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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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SJB: Excise, FM officials all out to pocket Rs 1 bn

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By Saman Indrajith

Matara District SJB MP Buddhika Pathirana yesterday told Parliament that the Finance Ministry and Excise Department officials had misled Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and State Minister Ajith Nivard Cabraal in order to obtain billion rupees, fraudulently.

The officials had got a contract for printing stickers or barcodes to be displayed on bottles of liquor awarded to an Indian company.

“The project would result in one-billion-rupee loss to the government coffers annually,” the MP said, adding that the money being taken from the public purse would end up in the pockets of corrupt officials.

Pathirana said that the Excise Department had commenced a project to paste stickers on bottles of liquor to differentiate them from the fake and counterfeit bottles in the market.

“As per this project’s requirements, 32 million stickers would be needed per month. The stickers are to be purchased from Madras Security Printers company of India. This method was proposed in 2016 but it failed and the officials thereafter decided to introduce a barcode system.

“The cost of a sticker at 25 cents and the new barcode system will cost of two rupees a piece. This is a dubious deal. It seems that the Finance Ministry officials and the Excise Department heads have ganged up to give the contract to the Indian company and get commissions. There are many unanswered questions. First, the contract of printing the barcode too has been given to the MSP company, which could not secure the first contract. I want to know whether the proper procurement process has been followed. The second question is whether the barcodes would be up to the standards listed in the tender. Third question is who had selected the MSP company which is black-listed in India after being found guilty of frauds with Indian liquor companies in providing stickers to them. MSP has been blacklisted in many other countries. The company has been banned in Sudan and Liberia for supplying the stickers to private companies. The last question is whether this fraud is being committed with the knowledge of ministers of this government.”

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Reserves fall to lowest since 2009, rupee strengthening to be short-lived: report

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by Sanath Nanayakkare

Sri Lanka’s Foreign reserves had dropped to USD 4.1bn in March 2021, the lowest since August 2009, on the back of over US$ 4bn outstanding debt payment during April-December 2021 period, a report issued by First Capital Research yesterday said.

According to the report, rupee appreciation is likely to be short-lived considering Sri Lanka’s depleting foreign reserve position, high foreign currency debt repayment requirement and limited funding sources available in the market are expected to further increase depreciation pressure on the currency during 2Q and 3Q.

“We maintain our exchange rate target for 1H2021 at Rs. 196-202 with 2021 year-end target at Rs. 205-215 as mentioned in our ‘Investment Strategy 2021 – January 2021,” the report recalls.

“Sri Lankan rupee appreciated 5% against the US dollar over the last 2 market days reversing the continuous accelerated depreciation witnessed in January-April 2021. On 12th April, Sri Lankan rupee recorded a historical low of Rs. 201:1 US$. Ministry of Finance (MoF) reported on the same day that the government of Sri Lanka entered into a loan agreement with the China Development Bank (CDB) for US$ 500mn and MoF expected the funds to be disbursed during the same week. Following the announcement, the market registered a steep appreciation with mid-rate recording at Rs. 190.9 on April 19,” it says.

The total foreign debt repayment (capital and interest) for 2021 is US$ 6 bn, according to the report.

Meanwhile FC Research believes that the temporary appreciation in USD-LKR, may adversely impact earnings of export companies such as Hayleys, Haycarb, Dipped Products, MGT Knitting Mills, Teejay Lanka, Expolanka Holdings etc. in the short term.

“However, considering the potential future currency pressure, we expect an overall depreciation of approximately 12% for the rupee providing a significant gain for companies with foreign currency revenue”, FC research predicts.

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Govt. asks Opposition not to propagate lies

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By Saman Indrajith

Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando yesterday accused the Opposition MPs of abusing parliamentary privileges to mislead the public by propagating lies about the Easter Sunday terror attacks. 

Addressing Parliament, Minister Fernando said: “The Opposition MPs level wild allegations in the House knowing that they have the cover of parliamentary privilege. If they have anything substantial or any knowledge of the perpetrators of the Easter attacks still not in custody they can go to the CID and lodge complaints so that such complaints could be investigated.”  

Fernando said so after SJB Galle District MP Manusha Nanayakkara had told the House that he possessed evidence of those who carried out the Easter Sunday terror attacks.

Nanayakkara also said that the facts that he had were not in the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Easter Sunday carnage.

“You are making various statements regarding the Easter Sunday terror attacks in the Chamber without any proof because you know that you have Parliamentary privilege. You even quoted some statements which are not included in the PCoI report. How did you obtain such information? Why didn’t you complain about this to the CID in the first place? Your action is aimed at misleading the public,” the Minister said. 

Minister Fernando said that the Opposition should stop insulting Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith by misinterpreting the latter’s statements. 

“When you are in the Government you never said that this is a Buddhist country. Now you are insulting the Cardinal too. You should not do that,” the Minister said. 

“The former Government should be responsible for the terror attack. Now we are trying to punish those who are responsible for it. We will take action against everyone who is responsible. You should support us, not try to obstruct the on-going investigations,” Minister Fernando said.

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