By Zacky Jabbar
The SLMC and UNP MP R. Yogarajan yesterday released what they termed the final report of the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) report, which outlines the basis of power sharing, role of the Senate, Community Council, distribution of powers between the Center and Province and safeguards against secession.
Deputy Secretary of the SLMC Nizam Kariapper, addressing a news conference in Colombo, said that the report they were releasing was based on the draft of a new constitution presented by APRC Chairman Tissa Vitharana to the 13 constituent parties on August 13, 2007 and subsequently to President Mahinda Rajapaksa. In drafting, the Chairman had taken into consideration two reports presented to the APRC by an expert panel constituted by President Rajapaksa.
Yogarajan said that he was participating in the press conference in his personal capacity, after having informed the UNP leadership. Before crossing over to the UNP during the last Presidential Election campaign he had represented the CWC in the APRC deliberations.
"I will be tabling the final report of the APRC in Parliament today."
Kariapper said that the APRC, summoned by President Mahinda Rajapaksa on July 11, 2006 and mandated to produce a draft of proposal for constitutional reform, which would provide "a comprehensive approach to the resolution of the national question", concluded its deliberations in June 2010 after the 13 participating political parties had met 128 times. The UNP and TNA did not attend the deliberations.
The APRC expected that President Rajapaksa would commence a dialogue with the main opposition United National Party and the Tamil National Alliance, based on the final report of the APRC with a view to formulating a new constitution. But that did not happen, he said.
"Though it was reported in the media that a final report was submitted to the President by the Chairman, we found that it had not been given to either the main opposition United National Party, the Tamil National Alliance or to the public. It is in these circumstances that R. Yogarajan who is presently a UNP MP, but participated in the APRC as a CWC member and I, decided to compile the final report based on the draft for discussion paper presented by the Chairman and amendments made by the APRC at its meetings, with the assistance of the proceedings which were recorded by Hansard."
Following are some of the main features of the Final Report:
Nature of the State:
The Republic of Sri Lanka is a Unitary State in the sense in which it shall be deemed to be an undivided and integrated State structure where the State power shall be shared between the Centre and the Provinces (agreed compromise).
Form of Government:
Sri Lanka should adopt a Parliamentary form of government at the centre.
Status of Buddhism:
The Republic of Sri Lanka shall give to Buddhism the foremost place and accordingly it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana, while according to all religions the rights guaranteed by Articles 10 and 14 (1)(e) of the 1978 Constitution.
Official Languages and National Languages:
Sinhala and Tamil, the National Languages, shall be the Official Languages of Sri Lanka.
Use of the English Language:
English may be used for official purposes.
Supremacy of the Constitution:
The supremacy of the Constitution shall be recognized, and protected by a Constitutional Court, which would be part of the existing Court structure but separate from the Supreme Court. All acts of commission or omission of the Centre and of the Provinces inconsistent with the Constitution shall be void.
Safeguards against secession:
There should be in-built mechanisms to discourage secessionist tendencies and to preserve the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the State. The Provinces and local authorities shall be constitutionally mandated to preserve national unity and the indivisibility of the Republic.
The APRC accepts that there shall be a mixed electoral system which combines the first past the post (FPP) on an electorate basis and proportional representation (PR) on a party basis, in which preferably the system of proportional representation prevails.
The powers of the people will be shared at three tiers of the government. Namely, at the Central Governmental level, Provincial government level and Local government level. Each tire will have separate List of powers provided through Constitution.
A Senate will be created by which the Provinces will able to play a role in the national legislature. It would also act as an in-built mechanism against hasty legislation that may have an adverse effect on the Provinces.
It is proposed that each of the Provinces is represented by seven Senators, making up a total of 63, elected on the basis of a single transferable vote system by the Members of the Respective provincial legislatures. In addition, there shall be 10 Senators selected by the community Councils (one or the Muslims, and the other for the Tamils living outside the North and the East). The President of the Republican nominates two people to represent unrepresented community groups.
There shall be two Community Councils, one for Indian Tamils and one for Muslims, outside the North and East without territorial focus to serve the development needs of the members of the communities wherever they may be living in Sri Lanka outside the North and the East.
Distribution of powers between the Center and Province:
The distribution of powers should be explicit and devoid of ambiguity. The Parliament should have no legislative power in respect of subjects and functions in the Provincial List while Provincial Legislatures should not have legislative powers in respect of subjects and functions in the National List.
National and Provincial High Appointments Council:
There should be a National Higher Appointments Council to ensure the independence of the State services and that of the judiciary of the Republic.
The Higher Appointments Council shall consist of The Prime Minister, The Speaker, The Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, and six persons appointed by the President on the nomination of a Committee of Parliament proportionally composed of all parties represented in Parliament which should include three persons to represent minority interests appointed in consultation with Members of Parliament who belong to the respective minority communities. The speaker shall be the Chairman.
A Provincial Higher appointment Board will also be constituted comprising Chief Minister, Chairman of the Council, Leader of the Opposition and six other distinguished persons appointed by the governor nominated by a Committee of Members of the Council representing all political parties.
The composition of the Provincial Board shall as far as possible reflect the ethnic composition of the province.
The substance of Articles 82 (5) and 83 of the 1978 Constitution will be retained.
A Bill to amend the Constitution or replace it with a new Constitution should be approved by 2/3 of the members of each House of Parliament sitting and voting separately. - COURTESY:THE ISLAND -