Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe presented the report drafted by former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya in regard to activating Sectoral Oversight Committees to make social and political reforms in parallel with the economic programme of the Government to the House yesterday (6).
The Sectoral Oversight Committees were introduced in the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. They were abolished when the 20th Amendment was passed.
Wickremesinghe, after being appointed as PM, requested former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to prepare a proposal that would activate the Sectoral Committees and empower them.
Jayasuriya’s report proposes to achieve four main objectives through the proposed Sectoral Oversight Committees. They are providing relief to the community and families affected by the economic crisis, economic recovery of the country and the country’s industries, upliftment of the people and society as a whole, and revitalisation of government institutions and the governance structure for the above threefold process.
In addition, this report proposes to empower sixteen monitoring Sectoral Committees to achieve these objectives.
The monitoring committees are Committee to Alleviate the Impact of the Economic Crisis, Energy and Transportation Committee, Committee on Food, Security and Agriculture, Committee for Promotion of Production and Export of Goods and Services, Education Committee, Health Committee, Committee for Open and Accountable Public Servants, Committee on International Relations, Committee on National Security, Committee on Foreign Employment and Labour, Committee on Justice and Law Respecting Society, Environment, Natural Resources and Sustainable Development Committee, Committee on Media, Youth, National Heritage and New Citizen, Committee for Reconciliation and National Unity, Committee on Children, Women and Gender and National Economic and Physical Planning Committee.
Also, the report has suggested the possibility of getting advice from scholars and experts.
“I have pointed out on many occasions that we need to carry out a number of other reforms in parallel with the economic programme. At this time, we should make as many political reforms as possible. The institution that must be strengthened is the Parliament, while the Government institutions must be free from politicisation. The 22nd Amendment is one step towards achieving this. Strengthening parliamentary Sectoral Committees is another step,” Wickremesinghe said.
“The political culture that has developed so far in our country is undergoing a complete change. Nowadays, we divide into parties during elections. Even after coming to Parliament, the divisions remain and grow. The Government alone brings orders, formulating policies. The State is in control. The Opposition focuses on opposing the Government. The Opposition has no chance of coming together to formulate policies related to governance in the country.
Under this committee system, the Government will have to move away from individual opinion and reach a common consensus. The Opposition cannot limit itself to criticism, but contribute to finding solutions,” he said.
The Premier pointed out many MPs in Parliament demanded that such a programme be implemented, especially the young MPs. The youth members of the ruling party, who do not have ministerial duties, as well as the youth members of the Opposition, have repeatedly expressed their opinions on the importance of making a collective contribution to the effort to rebuild the country.
“Karu Jayasuriya’s report has also pointed out the importance of bringing together non-Parliamentary member youths for these committees through a formal method. This point is also very important. There are a large number of young people who do not want to be directly involved in politics. A way to get their ideas and suggestions in preparing the country’s policies and plans is provided through this.”
Speaking further, Wickremesinghe said through the Sectoral Committee system, the entire Parliament joins the process of uplifting the country, regardless of party or opposition. Also, the youth community, scholars, and experts are provided an opportunity to participate in these committees.
By successfully implementing this system, on the one hand, there will be a huge change in our political culture. On the other hand, there will be a support base to build the future of the country. A solid foundation is being built for the purpose of creating a developed Sri Lanka. A real system change begins, the Premier said.
By Methmalie Dissanayake