Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa today insisted that the Government does not have a mandate to repeal and replace the existing Constitution.
Rajapaksa said in a statement that the Constitutional reform pledges made by the coalition at the last Presidential election was restricted to changing the system of elections and abolishing the executive Presidential system.
The former President opposed the proposal made in the interim report of the Steering Committee of the Constitutional Assembly that the Sinhala word ‘ekeeya’ be retained in the Sinhala version of the proposed new constitution, while the English word ‘unitary’ be dropped from the English version together with the conceptual framework it denotes.
He under the proposal the local population will be under the impression that Sri Lanka still remains a unitary state, but in the eyes of the international community, it will be considered a country that has relinquished unitary status.
“That such chicanery can even be contemplated is indicative of the mentality of the people driving this constitutional reform process,” he said.
Rajapaksa also said that the intent behind the reforms is made clear by the proposal in page four that the northern and eastern provinces be considered one province. Furthermore, he says it has been proposed that the territory of Sri Lanka which is described in Article 5 of the present Constitution as consisting of the 25 administrative districts named in the relevant Schedule, be instead described in terms of an unspecified number of provinces named in a Schedule rather than the specific number of districts – which gives an indication of the intent behind the proposals.
“It has been proposed to devolve to the provinces all powers and functions that can be carried out at the level of the province on the basis of the principle of ‘subsidiarity’. It is on the basis of a similar conceptual framework that the separatists have been agitating for an independent state in the northern and eastern provinces since 1972. Once powers are devolved to the provinces on the basis of ‘subsidiarity’, it has been proposed that Parliament should not have the power (even with a two thirds majority) to make any changes to that arrangement without the consent of each and every provincial unit. It has also been proposed that Parliament should not have the power to legislate into law, national standards and national policies without the consent of the proposed second chamber of parliament which would consist mostly of representatives of the provincial units. Furthermore it has been proposed that the list of concurrent powers which confers a certain leadership role on the central government be abolished and those powers also be transferred to the provinces. In addition to all that, the implementation of certain matters coming under the central government are to be assigned to the provinces, thus greatly reducing the role of the central government as befits a federal system,” he said.
The former President says the reason why the latest set of proposals does not mention police powers even though it was mentioned in the earlier documents released by the Constitutional Assembly, could be because the provisions needed to divide the police service into nine units already exist in dormant form in Appendix I of the Ninth schedule of the Constitution due to the 13th Amendment.
“We believe the national police force should continue to function countrywide as it does at present. Appendix I of the Ninth Schedule of the present Constitution should therefore be amended to suit the prevailing practical reality. There are many other unacceptable provisions in these latest constitutional reform proposals such as; the proposal to abolish the constitutional jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and to confer it on a special constitutional court,various proposals to imbue the prime minister with the characteristics of a president after the executive presidency is abolished, and restrictions on dissolving parliament for a given period following an election etcetera. However we have not commented on such matters here because they are not immediately relevant to what we see as the main objective of these constitutional proposals,” he said.
The former President also said that the vast majority of the Tamil and Muslim people live outside the northern and eastern provinces and therefore, the carving out of federal units based on ethnicity or religion and the conferring of sweeping powers on such units should never take place in Sri Lanka.
Rajapaksa urged the Government to abandon the “destructive proposal” for a new Constitution and bring forward proposals to implement the original Constitutional pledges they made. (Colombo Gazette)