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TNA unveils its constitutional proposals

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The TNA has called upon the Experts Committee to Draft a new Constitution to adhere to the following principles:

1. Nature of the State:

(1) Sri Lanka (Ceylon) shall be recognised as a free, sovereign, independent and united Republic comprising the institutions of the Centre and of the Regions, which shall exercise powers of governance as laid down in the Constitution.

(2) One of the Regions shall be for the territory predominantly occupied by the Tamil-speaking peoples in the North-East.

 

2. Fundamental Rights:

The Constitution shall include a comprehensive list of fundamental rights and freedoms, founded on human dignity and personal autonomy, and reflecting the full gamut of Sri Lanka’s international human rights obligations.

 

3. Language:

(1) The Constitution shall recognise Sinhala, Tamil, and English as the official languages throughout Sri Lanka, and the languages of administration in the entire island.

(2) Citizens should have a right to interact with the State, whether in person or in correspondence, in the language of their choice.

(3) The Constitution should specify that official documents, notices or directives which communicate, imply or impose a penalty or fine or punishment have no force or effect in law in the event they are issued in violation of language rights.

 

4. The Executive:

(1)The Constitution shall provide for a government with a ceremonial President who is accountable to Parliament, and who acts on the advice of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister shall be the head of the cabinet of ministers.

(2

)The cabinet of ministers, the state ministers, and the deputy ministers, shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister from amongst members of Parliament. Assignment of subjects and functions shall be within the powers of the Prime Minister, and these powers may be exercised by the Prime Minister at any time.

 

5. The Legislature:

(1) The Constitution shall provide for a bicameral legislature with a chamber comprising members directly elected by the people, and a second chamber comprising representatives of the Regions.

(2) Legislation shall be passed upon passage of a Bill by simple majority through both chambers, except in the case of amendments to the Constitution, in which case, the Bill shall be passed with a two-thirds majority in both chambers. And in the case of amendments affecting devolution to the Regions, it shall have an additional requirement of assent by every one of the delegations from the Regions to the second chamber.

 

6. Sharing of Powers of Governance:

(1) There shall be Regional Councils for every Region, as defined in a schedule to the Constitution.

(2) There shall be a Governor for each Region, who shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the Chief Minister of the relevant Regional Council, and such advice shall only be given with the approval of the Regional Council.

(3) The Governor shall, except as provided in the Constitution, act on the advice of the Chief Minister and the cabinet of ministers of the Regional Council.

(4) Regional Councils shall have legislative power over subjects specified in a schedule to the Constitution. The statutes duly enacted by a Regional Council shall prevail over all previous legislation on the same subject with respect to the relevant region.

(5) Suitable time-bound arrangements shall be made with regard to Governor’s assent to statutes to avoid delay.

(6) National policy on a devolved subject defeats the object of devolution. Therefore, all Regions must be consulted and where all Regions agree, national policy must be confined to framework legislation within which Regions can exercise fully legislative and executive power pertaining to the devolved subject. Framework legislation shall not curtail devolved power.

(7) The Central Legislature may make laws with respect to subjects devolved to the Regional Councils, provided all Regional Councils vote to approve the said Bill. Where a Regional Council does not so approve, the Act, if passed, shall not have force or effect within the said Region.

(8) Devolved power cannot be overridden or taken back without the consent of the Region concerned. In the case of Constitutional amendments affecting devolution, it should have the approval of every regional delegation from the Regions in addition to two third majority votes in both Houses.

(9) Assignment of subjects and functions shall be based on the principle of maximum possible devolution. All subjects other than such subjects as must necessarily be with the Central Government, such as national security, national defence, armed forces, foreign affairs, and national economic affairs, must be devolved.

