You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘In Parliament’ category.
Dear Secretary General
I have now had a chance to go through the consolidated version of the draft 19th Amendment, which was given to us by the Hon Prime Minister yesterday. The amendments he has included, which will I presume be introduced at the Committee Stage, assuage some of my worries but others remain.
I would therefore like to propose the following amendments at the Committee Stage. These are a consolidated version of what I have sent before, omitting those concerns that have been already addressed. The bold numbers are those in the draft amendment, numbers not highlighted are the relevant section in the Constitution. The highlighted and italicized section below any proposed amendment gives the reason for such amendment.
I hope this schedule can be made available to all Members on the day the debate begins, and that sufficient time will be given to present them when amendments are taken up.
Rajiva Wijesinha, MP
I would like to propose the following amendments to the clauses as numbered below of the proposed Bill to amend the Constitution, in the latest version issued in Parliament on April 21st 2015, but dated March 16th 2015. Read the rest of this entry »
Productive day in Parliament, with the first reading of two amendments to the Constitution that I had proposed, seconded by Upeksha Swarnamali.The 24th, which is the more important I think, is about making Secretaries to Ministries Permanent, and restoring their appointment to the Public Service Commission. I hope that all those who are keen on independent commissions will accept that these will have no teeth if the most important appointments in the Public Service are left in the hands of the Executive.
The text in all three languages, as gazetted a couple of weeks back, is available at http://tiny.cc/19thAmendment
The other amendment, the 23rd, is to fulfil the pledge in the Presidential manifesto to introduce an electoral system that ensures individual representation for constituencies but makes the whole of Parliament proportionate to the will of the people. I cannot understand why we are making such a meal of this particular reform, since the text as gazetted indicates how simple it is to ensure this. The only question is the number of constituencies, and since the election Commissioner said that 125 would be hard to define, I have suggested that the first election under this system could be for 150 constituencies. He said that reducing the current number to this would not take him more than three months.
I was most disturbed that the proposed 19th amendment does not seem to take seriously the commitment in the President’s election manifesto to ensure the independence of the Public Service. Two dangerous provisions remain from the past.
The first is that Ministry Secretaries shall be appointed by the President (though, according to the amendment introduced in the Supreme Court, only on the advice of the Prime Minister). The second is that all Ministry Secretaries vacate office when a new government is formed.
Both these are contrary to practice in other countries with a Westminster style Cabinet system of government. Since this matter has been decided on without sufficient consultation, or understanding of the principles involved in ensuring that Public Servants serve the public rather than the Executive, I have proposed an amendment to the Constitution. This has now been gazetted I attach a copy of the Gazette of March 27th, and would be most grateful if you could raise the issue and promote support for this initiative.
The change from what used to be Permanent Secretaries was introduced when Sri Lanka had a Statist concept of government. But while governments that are elected are entitled to expect that Public Servants act in accordance with the policies of the government, this must also be in terms of law and regulations.
It is also important to ensure continuity, and help new ministers find their feet, by receiving briefs with regard to the policies and activities of the Ministry they are taking over. Simply establishing independent Commissions to recommend appointments will not help if the most senior members of the Public Service, and the Chief Accounting Officers of Ministries, are not appointed by the Commissions. The present draft 19th Amendment keeps them beholden to the government in power for their positions.
With regard to the issue of his resignation raised in the House
On March 3rd, by the Hon Dinesh Gunawardena
Mr Speaker, I am most grateful for this opportunity to explain my position, following the question raised about this in the House a couple of weeks ago. At the same time I am sorry, because I had hoped that it would not be necessary for me to explain what occurred, which led to my resignation from the position of State Minister of Higher Education.
I am compelled however to speak, given what seems to have been a misleading account to the House. The Hon Dinesh Gunawardena, who raised the question, spoke to me the next day and indicated that the response was that the status quo had not changed.
I spoke to the Hon Prime Minister about this, and said it was wrong of him to imply that I was still the State Minister. His answer was that my resignation had not been accepted. But, as he should know better than me, such acceptance is not relevant. The Constitution is very clear about the fact that a Minister holds office unless he ‘(b) resigns his office by a writing under his hand addressed to the President’.
To confirm my resignation, I would like to table my letter of resignation along with my speech. It is in both Sinhala and English, and I would like both versions tabled (1) (2) .
