Experts involved in the constitutional reforms process last week have highlighted the lack of consensus on how the supremacy of the Constitution is to be formulated with economic, social and cultural rights becoming contentious issues.
The sub committees dealing with the areas of reform concerning fundamental rights, the judiciary, law and order, centre peripheral relations, public finance and the nature of the State have handed over their completed reports to the Steering Committee on constitutional reforms, which will in turn submit its report containing the draft of the new Constitution to the Constitutional Assembly.
Chairman of the Public Representations Committee on Constitutional Reforms, Attorney-at-Law Lal Wijenayake said that the Steering Committee will decide on whether or not to accept the reports with the entirety of their contents or with modifications.
While pointing out that major aspects of the Second Republican Constitution of 1978 had been proposed to be changed, Wijenayake remarked that to what extent the Constitutional Assembly would accept them was another matter altogether.a
On the question of the constituency and the composition of the Constitutional Council, Wijenayake said an acceptable compromise of having equal representation of civil society members and Parliamentarians has been put forward.
The Council at present includes seven MPs and three civil society members.
“It has been proposed that there be seven civil society members and three MPs. Since, it has faced opposition from MPs, an acceptable compromise of having five members each from the civil society and from among the Parliamentarians has been put forward,” he elaborated.
Speaking further he said that one of the proposals suggested that the Presidential system be done away with and be replaced with a Parliamentary system. Another proposal was the Fundamental Rights Chapter of the Constitution to be enlarged.
“What is being proposed is a progressive Constitution. The 19th Amendment made the independent commissions independent and the new Constitution proposes to make them more so,” Wijenayake added.
He also added there were some who felt that under the present circumstances of the Sri Lankan economy, the granting of economic, social and cultural rights such as food security under economic rights would not be practically possible. “Courts can decide on such matters on a case by case basis while taking into account economic conditions prevalent at the time,” he said.