Civil society groups that campaigned for Maithripala Sirisena at the January 2015 presidential poll, have stepped up their campaign for a new constitution.
The project gets underway against the backdrop of members of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) reaching consensus as regards a new resolution to give space for Sri Lanka to introduce constitutional reforms and address accountability issues.
Twice President Chndrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, UPFA General Secretary Mahinda Amaraweera and Minister Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka on Wednesday (March 15) joined the inaugural meeting called by the newly formed National Movement For A New Constitution at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute (SLFI).
Convenor of the National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ) Prof. Sarath Wijesooriya had called the Wednesday’s meeting on behalf of the new grouping.
The new movement called for the abolition of the executive presidency, electoral reforms and power sharing arrangement. Ven Dambara Amila, Prof. Sarath Wijesooriya, Saman Ratnapriya, Sudarshana Gunawardena, Lucien Bulathsinhala, Gamini Viyangoda, J.C. Weliamuna, Brito Fernando and Udeni Dissanayake pressed the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government to fulfill its much publicized promises made in the run-up to presidential and parliamentary polls in January and August 2015, respectively.
Ven. Amila underscored the responsibility on the part of the incumbent government to introduce a new constitution.
Activists carried off a bearded person out of the auditorium after he hooted after the arrival of Mrs Kumaratunga at the venue.
Political commentator Gamini Viyangoda explained that required constitutional reforms, including the abolition of the executive presidency couldn’t be realized without going for a referendum.
Referring to a recent statement made by State Highways Minister Dilan Perera, Viyangoda said that he, too, accepted the SLFPer’s assertion that the government faced certain defeat at a referendum. Viyangoda said that the people had been disgusted due to the failure on the part of the yahapalana government to keep its promises. Therefore, tangible action should be taken without further delay to punish those who had robbed the country during the previous administration, Viyangoda said.
Urging the government to go ahead with constitutional reforms, the civil society activist said that people with vested interests were hell-bent on sabotaging the process. Viyangoda said that the division of the country on ethnic lines could be averted only by devolving powers. Viyangoda asserted that division of the country could be averted through constitutional means, by empowering the Provinces, he asserted.
Viyangoda pointed out the absurdity in the notion that devolution of power was meant only for the Northern and Eastern Provinces.
The Supreme Court in late 2006 de-linked the Eastern Province from the North on a technical matter.
Referring to the civil war in America involving eleven Southern States calling themselves Confederate States of America, Viyangoda said that the following the crushing the separatist movement, devolution of powers wasn’t stopped. Viyangoda said that Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, father of Indian constitution hadn’t been deterred by the breakup of the country at the independence to devolve powers. Viyangoda stressed that both the US and India had proved that devolution posed no threat to stability and unity.
Viyangoda cited Switzerland and Belgium as smaller countries which achieved success through devolution.
The civil society activist said that the Brexit and Colombia were examples that couldn’t be compared with Sri Lanka.
However, the referendum on constitutional reforms in Italy late last year is relevant to Sri Lanka. The then Italian Premier Renzi’s constitution reform plan had been rejected by voters as he wanted to strengthen the Center. The project was meant to strengthen central government and weaken the Senate, the upper house of parliament, Viyangoda explained.
“What we are pushing for is the entire opposite to what Italy wanted to do. We want maximum possible devolution of powers.”
Recently some members of the National Movement For A New Constitution met President Maithripla Sirisena at the Presidential Secretariat to discuss ways and means of advancing what they called the yahapalana agenda.
Courtesy – The island