Disna Mudalige, Camelia Nathaniel and Amali Mallawaarachchi
Drafting a Constitutional Bill depends on the support of the Constitutional Assemblyand any such draft requires the support of a two thirds majority, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said.
Addressing the Constitutional Assembly, the Prime Minister yesterday said public opinion is always respected in proceeding with Constitutional reforms.
The PM stressed that the UNP’s stance is that Articles 2 and 9, which deal with the unitary status and the status of Buddhism, should remain the same.
“At no point do we want to divide this country. Bankrupt political elements have resorted to use the Constitutional making exercise as a political slogan. All in the Steering Committee were in agreement not to touch the Article 9 which accords the foremost place to Buddhism. Many are also now agreeable to a unitary state, and there is no attempt to introduce a federal state. We can share more powers with the Provincial Councils,” the Prime Minister said.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe expressing his displeasure on fear mongering over the Constitutional proposals, all opinions which came up during the process had been recorded respecting the freedom of expression.
“Just because we recorded all different opinions, it does not mean that we endorse them all. It is not a betrayal of the country. The constitution making exercise was done above board in an open manner,” he noted.
He said abolishing the Executive Presidency is one main objective of the proposed Constitutional reforms.
He added that the electoral reforms remained a core area during the deliberations, but that there is yet no consensus on them.
“Political parties have expressed different opinions on the new electoral system after the recent Local Government elections,” he added.
Five reports including the report of the Panel of Experts were presented to the Constitutional Assembly yesterday by the Prime Minister.
Political party representations and comments and letters submitted by expert panel members are given as two Schedules to the report of the Expert Panel.
A subject-wise summary of the speeches made at the debate on the Interim Report and recommendations submitted by the Chief Ministers of the Provincial Councils were among the tabled documents.
The Premier invited the Opposition members to read the reports in full and debate the draft proposals. Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa asked as to why the Steering Committee failed to present a final report of its own.
The PM replied that if the two-thirds majority supports it then they can present a draft Constitution. “We have now presented all what we have hitherto deliberated at the Steering Committee. Your problem is that you no longer can accuse us of making a document which divides the country.
You lost the opportunity to use it for political mileage,” Wickremesinghe replied to Rajapaksa.