New Constitution draws flak Country heading for Federalism – MR

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By 2017-10-17

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa accused the Government of introducing a Federal Constitution, thereby hoodwinking the public through colossal changes with regard to devolution of powers, the electoral system and the workings of the provinces.

In a press communiqué issued yesterday, Rajapaksa stated that the implementation of certain matters, coming under the Government are to be assigned to the provinces, thus greatly reducing the role of the Centre as befits a federal system.

He added: "Once powers are devolved to the provinces, on the basis of 'subsidiarity',......it has been proposed that Parliament should not have the power (even with a two thirds majority) to make any changes to that arrangement without the consent of each and every provincial unit. It has also been proposed that Parliament should not have the power to legislate into law, national standards and national policies without the consent of the proposed second chamber of Parliament which would consist mostly of representatives of the provincial units. Furthermore, it has been proposed that the list of concurrent powers which confers a certain leadership role on the Government be abolished and those powers also be transferred to the provinces."

Rajapaksa stated that the Government's proposal to introduce a proportional representation system (PR) will be counterproductive. It has also been proposed that the base for electing MPs on the PR system be changed from the district to the province –which is another way of promoting federalism.

Even though the number of MPs to be elected under the PR system, which favours minor parties, has been increased to 40 per cent, it has nevertheless been proposed to create small constituencies and multi-member constituencies to ensure the representation of various communities, he elaborated.

"It has also been proposed that an additional number of seats be allocated to the Northern Province on the basis that those who went overseas due to the war are displaced persons. Making changes to the system of elections so as to promote ethnic and religion based politics is counterproductive," he said.

He went on to add that the executive powers of the provincial Governors are to be transferred to the provincial boards of ministers and the Governors are to carry out their duties on the advice of the former to the extent where the Governor will not have the authority even to inform the Government of an emergency situation that has arisen in a province without instructions from the Chief Minister. Rajapaksa further explained that the time given to the Governors and thereafter to the President to either assent to a provincial statute or refer it to the Supreme Court for a determination on its constitutionality is to be fixed at two weeks and upon the expiry of this period, the statute would automatically be considered to have received executive ascent.

"This will severely restrict the ability of the Central Government to control the provinces. Sri Lanka's system of devolution has been borrowed from India. According to Article 201 of the Indian Constitution, the President of India has a veto power over any law passed by a state – a power the President of Sri Lanka never had. Therefore, we cannot agree to a further reduction of the powers of the Government over the provinces," he said.

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