The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) is deeply perturbed by recent media reports that the government is planning on amending several provisions of the Thirteenth Amendment to the constitution.
A statement by the CPA said that over the past several weeks there were contradictory statements made by senior MPs of the United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) as to whether discussions are under way to amend the constitution.
The CPA said that the proposed amendments have far reaching implications both in terms of preserving democratic values and achieving post-war reconciliation.
“As such it is highly disconcerting that the proposed amendment is a result of a process that was shrouded in secrecy and only limited to some constituent elements of the UPFA government. CPA has critiqued the lack of transparency and public participation in the law making process – the process that formulates constitutional amendments and broad sweeping legislation –since its inception. However despite promises– including the proposals of the present government in terms of its ‘National Human Rights Action Plan’ – successive governments have exploited these deficiencies in the law making process and have not demonstrated any willingness to remedy these failings,” the CPA said.
The CPA says the incumbent government has repeatedly adopted the process of classifying constitutional amendments as ‘urgent bills’ and thereby further limited the existing space for public debate and judicial scrutiny. Considering the serious and irreversible impact the present amendment would have on the post-war reconciliation process. CPA strongly urges the government that in the event they do propose legislation amending the Thirteenth Amendment to the constitution, they desist from adopting the proposed urgent bill procedure.
CPA has repeatedly critiqued the Thirteenth Amendment as being inadequate in devolving power to the Provinces. The Thirteenth Amendment is replete with provisions which weigh the balance of power in favour of the centre. Considering the weaknesses of the Thirteenth Amendment, all subsequent power sharing proposals – from the Mangala Moonesinghe Committee proposals to the Majority Report of the All Party Representatives Committee – in initiatives under successive governments, have reiterated the need to move beyond the provisions of the Thirteenth Amendment.
CPA further states that such a unilateral act would amount to a violation of specific undertakings of the present government to the international community that it would work to formulate a political solution acceptable to all communities, and specifically to the undertakings given to the government of India that any future political solution would go beyond the framework of the Thirteenth Amendment. Regardless of these statements of intent, the government has demonstrated no credible commitment to negotiating a post-war power-sharing settlement.
Therefore CPA strongly urges the government to not proceed with the proposed constitutional amendment and to recommence an inclusive dialogue with a view to developing a consensus amongst all major stakeholders on a political solution acceptable to all communities. (Colombo Gazette)