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Secure Socio-Economic Justice And Rights Through The New Constitution! -100 CSOs Tell Govt

(Selling fish in Negambo fish market, Aug 2016 ©s.deshapriya)
Open letter to the Constitutional Assembly on Securing Socio-Economic Justice and Rights through the new Constitution.
13 Sep. 2016

We, the undersigned organisations and individuals, call on all members of the Constitutional Assembly, and in particular the Steering Committee, to ensure that the new constitution of Sri Lanka is underpinned by a substantive recognition of the obligations of the state to further social and economic justice and rights.

Firstly, we note that this will be in keeping with the large number of submissions made in this regard to the Public Representations Committee on Constitutional Reforms (PRC) from across the country. This is clearly reflected in the PRC’s own extensive recommendations on social and economic justice, especially those contained in the report’s chapters on the ‘Directive Principles of State Policy’, ‘Fundamental Rights’, ‘Public Finance’, and ‘Land, Development and Environment’ respectively.

Secondly, the new constitution must unequivocally crystallize Sri Lanka’s own post-independence history of public provisioning in areas such as health, education and social welfare. This is central to ensure more effective safeguarding of basic entitlements and rights central to freedom, dignity, well-being and human security. This is also critical in the light of the social, economic and environmental costs of monetary, fiscal and trade policies that are widening inequality and precariousness, sharpening regional imbalances, and weakening social policy; processes that have been aggravated by the war as well as post-war approaches to reconstruction and development.

Thirdly, we stress that the constitution must a) place obligations on the state to ensure distributive justice through inclusive, equitable, regionally balanced and sustainable development and b) provide recourse to citizens to claim and enforce their rights in regard to these obligations. This is in keeping with the letter and spirit of Sri Lanka being not only a democratic but also a socialist republic. Moreover, this is also in keeping with Sri Lanka’s obligations as a state party to the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights—under which it must take deliberate and concrete steps towards meeting its obligations—as well as its commitments to goals under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Fourthly, we call on the Constitutional Assembly to ensure that through their recognition in the Bill of Rights or as Fundamental Rights, the constitution enables the judicial enforcement of economic and social rights with respect to: education, health, food, water, adequate housing, social security, a living wage, decent and safe work, freedom from forced evictions, and a safe, clean and healthy environment. A Bill of Rights or a Fundamental Rights chapter that only recognises civil and political freedoms not only undermines the indivisible and interdependent nature of rights and entitlements but also seriously imperils the well-being and security of a large section of the country’s population.

We also underline that there is no evidence suggesting that judicial enforceability of economic and social rights inevitably leads to excessive judicial encroachment on policy or unreasonable constraints on the Executive’s or Legislature’s power to allocate and expend resources. On the contrary, it can and does lead to greater accountability and checks and balances on the objects and outcomes of social and economic policy.

Fifthly, we stress that a constitution that fails to address deprivation, distributive injustice and inequality between and across the peoples of Sri Lanka and its different regions will not secure the foundations of justice or peace but sow the seeds of future conflict. A constitutional order that formalizes a polity of contradictions in which political equality sits alongside social and economic inequality will eventually threaten the structure of political democracy itself. The Constitutional Assembly and the Steering Committee are duty-bound to guard against this by ensuring a constitution that guarantees civil, political, economic and social justice for all.

We note, finally, that an expectation reiterated time and again during an inclusive and participatory PRC process was that the new constitution would result in a fresh social contract between citizens and the state. As is clear from PRC’s report, central to this expectation is the enshrining of social and economic justice and rights, which are judicially enforceable, within the constitution. A failure to do so will amount to a betrayal not only of this expectation but also of the PRC process itself.

Indeed, we note with grave concern that the current post-PRC phase of the constitutional reform process has been very non-transparent, whether with respect to the working of the Steering Committee, the six Sub-Committees, and the Panel of Experts or the overall time frame and process. Contrary to articles 4 and 11 of the resolution that converted Parliament into the Constitutional Assembly, no meaningful attempt has been made to institutionalise transparency and disseminate or broadcast such information to the public.

The lack of transparency is almost certain to have adverse consequences for the rights and interests of those on the socio-economic margins of the polity. We therefore call on the Constitutional Assembly and the Steering Committee to also take immediate measures to ensure fullest levels transparency in the process. This includes rendering all submissions, reports and official record of deliberations public and ensuring that sufficient time is set aside for meaningful public scrutiny and discussion of the draft constitution thus produced.

