Leading politicians and members of Civil Society Organizations yesterday stressed the importance of bringing a new Constitution which safeguards the unitary status of the country.
They claim that this is the ideal time to do that since today the country has a moderate Tamil leadership.
They further said that the country may never get another chance if it does not grab the opportunity now.
They were addressing a seminar entitled “A new Constitution is Required” at the New Town Hall Colombo yesterday, with the participation of the representatives of Health Services Trade Union Alliance.
Justifying the need for a new Constitution, Constitutional Expert and UNP National List Parliamentarian Dr. Jayampathi Wickremaratne said that making a new constitution is very much essential to find a firm solution for long discussed topics of the country, such as the abolition of executive presidency, the question of power devolution.
Dr.Wickreamaratne explained the roles played by the Steering Committees headed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Constitutional Assembly, consisting of parliamentarians, and ,the six sub committees in the constitution making process.
Commenting on the report submitted by the sub committee dealing with fundamental rights, headed by Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe, Dr Wickreamaratne said that if they were able to add these proposals in the fundamental rights chapter of the new constitution, it will be the best among Asian countries. He further stressed the need of taking into consideration the fact that the Tamil word ‘orumitha naadu’ is not the correct translation of the word unitary and they would find the most suitable word for that.
Prof. Sarath Weerasooriya said that the People of this country have given a clear mandate to formulate a new constitution at the Presidential Election held in January 8, 2015.
“Formulating a brand new Constitution had been clearly mentioned in the election manifestos of the two main presidential candidates , at the Presidential election held in 2015. So nearly 6,200,000 people, who voted for President Maithripala Sirisena and 5,800,000 people who voted for former President Mahinda Rajapaksa have given a clear mandate to do that. Prof Weerasuriya said.
Expressing the UNP’s stance on formulating a new Constitution, Power and Renewable Energy Deputy Minister Ajith P Perera said that the UNP thoroughly believes that a brand new constitution is needed within the framework of unitary state. We also believe that the utmost place given to the Buddhism should remain unchanged.
He said that the Executive Presidency should be abolished and no more Presidential elections held in the country. He further said that the Executive Prime Minister is only a myth, which doesn’t exist anywhere in the world. Only two such attempts of electing an executive Prime Minister has been reported so far and both attempts were not successful.
Expressing his views, Health and Indigenous Medicine Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne said that some SLFP Ministers have forgotten that SLFP leaders, including late Prime Ministers SWRD Bandaranaike, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, attempted to solve ethnic issue in the country.
“I always fought for the abolition of the Executive Presidency,” Minister Senaratne said.
He added that devolution of power was not a new topic. It had been spoken of for a long time now. No one could oppose this and call himself a true patriot. There is no other traitor than those who oppose this.
The biggest victory for this Constitution is that the TNA is agreeing to support it, which was an unprecedented opportunity. Therefore, we must grasp this opportunity.
“During the Constitutional Council in 1972, the late J.R. Jayewardene proposed the Executive Presidency, but late Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake rejected it.
But in 1978, Late Jayewardene and late R Premadasa set up the Executive Presidency. But late Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike pledged that she would abolish it at the first opportunity, they get to do so.
Former Presidents Chandrika Kumaratunga and Mahinda Rajapaksa too promised to do so,” Minister Senaratne said.
The President of Health Services Trade Union Alliance Saman Ratnapriya also spoke.