Can Prime Minister Square a Circle?
Constitutional reforms: Some posers
By Ranjith Soysa
The Prime Minister recently stated that the New Constitution will be introduced and it will be based on the report of the 11 member committee appointed. He further said the unitary nature of the Constitution will be preserved and all parties have agreed to the recognition of the foremost place given to Buddhism.
If his intention is to introduce a constitution with these features and it will in turn be based on the 11 member committee report, one can conclude that the PM is desperately attempting to square a circle. The 11 member committee views regarding the following issues are in black and white.
The committee recommends the establishment of a secular state and among other proposals under the related issues are:
1. Heading of Chapter II of the current Constitution should state ‘Religions’ and not Buddhism and retain Article 9 as it is with no change
2. Reformulate Article 9 of the current Constitution as follows:
“The Republic of Sri Lanka shall give all religions equal status. The State shall protect and foster Buddhism and the Buddha Sāsana while assuring to all religions the rights granted by Articles 10 and 14(1)e of the current Constitution.
3. Sri Lanka shall be a secular State
4. Sri Lanka shall be a secular State while recognizing the role of religion in the spiritual development of people
5. Heading of Chapter II of the current Constitution should State ‘Religions’. The clause should be revised as follows:”The Republic of Sri Lanka will give all religions equal status”
The subject of the Unitary state will also have to be analysed as per the report of the committee. The proposals submitted give precedence to the Provinces at the expense of the Centre. The one and only reason flaunted by the committee is the undue advantage enjoyed by the Centre when examining the issues from the point of view of the Periphery. They repeat the term ‘impediment to a healthy relationship’ to identify the specific powers entrusted to the Centre for governance. The recommendations are by and large an attempt to dismantle the Centre and equip the provinces to follow a path towards complete independence. The report clearly states that “The Unitary character is an impediment”, which reveals the preferred directions of their agenda. In short, the committee is overtly interested in a Federal government as part of a project to dismember the Sovereign Unitary State of Sri Lanka.
Some of the other proposals put forward by the committee are as follows:
1 The powers of the Governor to be reduced to make him a nominal head of the Provincial Council system.
2 The Provincial public service to be brought under the Provincial Public Service Commission.
3 The concurrent list, which is in the present constitution, to be abolished as it is an impediment to the spirit of devolution.
4 The Provincial Police to be under an independent Provincial Police Commission.
5 All state lands in the Provinces to be administered by the Provincial Council.
In addition, there are other recommendations in relation to Finance and Revenue collections, Parliamentary laws, Reserved List etc., which are said to a part of a “hierarchical pyramid structure” rather than playing an effective role in the sphere of the Periphery.
The pervasive inference of the proponents for more devolution to the Periphery is not difficult to comprehend.
In the circumstances, the Prime Minister is getting ready to drive Sri Lankans to the wall. How can the Prime Minister reconcile the written word of the committee with his pledge to protect the Unitary State of Sri Lanka and retain the foremost place given to Buddhism?
Can the Prime Minister square a circle?