Sri Lanka Brief
NewsSri Lanka: For the First Time There is an Effort to Build Consensus On Devolving Power – Sampanthan

Sri Lanka: For the First Time There is an Effort to Build Consensus On Devolving Power – Sampanthan

by

Image: President Sirisena and TNA leader Samapanthan.

Speaking at the budget debate at the Parliament leader of the TNA and leader of the opposition R. Samapanthan said that ” It is anticipated that, for the first time, within the framework of a single, undivided and indivisible country, a Constitution evolved on the basis of a wide consensus, will emerge and that this Constitution will reflect the will of all the people in this country, and be the basis of the authority of Government as stated in Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For the first time, Sir, in the history of this country the political party substantially representing the Tamil people – that is the Party which I happened to belong to, the Tamil National Alliance – particularly in the North and the East of this country, will be a party to the Constitution-making process. ”

Excerpts of the speech made by Hon. Sampanthan in Parliament on 17th Nov. 2016.

It is the objective of these two political parties to give the country a new future – not merely economically but also politically and socially. That indeed was the verdict of the country at both the Presidential Election held in January, 2015 and the Parliamentary Election held in September, 2015. The former regime and its leadership were prominent participants in both those electoral contests. They sought at both elections a further mandate to govern the country.  The mandate so sought by them was denied by the people.  The people, in the exercise of their sovereignty, have given President Maithripala Sirisena and the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe the mandate to govern the country for a period of time as stipulated in the Constitution. That is the sovereign verdict of the people which can only be dislodged in accordance with the Constitution and in no other way.  Everybody in this country wants this country to be governed in keeping with the tenets of genuine democracy.  These values, the Hon. Speaker, are sacred and need to be protected and preserved.

I want, Sir, in this regard to quote from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations to which we have acceded.  May I quote Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states:

“1. Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

  1. Everyone has the right to equal access to public service in his country.”

Unfortunately, that rule is not observed in Sri Lanka, particularly as far as the Tamil people are concerned.

The subparagraph (3) states, I quote:

“The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.”

That is what, Sir, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights contains in regard to the will of the people and the consent of the people in regard to the governance of a country. The will of the people as expressed  in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage shall be the basis of the authority of Government and that Mr. Speaker, is manifestly clear.  In terms of our Constitution, Mr. Speaker, the term of office of Parliament and the President unless  earlier terminated  lawfully, in keeping with the Constitution, is six years. Under the Nineteenth Amendment, which the President was instrumental in introducing in Parliament, he reduced the term of office of the President to five  years though he had been elected by the people for a period of six years. Through the Nineteenth Amendment which  was passed in Parliament after the Presidential Election held on 08th January, 2015, the term  of office of the President was reduced to five years.

The Hon. Minister of Finance, in the course of his Budget Speech, defined this Government’s economic, political and social vision. May I read paragraph No. 2 of his speech. Sir, this is what he stated, I quote:

“We will continue to progress in the noble endeavor to strengthen democracy, fundamental rights, reconciliation and development for lasting peace, freedom and national integration. Fundamentally, the country is guided by a new vision of lasting peace, built on mutual respect and dialogue. To cement this process, we have formulated an ambitious reforms agenda encompassing all major spheres including social, political, economic and international relations. This national government of Yahapalanaya will focus on reforms to the constitution, restoration and strengthening of the rule of law and independence of the judiciary.”

The vision of the Government, Sir, in my respectful statement, has been very lucidly stated in the statement made by the Minister of Finance in the course of his Budget Speech. Sir, the Government, as I said earlier, is committed to giving this country a new economic, political and social future. We are, for the first time, seeking to evolve a Constitution with the consent of the two main political parties, which alternatively have ruled this country from the time we attained Independence. It has been either of the United National Party or the Sri Lanka Freedom Party which have ruled this country from the time we attained Independence and there is a joint effort now for these two parties to come together to frame a Constitution for this country with the consent of other political parties and the people of this country.

This, Sir, is something new which had not happened before. It will be based on the maximum possible consensus within the framework of a single, undivided and indivisible country. We have had three Constitutions earlier. The first Constitution in 1947 was framed at Independence by our colonial rulers. The second Constitution in 1972 was framed by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and its left alliance partners without the consent of the other major political party, the United National Party, or the political party substantially representing the Tamil people. The third Constitution was enacted in 1978 framed by the United National Party without the consent of the other major political party – the Sri Lanka Freedom Party -or the political party substantially representing the Tamil people. In other words, Sir, both the 1972 Constitution and the 1978 Constitution were partisan and framed by one single political party with a few alliance partners, without the consent of the other major political party in the country and more particularly, without the consent or the consensus of the Tamil party substantially representing the people in this country at those points of time.

It is anticipated that, for the first time, within the framework of a single, undivided and indivisible country, a Constitution evolved on the basis of a wide consensus, will emerge and that this Constitution will reflect the will of all the people in this country, and be the basis of the authority of Government as stated in Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For the first time, Sir, in the history of this country the political party substantially representing the Tamil people – that is the Party which I happened to belong to, the Tamil National Alliance – particularly in the North and the East of this country, will be a party to the Constitution-making process. This would enable the realization of the future vision for this country as enunciated in Para 2 of Part I of the Budget Speech of the Minister of Finance.

 

Back to Top