It is clear then that I have resigned, with effect from February 17th. The Ministry has accepted this fact in taking back the cheque for my salary for the whole month which they had sent me, and instead sending me a cheque for a period only.
My resignation Mr Speaker, as the letter makes clear, was because the Cabinet Minister, having first told me that I would have to do all the work because he had to work on the election, then took decisions without consulting or even informing me. I told him once that this was unethical, when he ordered the Secretary to the Ministry to look into matters pertaining to the activities of the earlier Minister. But then he went further, and instructed the members of the University Grants Commission to resign, without bothering to inform me. He told me when I inquired that this was under pressure from the FUTA. FUTA itself has subsequently gone on record, with regard to the charges it made against the Chairman of the UNG, to say that ‘If the government wishes to inquire into these allegations, we most certainly welcome such a move’. But in reality the Minister and the Prime Minister made a decision to act at the meeting held with FUTA on January 27th, and ignored all principles of decency in going through with their decision.
The FUTA record of the meeting, which I am tabling (3) , noted that
- ‘Prime Minister stated that all UGC Commission members including the Chair will be requested to resign. Request letters will come through the Secretary to the President.
- Minister Kabeer Hashim stated that he requests all Council members of universities to resign’
On that very day, January 27th, the Cabinet Minister wrote to His Excellency the President, in a letter I am also tabling (4), to say ‘We, therefore, request permission of Your Excellency for the following: a. To request the chair person and members of the University Grants Commission to tender their resignations forthwith.’ Whether this is a Royal We, or included the Prime Minister (though obviously not the State Minister) is not mentioned.
But when he received no response, as it seems, he took matters into his own hands. Though the President told me vey clearly on the morning of February 12th that he had not ordered her removal, the Cabinet Minister had written, in a letter I am tabling (5), to the Chairman of the UGC on February 5th to inform her that the President had directed him to obtain her resignation.
Mr Speaker, this government came in on a promise of good governance. This is not good governance. And with regard to my own resignation, I must report that neither the Cabinet Minister nor the Prime Minister kept any of the promises they made, about telling me what was going on.
On February 12th, the Cabinet Minister said he had been asked by the President to resolve the issue, and pledged that henceforward I could take decisions. His interpretation of this was that I could choose members of the UGC from lists in the Prime Minister’s Office. But the Prime Minister has no business to interfere with this matter, unless he believes that the Constitution has already been changed to allow him to take all executive power into his own hands without having been elected to such authority.
The Cabinet Minister realized the situation was untenable and told me he would inform the Prime Minister that evening to appoint me to the Cabinet portfolio. He failed to do this. The Prime Minister called me on Saturday, having been told of the problem by the Hon Nirj Deva-Adithya, and then promised to get back to me, but did not. The Cabinet Minister reiterated his view of how to resolve the problem on Monday 16th. That evening the Prime Minister called me and said he had to consult former President Chandrika Kumaratunga. He promised to call the next day to let me know the situation, but did not. His tame excuse when we spoke, after his misleading statement in the house, was that it had been impossible to get in touch with her thereafter while she was in England. This seemed to me, as I told him, no way to run a government. He shrugged.
But all this makes it crystal clear Mr Speaker that I must confirm that I am no longer a Minister, and that I must be treated as a Private Member. As you may be aware, I have proposed two Constitutional Amendments, one in fulfilment of the pledge in the Manifesto to reform the electoral system, which I hereby table (6). The Secretary General said I could not bring it forward since I could not be considered a Private Member, as he had not been informed of my resignation. However I trust that, in line with the position the Secretary General who is universally agreed to have been the best holder of that office always held, he accepts that there can be no question of resignations being invalid because they have not been accepted. Now that my letter is before Parliament, I must in terms of the Constitution be treated as a Private Member.
As my letter of resignation makes clear, I am happy to continue as a Private Member and work towards fulfilling the principles on which this government was elected. I am sorry for studens, though, because nothing seems to have moved in the Ministry after I left, contrary to what was said in this House two weeks ago. Last week I was sent about 50 unopened letters addressed to the Minister of State Minister, a few of them in my name, but clearly they were all official. I sent them back and told the Cabinet Minister, in a letter I am tabling (7a), that it ‘is important that government responds swiftly to the public’. I am aware that, as he told me in mentioning his need to concentrate on the forthcoming election into which his party wishes to dragoon the country, he finds it difficult to multi-task. But this must be done, assuming the government is serious about its obligations. To show how much can be done with concentrated effort, I am tabling some of the work done during my brief tenure at the Ministry (7b), which included also a new draft Act, which I will also table (8) and draft Cabinet Papers on Divisional Level Language Centres and a University Press (9).
