The process of making a Constitution for South Africa: Tremendous task of bringing together eleven

14 August 2017 12:01 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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- Justice Dikgang Moseneke

Former Deputy Chief Justice Moseneke receiving a memento from the Acting Vice Chancellor, Professor E. Lakshman Wijeweera 

 

A rapt audience of University Dons and students of the Faculty of Law, heard Justice Dikgang Moseneke, former Deputy Chief Justice of the South African Constitutional Court, say that he thought that they did not know he was an ‘ex Con’, when a question was raised by the audience as to his contact with the icon Mandela.  
Former Justice Moseneke said it was a tremendous task to bring together eleven languages to one platform in the process of making a Constitution for South Africa. He also said the National Anthem represents the major languages of four, by having each verse for one of the languages. What is there so cumbersome to draw up a Constitution for Sri Lanka where there are only two major languages, he questioned, when South Africa could bring about a Constitution for eleven languages of the country onto one platform, Constitutional reforms hold significance in the reconciliation of transitional societies. The post-apartheid South Africa’s Constitution-making process is one of the most successful and inspirational Constitution making processes of the world.   
Former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke is an eminent judge of South Africa, who was engaged in activism at a young age and therefore had experienced the process and impact of the Constitution-making in South Africa in different perspectives. At a time whern Sri Lanka is also going through the Constitution-making phase of the reconciliation process, it is important to share the experience of South Africa in using the Constitution as a tool to bring divided communities together.  
The Department of Law, Faculty of Arts in the University of Peradeniya in collaboration with the Commonwealth Secretariat Technical Assistance Mission to Sri Lanka, conducted this dialogue with Judge Dikgang Moseneke on the South African experience regarding the Constitution-making in polarized societies, in order to disseminate knowledge on the significance of Constitution making in transitional communities.  

 

"The National Anthem represents the major languages of four, by having each verse for one of the languages. What is there so cumbersome to draw up a Constitution for Sri Lanka where there are only two major languages, he questioned"

 

Justice Dikgang Moseneke practised as an Advocate in Johannesburg and Pretoria, and was elevated to the status of Senior Counsel in 1993. He served on the technical committee that drafted the interim Constitution of 1993, and was appointed Deputy Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission; which conducted the first democratic election in South Africa. After serving as a judge of the High Court in Pretoria, he was appointed as a judge in the Constitutional Court and in June 2005 as the Deputy Chief Justice of the Republic of South Africa.   
The discussion at Peradeniya focused on the challenges and achievements of the difficult Constitution making process in South Africa as it transited from apartheid into a pluralist democracy. Justice Moseneke emphasized the significance of Constitutional reforms in the reconciliation process under one of the pillars of transitional justice: the guarantees of non-recurrence.   
He said special attention was also given to the mandate and performance of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of South Africa; which is the only truth commission to have been given powers of amnesty.   

At the rostrum - Professor Lakshman Wijeweera with the delegates  

Justice Moseneke narrated his experience on the drafting process of the South African Constitution. The audience was fascinated to hear how people from different backgrounds were brought onto a single platform to map the future of South Africa by drafting the Constitution. The debate that occurred during the Constitution drafting phase between the recognition of individual rights and group rights were discussed. Special attention was also given to the mandate and performance of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of South Africa; which is the only truth commission to have been given powers of amnesty.   

This dialogue was held at the Senate Room of the University of Peradeniya, chaired by the Acting and also the Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University Professor R. Lakshman Wijeweera.  
The Head of the Faculty of Law and Senior Lecturer Dr. (Ms) Samanmala Dorabawila introduced former Judge Moseneke.   
Among those who were present were Constitutional Court Advocate Karen McKenzie of South Africa, Counsellor Johannes Van Niekark of the South Afrian High Commission, Head of Human Rights Sumedha Ekanayake and  Human Rights Adviser Eleanor Paton were among those present with Ambassador of South Africa Ms.Robina P. Marks. Saman Ratwatte PC was also present.  

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