In the wake of President Gotabaya’s much-publicized intention of introducing a new constitution to Sri Lanka, the National Peace Council is of the view that the current government under his leadership should state its vision when formulating the new constitution.
The NPC says that one of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s pledges has been to introduce a new constitution to the country. In giving leadership to the passage of the 20th Amendment, and securing the necessary 2/3rds majority in parliament, the President demonstrated that the government has the ability to honour its pledge for a new constitution. The government’s decision to extend the deadline for the submission of constitutional proposals by the general public to December 31, this year is to be welcomed. This is an indication of the responsiveness of the government to the difficulties that people have been facing to gather together for discussion on this matter because of the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The National Peace Council notes that the successful efforts at constitutional change in the past occurred in situations where the government clearly stated its vision of the direction of constitutional change. In 1972 it was the desire to forge a republican constitution and break free of the colonial legacy through a locally grown (autochthonous) constitution. In 1978 it was to create an executive presidency that would be even able to take the unpopular but necessary decisions to develop the country by accelerating economic growth. The problem was that these visions were not shared with the rest of the polity. It should be remembered that components in constitutional changes introduced in 1972 and 1978 were contributory factors that led to unfortunate events from the 1980s onwards.
We believe that the leadership of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who has the popular mandate and trust of a majority of the people, offers the best chance to overcome the failures of constitutional drafting processes after 1978 and reach a consensual solution for the benefit of the country at large. From the perspective of the National Peace Council, the post-war need for national reconciliation would emphasise the need for a constitution that is pluralist in its vision and obtains the concurrence of the ethnic and religious minorities in addition to the necessary support from the ethnic and religious majority. Inasmuch as the 20th Amendment has satisfied one set of interests, there is a need to consider the 13th Amendment in the light of 13+ as promised during the tenure of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The NPC therefore urges the government to share its vision of the new constitution it proposes for the country’s wellbeing. This will facilitate meaningful contribution from the general public towards it. Sharing the vision and ideology that inspires the new constitution will contribute to the formulation of institutions that are connected to that vision. We call on the government to make a special effort to consult with opposition political parties and civil society organisations to draft a constitution that protects national security, human rights, human dignity, equal protection and equal opportunity for all.
Governing Council of the NPC
The National Peace Council is an independent and non-partisan organization that works towards a negotiated political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It has a vision of a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka in which the freedom, human rights and democratic rights of all the communities are respected. The policy of the National Peace Council is determined by its Governing Council of 20 members who are drawn from diverse walks of life and belong to all the main ethnic and religious communities in the country.