For my own part, Mr Speaker, I am content to leave all this to an effective Minister, and will now work on the reforms to which we are pledged. The exception is abolishing the Executive Presidency, as opposed to cutting down on its powers. Replacing an Executive President with an all powerful Executive Prime Minister would be a grave mistake, given the manner in which this government is behaving. The blatant manner in which political appointments are being made, the recall to the mast of septuagenarians who cut their administrative teeth a third of a century and more ago, the failure to keep so many of the promises of the manifesto that are in the people’s interests (as opposed to the interests of politicians) is frightening.
Mr Speaker, we need to entrench systems of Good Governance and Accountability. This is not difficult, as you can see from the swift progress of the Committee on Standing Orders, the minutes of which I table (10), even though the Prime Minister wanted the meeting delayed. I have also put forward a motion to introduce the Bill of Rights (11), also tabled now, which was prepared through the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights when I was its Secretary. And I yesterday proposed an Amendment to the Constitution to strengthen the Public Service, also tabled (12), which has been grossly neglected in the discussions thus far on measures to reduce the power of the Executive.
To do all this however requires freedom of action. To maximize my contribution in the short period that remains to this Parliament, I must therefore make clear that I am no longer in the Executive Branch of government. I thank you therefore, Mr Speaker, for this opportunity to make my position clear.
Tabled Item 1 – Letter of Resignation (Sinhala)
ගරු මෛත්රීපාල සිරිසේන මැතිතුමා
ශ්රී ලංකාවේ අතිගරු ජනාධිපති
ජනාධිපති ලේකම් කාර්යාලය
මම මගේ උසස් අධ්යාපන රාජ්ය ඇමති තනතුරින් ඉල්ලා අස්වීම ඉදිරිපත් කරන්නට කැමැත්තෙමි.
මට තනතුර ලබා දෙන අවස්ථාවේම මම මා කැබිනට් ඇමතිවරයකු ලෙස පත් නොකිරීම පිළිබඳ මගේ
කලකිරීම ඔබතුමා සමඟ සාකච්ඡා කළෙමි. මෙම තත්වය සියලු දේශපාලන පක්ෂවල නියෝජිතයන්
කැබිනට් මණ්ඩලය තුළ නියෝජනය විය යුතුය යන ප්රතිපත්ති ප්රකාශනය ප්රකාශය
උල්ලංගනය කිරීමකි. එහිදී, කඳුරට ජනතා පෙරමුණේ රාධක්රිෂ්නන් මහතා හා ලිබරල් පක්ෂයේ
මා පමණක් අතහැර දැමුණි.
කෙසේනමුත්, මට උසස් අධ්යාපන ක්ෂ්ස්ත්රයට තුළ කළ හැකි දායකත්වය සුවිශාල හෙයින් මම
එය භාර ගතිමි. කොහොම නමුත් මම බොහෝ කලකට පෙර කල්පනා කළේ අධිකාරීත්වයේ සිටින අය
යම් කෙනෙකු කෙරෙහි විශ්වාස තබන්නේ නැතිනම් කාර්යක්ෂමව වැඩ කිරීමට අපහසු බවය.
මුලදී, මා සිතාගෙන සිටියේ ම ඍජුවම ඔබතුමා යටතේ වැඩ කරන බවය. නමුත්, පසුව කබීර් හෂීම්
මහතා ඔහුට තිබෙන මහාමාර්ග හා වෘත්තීය පුහුණු අමාත්යංශයන්ට අමතරව උසස් අධ්යාපන
කැබිනට් ඇමතිවරයා ලෙස පත්කොට ඇති බවය නිවේදනය කර තිබුණි.
හෂීම් මහතා සංසන්දනාත්මකව දේශපලන ක්ෂේස්ත්රයේ ගෞරවනීය සහ හැකියාවකින් යුත්
පුද්ගලයෙක් නිසා මා ඔහු හට විරුද්ධ නොවිය. මේ පිළිබඳව කෙරුණු ප්රථම සාකච්ඡාවේදී ඔහු
කියා සිටියේ ඉදිරියේදී පැමිණෙන මැතිවරණ කටයුතු සම්බන්දයෙන් ඔහු කාර්යබහුල වන බැවින්
ඔහුට අවශ්ය වන්නේ උසස් අධ්යාපනය පළිබදව සියලු වගකීම් මා දැරිය යුතු බවත් තවද,
වෘත්තීය අධ්යාපනයේ වගකීමද මා විසින් ගතයුතු බව උපකල්පනය කළේය.
