COLOMBO: The Public Representations Committee (PRC) charged with the task of ascertaining the peoples’ views on changing the Sri Lankan constitution, has recommended a switch over from the Presidential form of government to a parliamentary system based on UK’s Westminster model.
Lanka had a parliamentary form of government till 1978.
While recommending a return to the Westminster model, the PRC was unable to come to any conclusion about the powers of the President under the new system or how he should be elected. As in other controversial matters in which opinions among the public and the panelists varied widely, the PRC refrained from giving any recommendations and just mentioned the various views leaving it to the Constitutional Assembly to decide on the issue.
The PRC submitted its report to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe here on Monday.
To keep the ethnic balance in the government structure, the PRC recommended the establishment of an office of Vice President who should be from a community other than that of the President. The Preamble of the constitution should also explicitly acknowledge the ethnic diversity of Lanka and the State’s responsibility to protect it, the panel said.
The PRC refrained from making any recommendations on touchy subjects like “Religion” and the “Nature of the State” i.e. whether the State should be unitary or federal. It only listed the various opinions.
But there was agreement on having a Second Chamber to give equitable representation to the minorities and various interest groups. The Second Chamber cannot pass a measure affecting minority interests without the representative of the minority concerned assenting to it. Appointments to the 75-member Second Chamber should be made by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister. Members will have a term of 6 years with a third retiring periodically.
On devolution of power the PRC recommended the doing away of the Concurrent List of subjects and retained only the Reserved (Central) List and the Provincial List. The province should have full powers over subjects in the Provincial List, it said.
The committee recommended the drastic pruning of the powers of the Governor. It wanted the Governor’s executive powers to be taken away, including the power over top officials. The Governor should not have the function of giving assent to a provincial bill before and after it is passed, since the legality of any legislation will be decided by the Supreme Court.
On the sensitive question of devolving police powers, the PRC recommended the continuation of the system of having one police force for the entire country but said that at the provincial level, the police should be answerable to the Chief Minister and his Board of Ministers. There should also be a Provincial Police Commission.
Power Over Land
As regards the other ticklish question of power over State Lands, the PRC said that the Central Lands Commission should have equitable representation of Central and Provincial interests. It should not take any decision on a province without the assent of the representatives of that province. State Lands in a province should be under the legislative and executive control of that province.
Mixed Electoral System
As regards the electoral system, the panel favored 60 percent of the seats in the Central and Provincial legislatures to be filled through the First Past the Post System, and 40 percent through the Proportional Representation System.
Indian Origin Tamils
Other recommendations are: the setting up village level Grama Sabhas to advice and supervise local bodies; and the integration of plantation colonies into the village system so that Indian Origin Tamil plantation workers, presently entirely under the plantation companies, get government benefits.