Endorsed (as of 13 Sep. 2016) by 99 organisations country wide including social movements, trade unions, and organisations working to protect the rights of women, minorities, farmers, fishers, workers, teachers, persons with disabilities, sexual minorities, and the environment. It has also been endorsed by 83 individuals including academics, scholars, lawyers, teachers, social activists, writers, human rights defenders, journalists, and professionals from various backgrounds.

For more information please contact Sandun Thudugala ([email protected]; 0773727271)

List of organisations and individuals who have endorsed the statement as on date
1. Ampara District Organic Farmer’s Society
2. Ape Shakthi Women’s Organization, Polonnaruwa
3. Arthacharya Foundation, Galle
4. Batticaloa District Fisheries Solidarity Organization
5. Bio Diversity Research and Information Training Centre, Badulla
6. Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ)
7. Centre for Human Rights and Community Development (CHRCD), Kurunegala
8. Centre for Society and Religion (CSR)
9. Centre for Women’s Research (CENWOR)
10. Ceylon Federation of Trade Unions (CFTU)
11. Ceylon Teachers Union (CTU)
12. Ceylon Workers Red Flag Union
13. Commercial and Industrial Workers Union (CIWU)
14. Dehena Participatory Foundation, Kandy
15. Devasarana Development Centre, Kurunegala
16. Diakonia
17. Digili United Farmer’s Organization, Matara
18. District Fisheries solidarity organization, Addalachenai, Ampara
19. Domestic Workers Union
20. Ekabaddha Praja Sanwardhana Kantha Maha Sangamaya , Ratnapura
21. Environment Conservation Trust (ECT)
22. Environmental and Community Development Information Centre, Rathnapura
23. Equal Ground
24. Food First Information and Action Network (FIAN) – Sri Lanka Chapter
25. Friends of the Earth, Sri Lanka
26. Future in Our Hands Development Fund, Badulla
27. Grameeya Swashakthi Athwela Organization, Galle
28. Grassroots Training Institute, Kegalle
29. Indigenous Seeds and Environmental Farmer Organization, Anuradhapura
30. Isuru Jeewithodaya Foundation, Nuwaraeliya
31. Jaffna District Fisheries Solidarity Organization, Jaffna
32. Jana Vijaya Environmental Farmer Foundation, Rathnapura
33. Janawaboda Kendraya
34. Janothsa Development Foundation, Rathnapura
35. Kalewani Farmer Organization, Batticaloa
36. Kalutara District Fisheries Solidarity Organization, Beruwala
37. Kandurata Environmental Development Forum, Kandy
38. Kandurata Women’s Foundation – Kandy
39. Kilinochchi District Fisheries Solidarity organization, Poonagari
40. Law and Society Trust
41. Manawa Praboda Foundation, Anuradhapura
42. Mannar District Fisheries Solidarity organization, Mannar
43. Mannar Women’s development Federation
44. Miridiya organization, Polonnaruwa
45. Motivation Sri Lanka
46. Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR)
47. Movement for the Defense of Democratic Rights
48. National Association of Trade Union Research and Education (NATURE)
49. National Fisheries Solidarity Organization (NAFSO)
50. National Front for Good Governance (NFGG)
51. Negombo Lagoon Fisher People’s organization, Negombo
52. NGO Consortium, Batticaloa
53. Nikasala Community Organization, Anuradhapura
54. Oxfam
55. Pahala Uva Community Development Institute, Monaragala
56. Pahatharata Community Organization Forum, Matara
57. Passara Citizen’s Forum, Badulla
58. Peasant Information Centre, Kurunegala
59. People to People Dialogue on Peace and Sustainable development, Negombo
60. People’s Movement for Community Awareness, Vavuniya
61. Plantation Community Development Forum, Badulla
62. Plantation Social Development Institute, Nuwaraeliya
63. Praja Abilasha Land rights Network, Negombo.
64. Praja Sahayogitha Sanvidanaya, Polpithigama, Kurunegala
65. Praja Shakthi Development organization, Karuwalagaswewa,
66. Program for Women’s Economic Social Cultural Rights (PWESCR)
67. Progressive Farmers’ Assembly, Polonnaruwa
68. Puttalam District Fisheries Solidarity Organization, Thoduwawa
69. Red Flag Women’s Movement
70. Rural Women’s Front, Galle
71. Rural Workers Organization, Urumpirai
72. Samadanam, Kandy
73. Savisthri
74. Senarathgama Environmental Farmer Organization, Kandy
75. Shramabhimani Kendraya, Negombo
76. Siriliya Women Farmer organization, Mahiyanganaya
77. Small Farmers’ Organic Produce Production and Collection Society, Kandy
78. Southern Fisheries Organization, Galle
79. Southern Fisheries Organization, Matara
80. Sri Lanka Nature Group (SLNG)
81. Sri Vimukthi Fisher Women Organization, Negombo
82. Suriya Women’s Development Centre Batticaloa
83. Suwashakthi Sanwardana Parshadaya, Mahiyanganaya
84. Swami Nadaraja Nandaji Child Rehabilitation Centre, Batticaloa
85. Tissa Jaya Child Welfare Foundation, Kandy
86. Trincomalee district fisheries solidarity organization
87. United Farmer Federation, Anuradhpura
88. United Federation of Labour
89. United General Employees’ Union
90. Uva Community Development Centre (UCDC)
91. Uva Paranagama Suwashakthi Parshadaya, Badulla
92. Uva Rural Development Foundation, Monaragala
93. Uva Wellassa Women’s Organization, Badulla
94. Vishwa Shakthi Sanasa Organization, Nuwaraeliya
95. Women’s Resource Centre, Kurunegala
96. Women’s Rural Development Society, Ampara
97. Women’s Action Network
98. Women’s Coalition for Disaster Management Batticaloa
99. Women’s Development Centre, Kandy

