OMLANKA

That the proposed constitution denies Buddhism its foremost place is a canard: Jayampathy

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Dr. Jayampathy Wickremaratne who leads the present Constitution making process and a senior member of the Constitutional Assembly has stated that the statements made by extremist elements that the proposed constitution will deny Buddhism of its foremost place, set up a federal state  and will lead to the making of a ‘Tamil Homeland’ is utterly false, misleading. He reiterated that the proposals have ensured the unitary character and the foremost place for Buddhism.

He was speaking to a prestigious English daily. He explained that in the proposed draft, which is only a discussion paper, Sri Lanka is declared to be not only an ‘undivided state’ but it has also been emphasized as ‘indivisible’. It only says sovereignty is with the people and its inalienable. The Steering Committee has gone further and said sovereignty is indivisible. In a federal state, sovereignty is divided between the centre and the states.

He added that in the United States Constitution, even to change a comma of the US Constitution the Senate and the House of Representatives at the Centre must pass the proposal with a two-thirds majority. In addition two thirds of the states must also agree for it to become law, even if the change has nothing to do with the states. In the case with India, which is a quasi Federal state, to change certain provisions of the Constitution, they need a two-thirds majority in the two Houses of the Centre plus the consent of the majority of the states.In India the sovereignty is partially divided but in the US it is completely divided.

He further stated that the Steering Committee proposals are not for a Federal form of government. There are safeguards against cessation.

It has been emphasised in the report that the Constitution can be amended or a new constitution can be enacted only by the central legislature (by Parliament) and by people voting at a referendum. It shows that the provinces has nothing to do with the amendment of the Constitution. The Provincial Councils can be abolished if Parliament passes it with a two-thirds majority. In a federation you cannot do that. In addition, if due to the acts of the Provincial Councils, there is a threat to the territorial integrity and soverignity of the country, there is a proposal to give the centre powers to intervene. This is not a power that is available even now. The President can take over the powers of the PCs, the board of ministers or the governor. And in a very extreme situation, he can dissolve the PCs. These are powers do not exist even in the present constitution and these are clear definitions given of a unitary state.

He stressed that in any case these are proposals for discussion.

 

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