කෙසේ වෙතත්, පසුව, ඔහු මට සඳහන් කළේ අගමැතිවරයාට මෙම ක්ෂේස්ත්රය ඔහු යටතේ
තැබීමටව අවශ්යව තිබෙන බවය. එය ගැටළුවක් නොවේ. නමුත්, මේ අතරතුර, ඔහු මගේ ලේඛම්
වරයාට මා හට කිසිදු දැනුවත් කිරීමක් නොකොට උපදෙස් ලබා දෙණු ලබයි.
මුලින්ම, පසු ගිය මාස කිහිපය තුළ අමාත්යංශයේ තනතුරු වලට පත්කිරීම් මෙන්ම වාහන භාවිතය
පිළිබඳ තොරතුරු විමසා ඇත. මෙය දේශපාලන අරමුණක් සඳහා යයි මම අනුමාන කරණ මුත් මම
ඊට විරුද්ධ නොවේ. කොහොම නමුත්, මම ඔහුටද ලියා දැන්වූ ආකාරයට, අදාළ අමාත්යවරයාට දැනුම්
දීමක් නොකොට රාජ්ය අමාත්යංශයේ ලේඛම් වරයාට ඉල්ලීම් යොමු කිරීම ආචාර ධර්ම වලට පටහැනි
බව මම විශ්වසස කරමි.
ඊට පසු, මට කිසිදු දැනුම් දීමක් නොකොට, විශ්ව විද්යාල ප්රතිපාදන කොමිසමේ සාමාජිකයන්ට
ඉවත්වන ලෙස දන්වා ඇති බව දැන ගන්නට තිබේ. වරක්, ඔහු කැබිනට් ඇමති වරයා බව මම දැන
ගැනීමට පෙර, පසුගිය රජය සමයේ පිඩාවට පත් වූ යූ. එන්. පී. විද්වතුන්ට තනතුරු දිය යුතු බව
ඔහු මට යෝජනා කර තිබුණි. එහිදී, විශ්වවිද්යාලවල තනතුරු විශ්වවිද්යාල තුළම බහුශ්රුත නොවූ
එහෙත් ඉන් පිටත වෙසෙමින් විශ්වවිද්යාල ක්රමය සමාජයට අදාළ කර ගැනීම පිළිබඳ මනා
දැනුමක් හා අවබෝධයක් තිබෙන කිහිප දෙනෙකුටද අවස්ථාව දිය යුතු බව මගේ අදහස බව මම
එහිදී සඳහන් කළෙමි. ඔහු ඒ පිළිබඳ විරුද්ධත්වයක් ප්රකාශ නොකළත්, මේ වන විට එම තනතුරු
දේශපාලන ආධාරකරුවන්ට දිය යුතු බව ඔහු විශ්වාස කරණ බවත් ඒ අනුව කටයුතු කරණ බවත්
මට වැටහේ. මෙම තත්වය තව දුරටත් සනාථ වන්නේ, ආයතන කිහිපයක්ම නැවත ප්රතිස්ථාපනය
කිරීමට තිබෙන වෘත්තීය අධ්යාපනය ඔහු යටතේ තබා ගැනීමට ඔහු තීරණය කරගෙන සිටින
මේ අවස්ථාවේදී, සභාග රජයක් අත්යවශ්ය බව මම විශ්වාස කරමි. නමුත් එය සත්ය වශයෙන්ම,
එක්සත් ජනතා නිදහස් සන්ධයනයෙන් තේරී පත් වී ඔබ තුමාට මෙන්ම යූ.එන්.පී යටද සහය දැක්වූ
පිරිසෙන් ද සමන්විත සැබෑ සභාග රජයක් විය යුතුය. ඔබ තුමාට සහය දෙන ලෙස රාජිත
සේනාරත්න මහතාගේ ඉල්ලීමට මම සුභවාදිව ප්රතිචාර දැක් වූයේ එ.ජා. ප. ය ශක්තිමත් කිරීමට
නොවේ. පසු ගිය රජය තුළ සිට ප්රතිසංස්කරණ සඳහා බලපෑම් කළ වසන්ත සේනානායක මහතා
හා මම කිසිදු සැකයකින් තොරව ඔබව ජනාධිපති අපේක්ෂකයා වශයෙන් දැනුම්දුන් ප්රථම මාධ්ය
සාකච්ඡාවට පැමිණියේ යූ. එන්.පී. ය ශක්තිමත් කරන්නට නොවේ.
