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Commission submits proposals on constitutional reform

Graphic: People visit a market, Sri Lanka

The comprehensive suite of proposals were provided to the Prime Minister, Speaker and Public Representations Committee on Constitutional Reform.

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka has submitted a comprehensive suite of proposals on constitutional reform to the Prime Minister, Speaker and the Public Representations Committee on Constitutional Reform.

Introducing its proposals, the Commission noted that the "deepening constitutional protection of human rights requires much more than the incorporation of a substantively rich constitutional Bill of Rights into a future constitution".

"Two critically important dimensions that require attention in the reform process: the guaranteeing of a sound system of separation of powers and checks and balances; and strong regulation of the public security regime," the Commission said.

The Commission highlighted a number of foundational principles that "must be articulated either in the preamble to the constitution or as a substantive provision", including:

  • Sovereignty of the people should be the foundation of governance
  • Transparency and accountability of governance
  • Supremacy of the constitution
  • Respect for pluralism, equality of dignity and inherent human rights of the people as individuals and as groups
  • Respect for religious freedom of all
  • Respect for social justice.

In its proposal, the Commission endorsed a Draft Charter of Rights, completed in 2009, but with a series of changes, including, among other proposals, further strengthening the non-discrimination clause and adding the ground of 'sexual identity', recognising the right to be free from enforced disappearances, and recognising the right to legal aid.

The Commission's proposal also includes specific recommendations in relation to ensuring a strong system of checks and balances, regulating the public security regime, ratifying international human rights treaties, and recognising the Commission as a constitutionally established body.

The constitution should also be drafted and translated in plain language.

"It is a right of the citizens to know what their Basic Law says. That is of fundamental importance to constitution-building and in legitimizing constitutional governance," the Commission said.

The full text of the Commission's Constitutional Reform Proposals is available at: http://hrcsl.lk/english/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Proposals-for-Constitutional-Reform-by-HRC-in-English.pdf

Date: 16 June 2016

Image credits

  1. People visit a market, Sri Lanka - tbz.foto, Flickr; http://bit.ly/28Xyjoy