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Sunday, 10 January 2016

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Constitutional road-map:

Ten-week deadline for first phase

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday presented a historic Resolution at a specially convened parliamentary session officially commencing the process to formulate a new constitution.

The Resolution presented in Parliament aimed at converting Parliament into a Constitutional Assembly to make the third Republican Constitution of Sri Lanka. The Constitutional Assembly once formulated will be chaired by the Speaker and will consist of all the Members of the Parliament.

He said since independence, the Sri Lankan constitutions have not focused on unifying different ethnic communities in the country and the new constitution will be aimed at providing a constitutional resolution to the national issue.

Outlining the aims of the government, the Premier said the new constitution will guarantee the fundamental rights of people and freedom that assure human dignity and promote responsible and accountable government.

The Resolution also proposed the creation of a steering committee of 17 members headed by the Prime Minister, to assist the Constitutional Assembly to deliberate and seek the views and advice of the people for a draft Constitution Bill and was seconded by Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella.

According to the Resolution sub committees comprising not more than 11 members will be appointed to report to the steering committee. The sub committees are required to submit their reports within ten weeks of their appointment.

The Prime Minister reading out the Resolution, prior to a special address by President Maithripala Sirisena, said the draft constitution will require a two-thirds majority in Parliament. Subsequently, in terms of Article 85(1) of the Constitution, the President will call for a referendum on the Draft seeking people's approval.

The Premier assured Parliament that the constitutional making process will be done with the contribution of local experts without seeking the advice of the foreign experts.

The new constitution that is to be drafted by the Constitutional Assembly will focus on abolishing the executive presidency and formulating a electoral system to do away with the present preferential vote system, the Premier added.

The Resolution will be debated in Parliament on Tuesday after considering the amendments proposed by the opposition parties including the JVP and the MEP.

The key provisions of the proposed Resolution

1.There shall be a Committee of Parliament hereafter referred to as the 'Constitutional Assembly' which shall consist of all Members of Parliament, for the purpose of deliberating and seeking the views and advice of the People, on a new Constitution for Sri Lanka, and preparing a draft of a Constitution Bill for the consideration of Parliament in the exercise of its powers under Article 75 of the Constitution.

2.The Speaker of Parliament shall be the Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly. There shall be seven Deputy Chairmen of the Constitutional Asembly, who shall be elected by the Constitutional Assembly.

In the Absence of the Speaker, the Constitutional Assembly shall elect one of the Deputy Chairmen to chair the sittings of the Assembly.

3. The quorum for meetings of the Constitutional Assembly shall be twenty (20).

4. There shall be-

(a) Constitutional Advisors to the Constitutional Assembly;

(b) A Legal Secretary to the Constitutional Assembly and assistants to such Legal Secretary;

(c) Staff for the purpose of recording the proceedings of the Constitutional Assembly and the Committees referred to in Clause 5; and

(d) Media (including Social Media) Staff of the Constitutional Assembly.

The Media Staff shall set up and maintain a website and use other appropriate media, towards giving due publicity to the process for the adoption of a new Constitution for Sri Lanka.

The Media Staff shall ensure that the proceedings of the Constitutional

Assembly and its Committees, as well as public representations / submissions are documented and published on such website along with such other relevant expert or technical opinions.

5. There shall be the following Sub-Committees of the Constitutional Assembly:-

(a) A Steering Committee consisting of the Prime Minister (Chairman), Leader of the House of Parliament, Leader of the Opposition, the Minister of Justice, and not more than seventeen (17) other Members of the Constitutional Assembly to be appointed by the Constitutional Assembly.

The Steering Committee shall be responsible for the business of the Constitutional Assembly and for preparing a Draft of a new Constitution for Sri Lanka.

(b) Such other Sub-Committees, consisting of Members of the Constitutional Assembly, which may be appointed by the Constitutional Assembly. Provided that each such Sub-Committee shall comprise of not more than eleven (11) Members.

The Chairman of each Sub-Committee shall be appointed by the Steering Committee.

6. The Constitutional Assembly shall at its first sitting-

(a) elect the Deputy Chairmen;

(b) determine the Sub-Committees referred to in Clause 5(b); and

(c) elect Members to the Sub-Committees referred to in Clause 5.

7. The Prime Minister shall, at the first meeting of the Constitutional Assembly, present a Resolution for adoption by the Constitutional Assembly, calling upon the Steering Committee to present a Resolution proposing a Draft Constitution for the consideration of the Constitutional Assembly, prior to its submission to the Cabinet of Ministers and Parliament.

8. The Constitutional Assembly is hereby authorised to conduct its sittings in the

Chamber of Parliament, Provided that the Constitutional Assembly may resolve to sit at any other specified location outside the Western Province.

10. The Steering Committee may appoint other experts to aid and advise the Constitutional Assembly and / or its various Sub-Committees.

11. The proceedings of the Constitutional Assembly shall be open to the public. The proceedings of the Constitutional Assembly and its Sub-Committees shall be documented and published forthwith. Where appropriate, the Constitutional

Assembly shall take steps to ensure the broadcast of the proceedings of the Constitutional Assembly and / or its Sub-Committees.

22.If two-thirds of the Constitutional Assembly does not approve the resolution on the Draft Constitution, the Constitutional Assembly and the Committees referred to in this Resolution shall stand dissolved.

23. If the Constitutional Assembly approves the Resolution on the Draft Constitution by a two-thirds majority, the Report and the Draft Constitution shall be submitted by the Steering Committee to the Cabinet of Ministers, and thereupon the Constitutional Assembly and the Sub-Committees referred to in this Resolution shall stand dissolved.

24. The Cabinet of Ministers shall certify the Bill contained in such Report as a Bill to repeal and replace the Constitution as a whole in terms of Article 75(b) and Article 120(b) of the Constitution and that such Bill is intended to be passed with the special majority required by Article 83 of the Constitution and submitted to the People by Referendum.

 

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