There is no substitute for a Parliamentary Select Committee to resolve in a systematic and all-inclusive manner the issues relating to constitutional reform which are now the subject of vigorous debate in the country, Professor G.L. Peiris, Minister of External Affairs, told Ambassadors and High Commissioners accredited to Sri Lanka at a briefing at the Ministry of External Affairs on 26th June.
He noted that several Provincial Councils, political parties, academics and professionals had recently expressed divergent views on these issues and commented that a structured and comprehensive approach is necessary in reflecting on these matters before constitutional amendments are presented to Parliament. Since constitutional reform is necessarily a matter within the purview of Parliament and a special majority is required, the involvement of a Parliamentary Select Committee for this purpose is indispensable, he said.
Prof. Peiris told the envoys that the government regards consideration of these matters as urgent and this is why the Parliamentary Select Committee, the Chairman and members of which were named by the Speaker last week, will convene on the very first day Parliament meets in 9th July 2013. The Chairman of the Committee, Leader of the House Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, is eager to arrive at very early agreement about priorities and modalities regarding the work of the Committee and decisions in this regard will be made after broad-based discussion, Minister Peiris said.
While issues relating to the Thirteenth Amendment will naturally be in focus, the discussion at the Select Committee is expected to cover a wider range of matters in respect of the Constitution as a whole, he explained. He said that the government’s wish to ensure the expression of all points of view is amply demonstrated in many ways.
The government will have 19 members in the Committee and the Opposition 12. This arrangement, he said, is entirely acceptable to the government, although the government is entitled, in terms of the composition of Parliament, to significantly stronger representation, he remarked. He added that, with regard to the terms of reference of the Committee, there had been discussion with the Tamil National Alliance and that their views had been taken into account. The Committee will function in a time-bound manner, the Minister said.
He expressed the government’s wish that all political parties would participate in the deliberations of the Committee.
Prof. Peiris gave the diplomatic community a detailed briefing about the arrangements currently being made for hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and the three side events – the Business Forum, the Youth Forum and the People’s Forum, in November 2013.
Three Cabinet Committees have been formed to facilitate this work, and 69 project proposals have been developed by the public sector as well as the private sector for the Business Forum which will be attended by leading entrepreneurs, including those from countries outside the Commonwealth, he said.
Mr. Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary to the President, provided the Ambassadors and High Commissioners with a detailed briefing on current progress with regard to implementation of the recommendations contained in the Report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.