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Ranil presents interim report by constitutional steering committee

Updated: 1100 GMT

The Sri Lankan prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe today presented the interim report by the steering committee established to work towards drafting a new constitution. 

Find full report here

Presenting the report to the constitutional assembly, Mr Wickremesinghe said, "it is up to the SLFP and the UNP to reach an agreement on the fundamentals of the new constitution and the future of this country depends on the ability which the two parties have to reach such an agreement." 

"Keeping the unitary status of the country and maintaining the foremost status of Buddhism will be some of the fundamentals of the new Constitution," he was quoted by the Daily Mirror as saying.

"Emphasis is made on maximum devolution of power where maximum power will be devolved to provincial councils and to make it the second tier of the government" he said.

On the possible merger of the North-East, campaigned for by the TNA, the report states: 

"Provisions relating to possible merger of Provinces require further consideration. 

The following options have been discussed:

- The existing provisions of the Constitution [Article. 154A (3)] relating to the possibility of two or more Provinces forming a single unit, should be retained, with the additional requirement that a referendum of the people of each of the Provinces concerned should also be required.

- The Constitution should not provide for merger. 

- The Constitution recognize the Northern and Eastern Provinces as a single Province."

 

On the role of Buddhism on the island, the report states:

"The following formulations may be considered:

- Sri Lanka shall give to Buddhism the foremost place and accordingly it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana, while assuring to all religions the rights granted by Article 10 and 14(1)(e).

OR

- Sri Lanka shall give to Buddhism the foremost place and accordingly it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana, while treating all religions and beliefs with honour and dignity, and without discrimination, and guaranteeing to all persons the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution"

 

The SLFP in its proposals stated:

 - Spoke out against provincial mergers

 - "The Constitution shall also enshrine legal provisions preventing expression and implementation of extremist ideas based on community or religion”

- "The Governor, under the Constitution shall be vested with powers as a representative of the President to act in instances when the Provincial Council is defunct, in the event of the collapse of law and order situation, in a situation where peaceful environment needs to be maintained or if there is an any attempt to break away from the Central Government...The power for the Governor to act immediately, to reject if any attempt is made by a Provincial Council or a Chief Minister to violate the unitary status of the country or declare a separate state or an autonomous region should be vested with him."

- “The Executive’s decisions taken regarding national security or lands for security purposes, should not be challenged in any courts, is the opinion of the SLFP”

The Joint Opposition stated:

 - The constitution should not provide for provincial mergers

- Rejected changing the governor's powers

- All lands belong to State

The JHU stated:

 - “There is no need of expressing a special opinion regarding this section since the Jathika Hela Urumaya is totally against a Federal System comprising a powerful Provincial Government and a weaker Central Government as proposed by the drafters.”

- "They do not support provincial police, and also want the “emergency” powers to remain as they are in current constitution

- "Want powers of Governor maintained"

The JVP stated:

- The constitution should not provide for provincial mergers

 - "The powers of the Governor shall not be weakened"

 - “There shall be one single police service, which is responsible for law, order and public security. A broad discussion should be conducted in regard to the powers and functions to be assigned on national and provincial levels.”

 

Meanwhile the Tamil National Alliance stated:

- Sri Lanka should be a federal state

- “Sri Lanka shall be a secular state” but then concedes “If the majority consensus is in favour of Buddhism being given the foremost place, the terms and conditions relating thereto should be specified”

- Calls for a North-East merger

- “The Province/State shall have the necessary powers to muster the required finances to exercise the devolved powers”

- That the Governor should “not have any power to interfere with the exercise of executive power of the Province/State”

 

Mr Wickremesinghe added, "matters with regard to the executive presidency have been left for further discussions as parties have come up with different suggestions on it."

"We want to ensure a nation where it's people will reap the benefits of economic development. We want to make sure that people could fulfil their basic needs such as food without any difficulties. We cannot afford to lose the opportunity we have before us to work together and bring in a constitution which is useful to all people."