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9th April 2000
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Liberal Party proposals for a new Constitution 

South African rights: model for Sri Lanka 

Continued from last week

At the commencement of this series of proposals, the Liberal Party suggested that a Constitution should commence with a chapter on Norms; the principles that the State should pursue. 

We postponed going into this until particular ideas had been advanced with regard to various issues. Having looked at several areas where reform is urgently needed, we return now to the Norms that we believe should be enshrined at the beginning of the Constitution. 

For this purpose we drew heavily on the new South African constitution, which was designed to promote principles that would bring people together after years of bitter hostility. We have accordingly included several aspects from that constitution that we feel would be especially useful here in the current context. 

We will go on to a chapter also on Fundamental Rights, again drawing heavily on the South African model.

Chapter 1 - 
Founding Provisions
Republic of Sri Lanka

1. The Republic of Sri Lanka is a sovereign democratic state based on the following values - 

a) Human dignity on the basis of the equality of all citizens regardless of sex or race or religion

b) Supremacy of the Constitution and the rule of law

c) Universal adult suffrage with regular elections and a multi-party system of government to ensure accountability, responsiveness and openness

d) The advancement of human rights, freedom and the development of the potentiality of all citizens through equality of opportunity

Supremacy of the Constitution

2. This Constitution is the supreme law of the Republic. Law or conduct inconsistent with it is invalid and the obligations imposed by it must be fulfilled.

Citizenship

3. a)There is a common Sri Lankan citizenship.

b)All citizens are - 

i) equally entitled to the rights, privileges and benefits of citizenship
ii) equally subject to the duties and responsibilities of citizenship

Languages

4. The official languages of the Republic are Sinhala, English and Tamil.

5. The national government and provincial governments may use any particular official language for the purposes of government, taking into account usage, practicality, expense, regional circumstances and the balance of the needs and preferences of the population as a whole or in the province concerned, provided that these governments must ensure provision for the use of at least two of the official languages, so as to allow citizens a choice of these two .

6. Zonal authorities must take into account the language usage and preferences of their residents.

7. The national government and provincial governments, by legislative and other measures, must regulate and monitor their use of official languages.

All official languages must enjoy parity of esteem and must be treated equitably.

8. A pan Sri Lankan Languages Board established by national legislation must:

a) promote and create conditions for the development and use of all official languages

b) encourage the teaching of all languages in schools and through adult education

c) encourage the publication and distribution of books and other reading material in all official languages 

Immediately after the founding provisions, we suggest as in South Africa a Bill of Rights. 

Here we include only extracts from what must inevitably be a much fuller document. While noting all areas that the South African constitution deals with, which we feel must be replicated in ours, we have gone into detail in areas where at present our practice, as well as the Constitution, seem woefully inadequate.

Chapter 2 
Bill of Rights
Rights

9. a) The Bill of Rights is a cornerstone of democracy in Sri Lanka. It enshrines the rights of all people in our country and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom.

b) The state must respect and promote and fulfil the rights in the Bill of Rights

Limitation of rights

10. The rights in the Bill of Rights may be limited only in terms of law and general application to the extent that the limitation is reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality before the law and freedom, taking into account all relevant factors including

a) the nature of the right

b) the importance of the purpose of the limitation

c) the nature and extent of the limitation

d) the relation between the limitation and its purpose

e) less restrictive means to achieve the purpose.

11. Except as provided in section (10) and (13), no law may limit any right entrenched in the Bill of Rights.

12. All limitations on the rights laid down in the Bill shall be justifiable.

States of emergency

13. a) A state of emergency may be declared only in terms of an Act of Parliament and only when

i) the life of the nation is threatened by war, disorder, natural disaster or other public emergency

ii) the declaration is necessary to restore peace and order

b) A declaration of a state of emergency and any legislation enacted or action taken in consequence may be effective only

i) prospectively

ii) for no more than 21 days from the date of the declaration unless Parliament resolves to extend the declaration. Such extension shall be for not more than a month at a time. 

The first three such extensions shall require a resolution supported by a majority of members of both houses of Parliament. Subsequent extensions shall require the support of at least 60% of the members of both houses of Parliament.

c) Any competent court may decide on the validity of

i) a declaration of a state of emergency

ii) any extension of such

iii) any legislation enacted or other action taken in consequence of such

d) Any legislation enacted in consequence of a declaration of a state of emergency may derogate from the Bill of Rights only to the extent that 

i) the derogation is strictly required by the emergency

ii) the legislation is consistent with the Republic's obligations under international law

iii) the legislation conforms to sub-section e

iv) the legislation is published in the Government Gazette as soon as reasonably possible after enactment

e) No Act of Parliament authorizing a declaration of a state of emergency and no legislation enacted or other action taken in consequence of such may permit or authorise

i) indemnifying the state or any person in respect of any unlawful act

ii) any derogation from this section

iii) any derogation from any entrenched rights as laid down in a schedule

More to follow



 

News 100 years ago

Burglaries cause alarm
The Inspector General of Police, L. F. Knollys eports that early in 1900 there was considerable alarm occasioned by a succession of burglaries, accompanied by the show, and in some cases, use of a firearm, in Colombo and the neighbourhood. The result of this alarm was that a large number of persons armed themselves with guns and revolvers. These were fired at all hours of the night and in all directions from the doors and windows of houses and the danger of the armed burglar was more than equalled by the danger of the means of protection against him. The police patrols were especially exposed to danger and one police officer had a narrow escape.

The reported number of 'armed burglaries', however, stood at two in Colombo and six in the Western Province outside Colombo, according to the IGP's Administration Report.

It was found that the weapon was carried in nearly all, if not all cases, by one man who was eventually arrested, convicted and sentenced to 10 years and 7 months of rigorous imprisonment. His weapon was also taken - a curious, old fashioned 7 barrelled pistol little more than a toy but still capable of doing mischief, which he had stolen in a private burglary.

Youthful offenders
Very few youthful offenders are now sent to prison. nstead they are sent to the Certified Industrial School at Maggona where they have every chance of being reformed and well brought up, or even disposed by warning, caning or on the security of parents.
Crime: a declining trend
A gradual decrease in the crime rate has been oticed in the past four years. The total number of crimes which stood at 3684 in 1896 and increased to 3780 the following year showed a decline to 2691 (1898) and 2666 (1899). 

Murder and homicide declined from 144 (1896) to 125 and rape from 75 to 39. Robberies too showed a sharp decline from 543 to 269 but burglaries increased from 843 to 977. In fact, in 1898 burglaries had dropped to 638. Grievous hurt declined from 657 in 1897 to 371. Theft of cattle was a common crime. The number rose from 1607 (1896) to 1714 (1897) but dropped to 1076 and 885 in the next two years.

Guest night on Saturdays
Galle Face Hotel has a guest night every Saturday. special dinner is served during which the band plays a selection of music. After dinner there is either dancing in the private dining hall or a concert by the band on the lawn in front of the sea.
PMG reports on postal offences
Postmaster-General H. L. Moysey reports some ypical postal offences.

The sender of a letter posted at Kandy bearing a previous used stamp was fined five rupees by the Police Magistrate.

A cooly employed in the office of the agents of a large steamer line obtained by means of a false receipt, a parcel belonging to an officer of a ship and was tried and sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for three months.

A native at Kandy insured a parcel on a declaration it contained Rs 250. The postmaster made him open the packet in his presence and found Rs 505. The sender elected to pay a fine of Rs 50 rather than be prosecuted.

A postman was dismissed for drinking with friends when on delivery duty and dropping on the road a bundle of letters which was picked up in the early morning by a police constable. 

- Media Man
 

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