(10) Some of the important subjects and functions to be devolved shall include (but not be limited to):

 

a. land;

b. law and order;

c. education including tertiary education;

d. health;

e. housing and construction;

f. agriculture and agrarian services;

g. irrigation;

h. fisheries;

i. animal husbandry and livestock development;

j. resettlement and rehabilitation;

k. local government;

1. regional public service;

m. regional police service;

n. religious and cultural affairs;

p. all other socioeconomic and cultural matters;

o. cooperatives and cooperative banks;

q. industries; and

r. taxation, central grants, international and domestic loans and grants, and foreign direct investment.

(11) All appointments to the regional public service and regional police service, other than the Chief Secretary and other secretaries to regional ministries, shall be made by the Regional Public Service Commission and the Regional Police Commission, as the case may be, which shall be answerable and responsible to the Chief Minister and to the cabinet of ministers of the relevant Region.

(12) The Chief Secretary shall be appointed by the President with the concurrence of the Chief Minister of the Region, and shall be removable by the President on the advice of the Chief Minister. Secretaries to regional ministries shall be appointed by the Governor on the recommendation of the Chief Minister and the cabinet of ministers of the relevant Region, and shall be removable on their advice.

(13) There shall be adequate provision made in the Constitution for the protection of the minority communities in every Region.

 

7. The Judiciary:

(1) The Constitution shall provide fora Constitutional Court, comprising members appointed by the Constitutional Council, to hear and determine the constitutionality of legislation made by the Central Legislature and statutes made by Regional Councils. Such power may be exercised prior to the enactment of such law or statute, or after enactment, whether it arises in the course of legal proceedings or by the direct institution of proceedings.

(2) In respect of matters relating to the interpretation of the Constitution, the decisions of the Constitutional Court shall be final.

(3) Jurisdiction with respect to fundamental rights applications shall be exercised by the Provincial High Courts.

 

8. Public Security:

(1) The Constitution shall provide that the declaration of a state of emergency shall be made by the President, on the advice of the Prime Minister, or on the advice of the Governor of the Region with the concurrence of the Chief Minister of Region. Such a state of emergency shall only be declared when there are reasonable grounds to apprehend the existence of a clear and present danger to public security, preservation of public order (including preservation of public order consequent to natural disasters and epidemics) or the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the life of the community in the country or Region. A state of emergency can be declared only with respect to the territory where such a clear and present danger prevails.

(2) The declaration of emergency shall state the basis on which such a state of emergency was declared, and shall be limited in time.

(3) The Declaration of Emergency shall, be subject to parliamentary approval or the relevant Regional Council’s approval, as the case may be, and be subject to judicial review by the Constitutional Court. If such approval is not granted, or where the Constitutional Court so holds, such Declaration of Emergency shall stand rescinded.

 

9. Land:

(1) Land shall be a devolved subject. All state land used by the Central Government for a subject in the Central List shall be continued to be used by the Central Government. Rights acquired by citizens in state land shall be preserved. All other state land shall vest in the Region concerned, and can be used by the Region in terms of its devolved powers over land.

(2) Alienation of state land shall be done on the basis of the principles enunciated in the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact and Senanayake-Chelvanayakam Pact.

(3) Regions shall have powers of land acquisition and requisition.

 

10. Pollce:

(1) Law and order shall be a devolved subject.

(2) There shall be a National Police Force, and Regional Police Forces for each Region.

(3) Offences that are reserved to be dealt with by the National Police shall be listed in a schedule to the Constitution. All other offences shall be within the purview of the Regional Police.

(4) The head of the Regional Police shall be the Regional Police Commissioner, who shall he appointed by the Governor on the advice of the Chief Minister of the Region, There shall be a Regional Police Commission to be appointed by the Governor on the advice of the Chief Minister and the leader of the opposition of the relevant Regional Council. Appointment and disciplinary control of Regional Police personnel shall be under the Regional Police Commission. The Regional Police Commissioner shall be answerable and responsible to the Regional Minister, entrusted with the subject of law and order.

