Foremost place to Buddhism and unitary status won’t be changed - PM

New Constitution


By Saman Indrajith

Second and Ninth Sections of the existing Constitution providing for the first and foremost place for Buddhism and ensuring the unitary status would not be amended in the process of reforming the constitution, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told the Constitutional Assembly, yesterday.

Presenting a report prepared by the Panel of Experts for the Steering Committee, based on the Interim Report, six Sub Committee Reports, the Report of the ad hoc Sub Committee set up by the Steering Committee to look into the relationship between the Parliament and the Provincial Councils, the Prime Minister said: "The UNP stands for the abolition of executive presidency and not amending the Second and Ninth Sections of the Constitution. Today, the Constitutional Assembly has met for the tabling of reports compiled by the Steering Committee. A final draft could be worked out from the reports we now have. It was decided on Sept. 06 to present the reports of the committees to the constitutional assembly. None of the reports proposes division of the country. There are some who repeat that the country is being divided. We have been given a mandate to formulate a new Constitution. There are proposals to strengthen the freedom of faith. We, however, would not touch the Ninth Section of the constitution to amend it. There are various proposals as to how power could be devolved within a unitary state. We could select the most suitable proposals and develop them in formulating the new constitution. In that manner, we could move forward. There are no proposals yet to reform the election system. The Steering Committee work as been done in a very transparent manner. There could be diverse opinions but we could reach common ground.

Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa: We need couple of more days to study this draft.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe: The assembly could decide on that. We could prepare a final draft on that. We could even debate them here.

Opposition Leader: We have to study the draft before participating in a debate.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe: Now you cannot shout that we are dividing the country.

Opposition Leader: We need an opportunity to debate this. The Constitution should be accepted by the people. There is a doubt whether people will approve this. You have already delayed elections. Do not try to fool the people and parliament.

Finance and Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera: Everybody voted for the 19th amendment.

MEP leader Dinesh Gunawardena: We removed the sections which are detrimental to national interests from the 19th Amendment.

Prime Minister: I accept what the Opposition Leader said that all must work together. We can have a debate on the matter.

Opposition Leader: We cannot do this within Parliament. This should be approved by the people. You should hold an election. We will bring our proposals then and we will let the people decide.

TNA Leader R Sampanthan: Muslims, Burgher or any community are equal citizens of this country. We should be united in our approach. We have failed to protect diversity in unity and to create a common Sri Lankan identity. It is our intention to unite people through this Constitution. Some call themselves patriots. I think that they are pseudo-patriots. They work for votes and secure majority. There had been a nexus between pseudo-patriotism and corruption. The country has become poor thanks to their conduct. They say they work for the people, but they use racism as a tool to mobilise the people.

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake: This is only a draft by a steering committee. This is not a Constitution. We, too, believe that the country needs a new constitution.

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