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Sri Lanka: Committee to Draft New Constitution

(Oct. 23, 2015) Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe of Sri Lanka has appointed a committee to make recommendations for a new Constitution for the country. In addition to officials from the Department of Legal Draftsman (an agency in the Ministry of Justice), the committee includes legal scholars, officials from the parliamentary staff, and legislative representatives. (Sri Lanka PM Appoints a Committee to Create a New Constitution, COLOMBO PAGE (Oct. 14, 2015); Department of Legal Draftsman, KOMPASS (last visited Oct. 14, 2015).)

The announcement was made by Jayampathy Wickramaratne, counsel to the President, who spoke on October 13, 2015, at the Centre for Policy Alternatives. He added that new systems of governance will be considered in the constitution-drafting process. The Centre has started a program designed to achieve a high rate of citizen participation in the preparation of the new Constitution. (Sri Lanka PM Appoints a Committee to Create a New Constitution, supra.)

The current Constitution was adopted in 1978 and has been amended numerous times. (Constitution, Sri Lankan parliament website (text as last amended on May 15, 2015).)

Background

It was reported in June 2015 that the Prime Minister had proposed amending the 1978 Constitution for the 20th time, but that a number of political parties had opposed the plan. The draft 20th amendment was touted as making the political system more open to ordinary citizens, but those opposed to it described it as a threat to the country’s democracy. The amendment would have increased the size of the country’s unicameral parliament from 225 seats to 237. Of these seats, 145 would have been filled by representatives elected under the “first past the post” system, 55 would have been selected on a proportional representation basis, and 37 would have come from a national list of candidates. (Constance Johnson, Sri Lanka: Small Political Parties Object to Proposed Constitutional Amendment, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (June 24, 2015); Sri Lanka Cabinet Approves 20th Amendment with a New Electoral System of 237 Parliamentary Seats, COLOMBO PAGE (June 12, 2015).)