New Constitution-drafting runs into headwinds

Friday, 20 July 2018 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

A controversial draft tabled at the Steering Committee meeting of the Constitutional Assembly recently got pulled up yesterday in Parliament with Opposition lawmakers highlighting the alleged involvement of UNP MP Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne, ITAK MP M. A. Sumanthiran and a member of the expert panel Suren Fernando preparing the said draft without the common agreement and participation of the expert panel and forcing them to certify afterwards.

Highlighting the questionable comportment of the expert panel and the two co-chairs of the management committee, MP Wickramaratne and MP Sumanthiran, appointed by the Steering Committee, UPFA MP Dayasiri Jayasekara said: “In a media statement MP Jayampathy Wickramaratne has stated putting a draft of the Constitution before the council before 18 July. But there is a serious issue with regards to this draft, which only received six signatures out of the 10 experts. This draft was prepared by MP Sumanthiran, MP Jayampathy and Suren Fernando, an Attorney at Law. There was no common agreement within the expert panel and the draft is a serious matter,” he said. According to MP Jayasekara, this controversial draft has provisions necessary for the removal of the President of the country with the common agreement of the Speaker of Parliament, the Opposition Leader and the Prime Minister.

Meanwhile, UPFA MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage stated that a member of the expert panel was away from the country for months but his signature was placed fraudulently. “A certain party on that expert panel wasn’t in the country for six months. So how was his signature placed? It is a forged signature,” he charged. Setting the record straight, JVP MP Anura Dissanayake, who was present at Wednesday’s Steering Committee meeting which took place at the Constitutional Assembly Secretariat on the fourth floor of the Parliament complex stated that the controversial draft was rejected by the Steering Committee. 

“The Prime Minister is the head of the Steering Committee and the Speaker is heading the Constitutional Assembly. The experts are appointed to support the Steering Committee. These experts were assigned to prepare a discussion paper for the Steering Committee. It should have been prepared with common agreement among the members of the expert panel. During the Steering Committee meeting the disagreement was revealed and the discussion paper got rejected,” said MP Dissanayake.

In terms of Clause 5 (a) of the framework resolution for the Constitutional Assembly, a Steering Committee consisting of 21 members represented by political parties represented in the Parliament was established and the first sitting took place on 5 April 2016. The principal mandate of the Steering Committee is to present a Draft Constitutional Proposal for Sri Lanka.

At the second meeting of the Steering Committee held on 28 April 2016 it was resolved that a Management Committee should be appointed to make arrangements and facilitate the work of the Steering Committee, Sub-Committees and all secretarial work including staff requirements. Accordingly, MP Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne, MP M.A. Sumanthiran, the Chief of Staff, Deputy Secretary General of Parliament and Secretary to the Steering Committee Neil Iddawala, Secretary to the Leader of the House of Parliament Naufel Abdul-Rahman and Additional Secretary (Legal Affairs) to the Prime Minister Bimba Jayasinghe Tillekeratne PC were appointed members of the Management Committee.

The panel of experts was established based on nominations from different political parties in the Steering Committee. The contributions of the panel of experts include academic and technical input at committee deliberations, the submission of position papers in respect to subject matters under discussion and the provision of general expertise. Prof. Suri Ratnapala, Prof. Austin Pulle, Prof. A.M Navaratna Bandara, N. Selvakkumaran, Prof. Camena Gunaratne, Prof. Kapila Perera, Suren Fernando, Niran Ankatell, Asoka Gunawardena and Chamindry Saparamadu are the members of the panel of experts.