Unitary State should remain unchanged – BASL

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) yesterday emphasized that Sri Lanka should continue to remain as a ‘Unitary State’ as is presently worded in Article 2 of the Constitution.

The BASL yesterday (23) submitted a questionnaire, drafted by President’s Counsel Romesh de Silva, to the Government seeking clarifications on several aspects pertaining to the interim report of the Steering Committee of the Constitutional Assembly.

The clarifications were sought following a special BASL Bar Council meeting, which was convened yesterday (23), to discuss the proposed constitutional reforms and to arrive at a consensus regarding whether or not to approve thesuggestions made in the interim report.

The private bar expressed grave concern on the proposed amendments to Articles 1 and 2 of the Constitution, regarding the nature of the State as stated in the interim report, which the unofficial Bar said would have the effect of converting the unitary character of the State to a federal structure.

President of the BASL, Udaya Rohan de Silva PC explained that Sri Lanka was not composed of several States as… the country was not a divided one, but one single State. “We are not in agreement with the idea of going for a federal State.”

Apart from this issue, the questions to which clarifications have been sought, covering several areas, include the requirement for a new Constitution, the concept of what is a unitary State and whether the country would continue to remain so, what powers are to be devolved, whether such powers could be taken back by the Central Government and in what manner, the instances during which the President could exercise direct rule in the provinces, whether the Executive Presidency would be abolished, what fundamental rights would be justifiable and whether post-enactment judicial review would be afforded within a certain time frame.

Elsewhere, the BASL also sought clarifications on whether there would be a Constitutional Court, on the criteria adopted for the appointment and removal of the Judges of the superior Courts, and whether the appointment, transfer and discipline of the Judges of the lower Courts would be solely within the purview of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

President’s Counsel Udaya Rohan de Silva said that they were opposed to any Tamil language phrasing of the term ‘unitary’, the meaning of which would result in the subversion of what is traditionally understood to be meant by the word ‘unitary’.

He added that the abolition of the Executive Presidency and the devolution of power were the key areas of concern regarding which the majority of the people had expressed their views.

Some of the members of the private Bar have also submitted their views to the BASL in writing.

The ultimate outcome will be whether the membership of the unofficial Bar would approve of the suggestions in the draft of the interim report or not, de Silva added.

“There are other matters besides these aspects which also need to be looked into. Based on the answers provided, by the Government, to our questions, we will take up our position. We hope for positive answers,” he further added.

The monthly BASL Bar Council will meet again on 28 October, to further discuss the matters.

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