NEW CONSTITUTION

 

By R.T.Ramachandran

In preparing the new constitution, it needs to be understood that civil liberties that strengthen democracy will only be available in a society that adheres to the principle of representative government, which are the right to vote, the right to life, the prohibition on torture, security of the person, the right to personal liberty and due process of law, freedom of expression and freedom of association. We as Sri Lankan have had many setbacks due to the past constitutions and to go forward a new constitution is the need of the day.

The powers of the people shall be shared at three tiers of the government namely at Central, Provincial and Local. The Parliament shall share sufficient legislative and administrative powers with the Provincial Councils. New Constitution shall provide separate lists of powers for each layer including a list compiled expressly stating the powers of Local Authorities. The distribution of powers should be explicit and devoid of neither ambiguity nor any concurrent list. To this end it would be appropriate to follow as a minimum but not limited to the under mentioned recommendations which provide for power-sharing with the minorities that will ensure absence of discrimination against all ethnic and religions.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

  1. Administrative Provinces

The Republic of Sri Lanka shall be a state made up of provinces. The territory of the Republic of Sri Lanka shall consist of the eight administrative provinces (nine reduced to eight with merger of Northern and Eastern Provinces as one North-East Province), each province is made up of districts and districts are subdivided into divisions.

  1. Language of Administration

Both Sinhala and Tamil shall be the Official Languages of Sri Lanka with English as the link language. Sinhala shall be the language of administration and be used for the maintenance of public records and the transaction of all business by public institutions of all the Provinces other than the North-East Province where Tamil shall be so used with English as the link language. The Republic of Sri Lanka shall assure to all four religions the same rights.

  1. Civil Liberties

Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice. No person shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. All persons are equal before the law and are entitled to the equal protection of the law. No citizen shall be discriminated against on the grounds of race, religion, language, caste, sex, political opinion, place of birth or any such grounds.

  1. Law and Order

Freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention and punishment, and no person shall be arrested except according to procedure established by law. Any person arrested shall be informed of the reason for his arrest. Every person held in custody, detained or otherwise deprived of personal liberty shall be brought before the judge of the nearest competent court according to procedure established by law, and shall not be further held in custody, detained or deprived of personal liberty except upon and in terms of the order of such judge made in accordance with procedure established by law. Any person charged with an offence shall be entitled to be heard, in person or by an attorney-at-law, at a fair trial by a competent court. No person shall be punished with death or imprisonment except by order of a competent court, made in accordance with procedure established by law. The arrest, holding in custody, detention or other deprivation of personal liberty of a person, pending investigation or trial, shall not constitute punishment. Every person shall be presumed innocent until he is proved guilty. No person shall be held guilty of an offence on account of any act or omission which did not, at the time of such act or omission, constitute such an offence, and no penalty shall be imposed for any offence more severe than the penalty in force at the time such offence was committed.

  1. Freedom of Speech and Expression

Every citizen shall be entitled to the freedom of speech and expression including publication; the freedom of peaceful assembly; the freedom of association; the freedom to form and join a trade union; the freedom, either by himself or in association with others, and either in public or in private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice or teaching; the freedom by himself or in association with others to enjoy and promote his own culture and to use his own language; the freedom to engage by himself or in association with others in any lawful occupation, profession, trade, business or enterprise.

  1. Freedom of Movement and Residency

The freedom of movement and of choosing his residence within Sri Lanka or outside and the freedom to return back. A citizen of Sri Lanka holding dual nationality is permanently and legally resident in any other country shall be registered as a non-resident citizen and shall be entitled to all the rights declared and recognized in this Article.

  1. Citizenship

There shall be two status of citizenship known as “citizen of Sri Lanka” and “Non-resident citizen of Sri Lanka”. Both a citizen of Sri Lanka and non-resident citizen of Sri Lanka shall for all purposes be described only as a citizen of Sri Lanka, whether such person became entitled to citizenship by descent or by virtue of registration in accordance with the law relating to citizenship. No distinction shall be drawn between citizens of Sri Lanka for any purpose by reference to the mode of acquisition of such status, as to whether acquired by descent or by virtue of registration.

  1. President, Prime Minister and Parliament

The President shall be the ceremonial Head of State with a Parliament comprising elected representatives from the eight Provinces and members nominated by the President, a Cabinet of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister charge with the general direction and control of the government and collectively responsible to the Parliament, Permanent Secretaries charged with exercising supervision over departments of government subjects to the general direction and control of the relevant Ministers, security for judges of the Supreme Court, Judicial Service Commission and Public Service Commission and an Auditor General.

  1. Administrative Service

Sri Lankan administrative service shall be divided into provincial administrative units known as provincial secretariats administered by a ‘Provincial Secretary’; the provincial units shall be divided into administrative sub-units known as district secretariats administered by a ‘District Secretary’; the districts sub-units are divided further into administrative sub-units known as divisional secretariats administered by a ‘Divisional Secretary’, and are known as ‘D.S. Divisions’. Provincial Secretariats shall report to the Central Secretariat, the District Secretariats in a Province shall report to the Provincial Secretariat with Divisional Secretariats in each District reporting to the District Secretariat. 

  1. Election of members to the Parliament and the Provincial councils

There shall be a single general election held every five years to elect members to the Provincial councils and to the Parliament. A voter at each electorate shall cast his vote for a Member of Parliament and a Provincial Councilor to represent his electorate. There shall be on an electorate basis a first past the post (FPP) electoral system.

  1. Composition of Members in Parliament

The Parliament shall consist of elected members from all electorates. Each Division boundaries shall be the same as that of an electorate.

  1. Composition of Senators

A Senate shall be created to enable the Provinces to play a role in the national legislature to act as an in built mechanism against hasty legislation passed by the Members of Parliament that may have an adverse effect on the Provinces. It is proposed that each of the Provinces be represented by equal number of Senators, making up of two third of the total, elected on the basis of a single transferable vote system by the Members of the Respective provincial legislatures. The other third shall be nominated by the President. Of these nominated senators one third number for Indian Tamils and one third number 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. The balance third to represent unrepresented community groups to ensure all ethnic and religious minorities of each province are represented in parliament and to bring in able academics, all trade sector members and civil society members for good governance.