Speaking to the New Indian Express former Constitutional Affairs Minister G.L.Peiris said that it was wrong to have tried to turn parliament into a “Constitutional Assembly” through a parliamentary resolution, by-passing the Standing Orders of Parliament. Under Standing Order 86 (1), the House could convert itself into a “Committee of the Whole House” which could then draft the constitution. By not following this rule, the constitution making exercise has been rendered invalid, he said.
The second objection of the JOG was the provision for the involvement of non-parliamentarians in drafting the constitution. The resolution which was moved in parliament on January 8, has provision for the Steering Committee to seek the services of any institution or person, and appoint any person to aid and advice the constitutional Assembly or any of its sub-committees. The Constitutional Assembly can also invite any one to make submissions to it. In fact, leading lawyer and non-MP, Lal Wijenayake, will be heading the Public Representation Committee of the proposed Constitutional Assembly.
“The involvement of outsiders dilutes the power of parliament,” Peiris argued.
Lankan nationalist groups see the danger of foreign-funded NGOs, foreign experts and foreign governments’ representatives being invited. Western or Indian experts could press for more concessions to the Tamils and Muslims or a greater degree of devolution to the Tamil-dominated provinces. This is why, President Maithripala Sirisena had to assure the MPs in his speech in parliament on January 8, that there will be no foreign input and that the proposed constitution will be a fully homegrown one.
The third objection raised by the JOG is that the resolution presented on January 8, had no provision for a judicial intervention at any stage. The common man would not be able to approach the court to thwart clauses which hurt his interest.