said A. J. Munasingha while Journalist Jayathissa Tennakone suggested, “The Constitution should guarantee that every citizen of Sri Lanka has the right to free education, free health services and is provided with a house to live and guaranteed of suitable employment.” 


 

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