TNA wants regional councils to replace PCs
Submits proposals for new constitution
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has proposed to the committee of experts appointed to draft a new constitution that regional councils should replace the established provincial councils (PCs), with these regional councils including territory in the North and East predominantly occupied by Tamil-speaking people.
The TNA, which is represented in the Opposition as the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi (ITAK), has also proposed that the nature of the Sri Lankan State be a free, sovereign, independent, and united republic made up of the institutions of the centre and the regions, and that the Constitution provide adequate protection to regional minority communities.
Concerning power-sharing in terms of governance, the proposal states that the aforementioned regions should have a regional council each, with a governor appointed by the President upon the advice of the council’s chief minister, with the latter being subject to the approval of the council. The governor is to act on the advice of the chief minister and the council’s cabinet of ministers. These councils will have legislative power over certain subjects.
With regard to national policy, all regions must be consulted and their assent must be obtained. Then, national policy must be confined to framework legislation, within which regions can fully exercise legislative and executive power concerning the devolved subject, and which does not curtail the devolved power. The central legislature can make laws concerning devolved subjects, provided that the councils approve these Bills by vote.
Furthermore, in the case of a constitutional amendment affecting devolution, it should have the approval of a representative delegation from every region, in addition to a two-thirds majority vote in both Houses.
In relation to the devolved subjects – other than national security, national defence, armed forces, foreign affairs, and national economic affairs which must necessarily be with the Central Government – the TNA has proposed a list of subjects and functions that should be devolved.
This includes, among others, land (other than State land used by the Central Government for a subject in the Central List), law and order, the regional police service (including all offences other than those dealt with by the National Police Force), education (including tertiary education), health, housing and construction, agriculture and agrarian services, irrigation, fisheries, animal husbandry and livestock development, resettlement and rehabilitation, local government, regional public service, religious and cultural affairs, all other socioeconomic and cultural matters, co-operatives and co-operative banks, industries and taxation, central grants, international and domestic loans and grants, and foreign direct investments (FDIs).
According to the TNA, there shall, in this regard, be a “Regional Public Service Commission” and a “Regional Police Commission”.
Moreover, concerning State land, its alienation should be done as per the principles laid down in the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact and the Senanayake-Chelvanayakam Pact, according to the proposal. Also, regions should have the power to acquire and requisition land.
They have further proposed that Sinhala, Tamil, and English be official languages, as well as the language of administration countrywide. Sinhala and Tamil are official languages under the existing Constitution, while English is the link language.
Regarding the Executive, the TNA has said that the presidency should have a ceremonial President that is accountable to the Parliament, and acts on the advice of the Prime Minister, who will be the Head of the Cabinet of Ministers and has the power to assign subjects and functions, and exercise such.
With regard to the legislature, Parliament should be a bicameral legislature, with a chamber composed of members directly elected by the people and a second chamber made up of representatives of the regions. In the case of amendments affecting devolution, in addition to a two-thirds majority in both chambers, it must have the assent of all regional delegations in the second chamber.
As far as the judiciary is concerned, the TNA has proposed a Constitutional Court to hear and determine the constitutionality of legislation made by the Parliament and regional councils, and on matters of constitutional interpretation. Furthermore, provincial high courts should be enabled to hear fundamental rights-related applications.
Fundamental rights and freedoms should reflect the entire gamut of Sri Lanka’s international human rights obligations, the TNA stated.
The TNA is made up of the ITAK, the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO), and the People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE).