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Saturday, 05 March 2016 17:25

NPC Makes Three Submissions On Constitutional Reform

NPC made three submissions to the Public Representations Committee on Constitutional Reforms. The Committee was mandated to seek oral and written submissions from the public on constitutional reforms. The process of public consultations began on January 18 and ended on March 15. The Committee will now prepare a report based on the public submissions and propose recommendations to be considered by the Cabinet Sub Committee on Constitutional Reforms.

NPC’s recommendations stressed the need for devolution and the implementation and strengthening of the 13th amendment. It said Provincial Councils were an important part of the process and that the councils should have control over the police and be given land powers to improve their financial viability.

NPC recommended that more resources be allocated to implement the language policy because the public was facing difficulties when government documents and official letters were not distributed in their own languages.

NPC gave a second submission after consultations with civil society that reiterated the need to fully implement the 13th amendment, as well as to have provisions to safeguard the independence of institutions that were now politicised.

A new Constitution must establish minority rights. The Constitution should have a provision to address demographic imbalances that were created artificially to affect the number of a certain ethnic minority in an area through resettlement, which affects their representation in Parliament, the people who were consulted said.

Most Tamil participants in NPC’s deliberations were in favour of a Federal system of government over a unitary system while some Sinhalese feared that Federalism could lead to separation. It should be explained that Federalism was not Tamil Eelam but a form of government and that it was possible to have Federal values within a unitary state so people who lived in the provinces could manage their affairs, the Tamil participants said.

Article 126 of the Constitution needed to be amended to make it easier for people to access the courts to vindicate their fundamental rights.

As far as the process of people’s participation in the constitutional reform process went, it was pointed out that ordinary people were excluded because they did not have access to email, text or fax and were unable or unwilling to attend public hearings.

The government should be seen to be more involved in the process of creating public awareness about the issues involved in constitutional reform as well as actively encouraging the public to take part, the participants said.

NPC’s third submission was derived from the findings from consultations with over 700 women from nine districts across the island who have taken part in an effort to evolve a Women’s Manifesto on Healing.

They felt it was necessary to increase women’s participation at all levels of governance to address the issues of sexual abuse, domestic violence and gender based violence. This would also help ease problems of female headed households and plantation women.