එක්සත් ජාතික පක්ෂයට ආර්ථිකයට සම්බන්ද වැඩිපුර වගකීමක් ලබා දුන්නද, ඔබතුමාගේ
සමාරම්භක දේශනයේදී, මහාමාන්ය ඩි. එස්. සේනානායක මහතා හා ගරු එස්. ඩබ්. ආර්. ඩි.
බණ්ඩාරණායක යන මහත්වරුන් උදාහරණය වශයෙන් දක්වමින් ප්රකාශ කළ පරිදි, සමාජ
සාධාරණත්වය සඳහා කැපවීමක්ද අවශ්ය බව මම විශ්වාස කරමි. අවාසනාවකට, හැත්තෑව
දශකයේ බලයට පත් වූ එ. ජා. ප. ආර්ථික වර්ධනයේ බලපෑමෙන් පමණක් මගින් අපේ රටේ
ජනතාවගේ අභිලාෂයන් මුදුන්පත් වනු ඇත යන විශ්වාසය මත පිහිටා අවධානය යොමු කළේ සරල
ධනවාදය දෙසටය. ඊට පරස්පරව, ලොව අන් රටවල් රාජ්ය සමාජවාදය එතරම් සාර්ථක නොවන
බව අවබෝධ කර ගනිද්දී, ශ්රී.ල.නි.ප., රාජ්ය සමාජවාදයේ අන්තයටම ගියේය.
මෙම තත්වය හේතුකොට ගෙන ඊට පසු පැමිණි පක්ෂ දෙකේම නායකයන් මැද මාවතකට යොමුවීමට
උත්සාහ කළහ. නමුත්, ඔවුන්ට මෙම මැද මාවත් සංකල්පය වඩා පැහැදිලි ලෙස ග්රහණය කර
ගැනීමට නොහැකි විය. එසේම, කැබිනට් මණ්ඩලයේ විධායක බලය භාවිතා කිරීමට තෝරා ගත්
පුද්ගලයන්ද මෙය හොඳින් අවබෝධ කර ගෙන තිබුනේ නැත. කොහොම නමුත්, ඔබගේ ජනාධිපතිත්වය
යටතේ වඩා හොඳින් ගැලපෙන මධ්යස්ත දේශපාලනයක්, පාලනය සඳහා ආචාර ධර්ම පදනම්
කරගත් ප්රවේශයක් හා පුද්ගලික වශයෙන් ඇතිකරගත් පූර්වනිගමනයන් හා පෙර හිතවත්කම්
වලින් තොර වූ ඵලදායි ක්රමයක් ඇතිකළ හැකි බව මම බලාපොරොත්තු වුනෙමි.
නමුත්, මෙයින් උදාසීන නොවිය යුතු අතර නිරන්තරයෙන්ම අවධානයෙන් සිටීම අවශ්යය. මේ සියලු
කරුණු හේතු කොට ගෙන මගේ පවතින ධූරය ඉදිරියට ගෙන යා යුතු යයි මට නොහැගේ. එනමුත්,
රාජ්ය සේවයේ දිගටම කටයුතු කිරීමෙන් මා සතුටු වන අතර, ඔබතුමා මා අමාත්ය මණ්ඩලයට
පත් කළහොත් ඉතා ඵලදායි ලෙස මාහට කටයුතු කිරීමට හැකිවනු ඇත. අගමැතිතුමා සහ කබීර්
හෂීම් මහතා, විශ්වවිද්යාල හා වෘතිතීය අධ්යාපනය ඔවුනට හැසිරවිය හැකි යයි විශ්වාස
කරන්නේ නම්, තමා සහයෝගයෙන් කටයුතු කළ අංශයන් වන මානව හිමිකම් සහ ප්රතිසංවිධාන
වැනි අංශයන්හි කැබිනට් තනතුරකින් කටයුතු කිරීමට මා සතුටුය.
විශේෂයෙන්ම, මෙම ක්රියාවලිය නැවත පනගන්වනු වