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Sri Lanka: Prime Minister Comments on Constitutional Revision Plan

(Jan. 25, 2016) Speaking on January 17, 2016, the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Ranil Wickremesinghe, stated that a new Constitution now being planned will not change the unitary structure of the nation. He discounted rumors that the country would be divided and asserted that he wants the country to be united, attributing the reports of future division to political parties attempting to stir up fear and mistrust.  (New Constitution Will Not Change the Unitary Nature of Sri Lanka, PM Assures, COLOMBO PAGE (Jan. 17, 2016).)

Wickremesinghe went on to say that the process of creating a new Constitution will be transparent and that there will be a referendum to decide the issue. The Constitution Compilation Committee, appointed by the Prime Minister, will accept proposals for new provisions and consider various ideas. The Committee began deliberations on January 18 and will be in session, seeking input, until March 31.  In addition, social media will be used to solicit opinions.  The Committee will send its conclusions to the Cabinet Subcommittee on Constitutional Reforms.  Once two-thirds of the members of Parliament and the Cabinet approve a draft, the public will have a final say via a referendum.  (Id.)

The current Constitution was adopted in 1978 and has been amended numerous times. (The Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (as amended to May 15, 2015), Parliament of Sri Lanka website; for background on the constitutional revision process, see Constance Johnson, Sri Lanka: Committee to Draft New Constitution, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Oct. 23, 2015).)

Statement from Asian Human Rights Commission

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) of Hong Kong and Basil Fernando, a Sri Lankan attorney, submitted a statement to the Constitution Compilation Committee on January 14, 2016.  It  expresses concern about the need for the “restoration of the supremacy of law and the reform of law enforcement agencies, the police service in particular, the Attorney General’s Department, and the judicial institutions. ” The statement argues that due to the collapse of the rule of law, it is “futile to create a constitution that cannot be implemented.”  It further suggests that “those engaged in the drafting of the newly proposed constitution should address the matter of enforceability of the constitution through the law enforcement agencies and the institutions of the administration of justice as an issue of paramount importance … .”  (Submission to the Constitutional Reforms Committee, Sri Lanka, AHRC website (Jan. 14, 2016).)