The Sri Lankan constitution making process is likely to come to a grinding halt as the representatives of the Malwatte and Asgiriya chapters of the Buddhist Maha Sangha, have opposed any change in the constitution, whether piecemeal or wholesale.
The Karaka Maha Sangha Sabha, of the Malwatu & Asgiriya Chapters which met in Kandy on Wednesday, said that there is no need for a new constitution or even amendments to the present constitution, and urged the government to stop the constitution drafting process immediately.
Those who attended the meeting were: the Anunayake of the Malwatte Maha Vihara, Ven. Dimbulkumbure Wimaladharma Thera; the Anunayakes of the Asgiriya Maha Vihara, Ven. Wedaruwe Upali Thera; and Anamaduwe Sri Dammadassi Nayaka Thera.
Following a two-hour meeting, the Anunayake of the Malwatte Maha Vihara, Ven. Dimbulkumbure Wimaladharma Thera, told the media that the proposed constitution will lead to a division of power going down to the level of Pradeshiya Sabhas or local bodies.
“The present constitution is good for us. We will express our protest after briefing the Mahanayakes of the Asgiriya and Malwathu Chapters, and the Ramannaya and Amarapura Nikayas.”
“We urge the government to stop the drafting process immediately. The President’s powers should be intact. However, an electoral system based on first-past-the- post system is necessary,” the Thera said.
Asgiriya Chapter Lekakadikari Dr. Medagama Sri Dhammananda Thera said introducing a new constitution at this juncture will lead to communal and ethnic divisions.
“The proposals made in the proposed constitution are detrimental to the unitary character of Sri Lanka. Decentralization of state power will create a serious situation. It is evident that the country will be divided,” he said.
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has already stated that he will not promulgate a constitution which is not approved by the Mahanayakes.
Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa has said that the government headed by President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was not elected on the promise of drafting a new constitution.
“They have no mandate to change the constitution,” he said in a recent statement.
According to Rajapaksa, the government was elected to do away with the Executive Presidency and restore the Westminster system which existed before 1978.
The government has no mandate to change the “unitary” State to a “federal” one, he added.
Like the Buddhist priests, Rajapaksa is for electoral reform with the present Proportional Representative System replaced partially by the First Past the Post System.
It is likely that Sri Lanka will see electoral reform but not constitutional reform with the character of the State changed from unitary to the federal, with an increase in the devolution of power to the provinces.
The likely outcome is a dilution of the existing 13 th.Amendment of the constitution which was brought about under Indian pressure as an offshoot of the India-Sri Lanka Accord of 1987.
The Accord envisaged a settlement of the ethnic conflict between the minority Tamils and the majority Sinhalese-Buddhists on the basis of devolution of power to the provinces.