 

Signed

– R. Sampanthan MP Leader, Tamil National Alliance and Parliamentary Croup Leader of ITAK

– Sgd. Mavai S. Senathirajah – Leader. ITAK and co-leader, TNA

-Sgd. Selvam Adaikalanathan, MP – Leader. TELO and co-leader, TNA

– Sgd. D Sithadthan, MP – Leader, PLOTE and co-leader. TNA

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Covid-19 vaccination programme: MPs not in priority group; President, armed forces chiefs in ‘third category’ 

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

State Minister for Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle yesterday (25) said that members of Parliament were not among those categorised as priority groups expected to be vaccinated against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr. Fernandopulle said so in response to The Island query whether parliamentarians would receive the vaccine scheduled to be delivered by India this week. Asked to explain, Dr. Fernandopulle said that health workers, armed forces and law enforcement personnel engaged in Covid-19 prevention operations would be given priority.

“Lawmakers haven’t been listed under priority groups. However, some members may get the vaccine if they are accommodated in the over 60 years category and those suffering from diabetes, heart disease, cancer et al,” the State minister said.

In addition to State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera, several lawmakers, representing both the government and the Opposition had been afflicted over the past several weeks. SLPP lawmaker Wasantha Yapa Bandara (Kandy district) is the latest victim. Health minister Pavitradevi Wanniarachchi was among over half a dozen lawmakers tested positive.

Army Commander General Shavendra Silva told Derana yesterday morning Sri Lanka would receive approximately 500,000 to 600,000 doses from India. Responding to a spate of questions from Derana anchor Sanka Amarjith, Gen. Silva explained the measures taken by the government to ensure a smooth vaccination programme. The Army Chief who also functions as the Chief of Defence Staff revealed India had paid for the consignment obtained from the UK.

Later in the day, The Island sought an explanation from the Army Chief regarding the President, Service Commanders, Secretary Defence given the vaccination along with frontline health workers et al, the celebrated battlefield commander said: “Will be in third priority group.”

Asked whether the student population would be accommodated at an early stage of the vaccination programme, Dr. Fernandopulle said that those under 18 years of age, pregnant and lactating mothers wouldn’t be included at all as such groups hadn’t been subjected to trials. Education Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera wasn’t available for comment.

Dr. Fernandopulle emphasized the pivotal importance of following health guidelines strictly in spite of the launch of the vaccination programme. “We shouldn’t lower our guard under any circumstances,” Dr. Fernandopulle said, urging the population to be mindful of those unable to receive the vaccination due to no fault of theirs. As those under 18 years of age had been left out of the vaccination programme, a substantial section of the population would be denied the protection, the State Minister said.

Sri Lanka is also expected to procure vaccines from China and Russia in addition to the doses from India. Health Secretary Maj. Gen. Sanjeewa Munasinghe wasn’t available for comment.

Sri Lanka launches the vaccination programme with the total number of positive cases nearing 60,000 with nearly 50,000 recoveries. The government recently re-opened the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) following a pilot programme that brought over 1,200 Ukrainians in dozen flights through the Mattala International Airport.

Dr. Fernandopulle said that the government was ready to launch the vaccination programme as soon as the first consignment arrived from India.

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Tennis balls filled with drugs thrown into Kandakadu Covid-19 treatment centre

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By Norman Palihawadane

Two tennis balls filled with drugs had been thrown into the Covid-19 treatment centre at Kandakadu, Police Spokesperson DIG Ajith Rohana said.

The contraband was found on Saturday by the Army officers attached to the facility.

DIG Rohana said the two tennis balls containing cannabis, heroin and tobacco, had been handed over to the Welikanda Police.

A special investigation has been launched into the incident, the Police Spokesperson said. Such incidents had been previously reported from Welikada, Negombo and other prisons, but it was the first time contraband containing narcotics had been thrown into a Covid-19 treatment centre, he added.

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All cargo clearances at Colombo port now through electronic payments

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The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) has introduced a system where payment for imports could be made via the Internet. This allows port users to make payments from their homes or offices to clear goods from the Port of Colombo.

The SLPA has said in a media statement that the new special facility will enable port users to make their port payments easily without hassle.

At present, all terminals of the Port of Colombo are run according to a strategic crisis management plan.

 

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