1. Ahilan Kadirgamar
2. Ajanee Casinadar
3. Ananda Galappatti
4. Anuratha Rajaratnam
5. Athula Samarakoon
6. Athula Kumara
7. Balachandran Gowthaman
8. Balasingham Skanthakumar
9. Bishop Duleep de Chickera
10. Buddhima Padmasiri
11. Chandra Jayaratne
12. Chulani Kodikara
13. Dr Danesh Karunanayake
14. Deanne Uyangoda
15. Dhanushka Rajaratnam
16. Dileepa Witharana
17. Dr. Dinesha Samararatne
18. Dinushika Dissanayake
19. Elangeswary Arunasalam
20. Ermiza Tegal
21. Gamini Kulatunga
22. Halik Azeez
23. Hans Billimoria
24. Dr. Harini Amarasuriya
25. Dr. Harshana Rambukwella
26. Harean Hettiarachchi
27. Herman Kumara
28. Hilmy Ahamed
29. Dr. Jayadeva Uyangoda
30. Jayantha Dhanapala
31. Jeyashanthini Winifred
32. Kalyani Suntharalingam
33. Karthiyayini Sathiyaseelan
34. Kayathri Thangarajah
35. Krishantha Fredricks
36. Kumudini Samuel
37. Dr. Kumudu Kusum Kumara
38. Lakshman Gunasekara
39. Dr. Liyanage Amarakeerthi
40. Madhava Meegaskumbura
41. Mahalaxumi Kurushanthan
42. Mahinda Hattaka
43. Marisa De Silva
44. Mirak Raheem
45. Muhammed Muzzammil Cader
46. Dr. Muttukrishna Sarvananthan
47. Nalini Ratnarajah
48. Dr. Nimalka Fernando
49. Dr. Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri
50. Padmini Weerasooriya
51. Pavithra Kailasapathy
52. Dr. Pradeep Peiris
53. Prabhath Jayasinghe
54. Primal Fernando
55. Rajaletchumi Kandiah
56. Dr. Rajan Hoole
57. Rashmini de Silva
58. Prof. Rohan Fernando
59. Ruki Fernando
60. Dr. Dr Ruvan Weerasinghe
61. S. Arivalzahan
62. S.C.C.Elankovan
63. Sanjeeva Mathripala
64. Sarala Emmanuel
65. Dr. Sepali Kottegoda
66. Setheeswary Yogathas
67. Shenali De Silva
68. Shreen Abdul Saroor
69. Silma Ahamed
70. Dr. Sitralega Maunaguru
71. Stella Phillips
72. Prof. Sumathy Sivamohan
73. T.M. Premawardhana
74. Tehani Ariyaratne
75. Thyagi Ruwanpathirana
76. Upul Kumarapperuma
77. Dr. Vagisha Gunasekara
78. Velayudan Jeyachithra
79. Vernusri Puvanedran
80. Viola Perera
81. Wasanthakala Piradeepan
82. Zahabia Adamaly
83. Zainab Ibrahim


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