Ranil presents interim report on new Constitution

September 22, 2017 12:00 am | Updated 04:04 am IST - Colombo

All parties have agreed to an indivisible state, says PM

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.AFP

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.AFP

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Thursday presented an interim report on the drafting of a new Constitution, underscoring that all parties had agreed to an “indivisible state”. Addressing the Constitutional Assembly, Mr. Wickremesinghe said that the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) had taken the unprecedented position that they would agree with the contents of the interim report, if the country’s two main parties — SLFP and UNP — accepted it.

“This is only a draft, not a legally binding document. The final draft (Constitution) would be done only after subjecting this report for public debate,” he said.

The interim report follows an exercise undertaken by an all-party steering committee that Mr. Wickremesinghe chairs. Since March 2016, it has met as many as 74 times, discussing various aspects of the likely Constitution.

While all parties have in principle agreed to an “indivisible state”, they are yet to concur on some other aspects, such as devolution of police powers to the Provinces. Political parties, including the TNA, have annexed their observations to the interim report.

Achieving a consensus

Despite the perceived delay, many consider it a significant step in the process of drafting Sri Lanka’s new Constitution. “The successful conclusion of this Constitution-making process on the basis of an acceptable reasonable and substantial national consensus would bring about a firm finality to this issue,” senior TNA politician and Leader of Opposition R. Sampanthan said.

Observing that no Constitution in Sri Lanka has thus far been framed on the basis of consensus amongst its different people and the two main parties, he said the current exercise was the first such opportunity.

While public debate is expected to commence based on the interim report, a parliamentary debate is “very likely” to begin by the end of October, Jayampathy Wickramaratne, a government MP who co-chairs a committee overseeing the exercise, told The Hindu . Following such a debate, the government has said it would table the draft Constitution in Parliament and, if it is passed by a two-thirds majority, hold a country-wide referendum.

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