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PM sets record straight on new constitution


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Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe

Untitled-1Setting the record straight, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday outlined the new constitution-building process as inclusive, transparent and in line with election pledges while slamming opposition lawmakers for attempting to mislead the public. 

Recalling the long history of constitution-making in Sri Lanka by successive Governments, Wickremesinghe reiterated it would be done according to stipulations set out in the existing constitution and insisted the joint Opposition members were jumping the gun on what elements would be included in the new constitution. 

“All we have done is set up a Constitutional Council, much like what was done in 1971. I do not know what will be included in the final constitution because that is under the purview of the 225 members of parliament, the public and other stakeholders. But it will still preserve Sri Lanka as a unitary State and give Buddhism its rightful place. Opposition politicians are doing their utmost to mislead the public,” he said issuing a special statement.  

Referring to the group of Opposition parliamentarians led by MP Prof. G.L Peiris as the “junta”, Wickremesinghe recalled that these same politicians were in power when the 18th Amendment was passed creating a “veritable dictatorship, but now there is not even a sign of a dictatorship.” A mandate for a new constitution was given by the people during 2015 and the prime minister together with President Sirisena will work to implement the pledge.  

He also appealed to minority parties to join the new constitution formulation process without focusing on narrow political agendas that would further split Sri Lankans along ethnic lines. 

“I will not make a constitution locked up inside a room with a Junta,” Wickremesinghe told journalists, adding, “We will seek the views of all political parties. We have already established a group to gather public opinions. I call on the youth of this country to get on social media websites and tell us what they think for this is a constitution made for the future.” 

Efforts by his administration this month were simply to set up the Constitutional Council as the first step in the constitution-making process. A two-thirds majority in Parliament and a referendum will be held to pass the new constitution, which would ensure that the best interests of Sri Lanka are served through this process. 

“We must protect the unity of this country. If select committees of Parliament are valid then so is the Constitutional Council. All the steps are taken legally. These are unfounded contradictions presented by the Opposition. Changes will have to be made as different political parties express their ideas, we are agreeable to that and will make the appropriate amendments. Such amendments can be discussed with the Constitutional Council.”

The new Constitution has the potential to heal rifts between different ethnic groups, remarked the prime minister, pointing out that he was a Buddhist, a Sinhalese and a Sri Lankan. He criticised statements made by rival politicians who were attempting to paint the constitution formulation process as an attempt to reduce the status of Buddhism and noted he would make a fresh statement next week once he returned from attending the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.              


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