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Parliament

‘Interim Report was only views of parties and people’

The government could have explained earlier that the interim report of the steering report of the Steering Committee on Constitutional Reforms was not a draft of the Constitution but views of all parties and people made during 73 meetings, so that the public would not have been misled by politicians who sought petty political gains, said Ports and Shipping Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe yesterday.

He said that SLFP, TNA, JVP, Joint Opposition, etc., have submitted their views in it and they would again work together in the next step to bring about a new Constitution.

He made these observations yesterday, during the debate on the interim report of the Steering Committee on Constitutional Reforms which was held in the House of Parliament.

He said that he would not disagree power devolution within the limits specified in the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. He added that if power was to be divided going beyond the 13th Amendment, the country would be federal. He also said that the SLFP is of the opinion that the Executive Presidency should be maintained unchanged. He added that the General election system should also be changed.

"The foremost place given to Buddhism should not be changed," Minister Samarasinghe said.

"Buddhism had been our heritage for 2500 years and it should not be changed. The rights of those who follow other religions should also be preserved. The SLFP had already proposed an anti discrimination clause into the Constitution."

He also said that the unitary status of the country should not be changed.

Minister Samarasinghe who came up with this notion at the Constitutional Assembly, recalled that the Supreme Court had held that the 13th Amendment was in accordance with the Constitution only because it made provisions to appoint governors who could exercise the powers of the Executive President. The Minister also said that powers in the concurrent lists should be devolved to provincial councils. He also said that Chief Ministers in the North had failed to use the powers already given to them.

He came up with this argument by recalling that he as a provincial minister brought a statute to establish the Western Province Transport Authority and was first to issue a provincial gazette notification.

He said at one time North East Province Chief Minister Vartharajah Perumal had failed to take such decisions, but only declared Eelam.

"The Government had decided to meet the Maha Sangha and other religious leaders to explain matters to them," Minister Samarasinghe said.

"This is indeed a good move though it is a late decision. It is good to see Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe explaining the correct position of the government although it was somewhat late."

He also said that this is a very important juncture since all parties had got together to formulate this Constitution. He wanted to know the extent of the damage to the country's image due to the Black July of 1983. He said that presently we have been successful in reversing such damages.

He added that US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs in New York Thomas Shannon visited Sri Lanka and commended the country's endeavours. He added that the US Government had donated US$ 21 million and another war ship to the Sri Lanka Navy.


Welgama says he advocated for abolition of Executive Presidency

UPFA MP Kumara Welgama yesterday in Parliament, advocated for the abolition of the Executive Presidency, reiterating that the SLFP since the time of President J R Jayewardene, was against the Executive Presidency.

Welgama, who represents the Joint Opposition group, said he had always spoken against the Executive Presidency and would continue to do so.

Observing that President Maithripala Sirisena is also in favour of abolishing the Executive Presidency, the MP said that he would give his his fullest support to the President in this regard.

“I spoke out my opinion on the Executive Presidency at a Central Committee meeting of the SLFP a couple of months ago. Several members stood against my opinion. Since then, I was not invited to the SLFP CC meetings. I am working as an electoral organizer for the SLFP for 35 years and also Vice President of the party. Democracy means the freedom of speech. When I started expressing my opinion, I was cut off from committee meetings,” he complained.

The MP said he is in favour of a President similar to William Gopallawa or the President in India. “After giving due powers to Provincial Councils, we could have a President with fewer powers,” he added.

The MP also noted that foreign countries such as America, had shown more interest on a Constitution-making exercise in Sri Lanka, than the locals.

“This was evident when an all-party representative group headed by the Speaker was in the USA. They focused only on two issues. Firstly, they objected to long term leasing of Hambantota Port to China and secondly they spoke about a new Constitution. They turned a blind eye to many other burning issues in the country,” he remarked.


People have a right to change constitution if it affects country’s development: Ravi

The citizens of a country have the right and power to change the constitution of country provided the same affects the development of the country itself, said UNP Parliamentarian Ravi Karunanayake yesterday.

The government's attempt is to bring about a constitution formulated by ourselves under which the future generations could live together peacefully.

He made these observations yesterday, during the debate on the interim report of the Steering Committee on Constitutional Reforms which was held in the House of Parliament.

He also said that there was a dialogue in the country emphasizing the need for a new Constitution, changing the manner the country is governed and also the election system. He said the role played by Ven. Madaluwave Sobitha thera in leading such dialogues was commendable. He also said that as the people lived separated, the country experienced a three decade civil war.

"Owing to extremists, we have not been able to achieve peace in the country," MP Karunanayake said.

He said that during the past seven decades, we have led a pathetic life and this was the time to change everything. "We had lost many things during the past seventy years and the opportunities that we lost are also immense," MP Karunanayake said. " We should not let this situation continue to next generations."

He further said that we have to accept that the English language is important as an international language, but Sinhala and Tamil languages should be given priority.

He added that in addition to human rights being included in the Constitution, clauses on health, education and food should be included in the same. "We have to formulate national policies in that regard as well," MP Karunanayake said. "If there were such national policies on Education, students do not need to stage protests on various matters."

He said that we have to create a society where the people are treated equally and create Sri Lankans. "The people wish to develop the nation, but they are reluctant to change the Constitution," MP Karunanayake said. "If one constitution prevents the development process, we should be able to changes it."


 

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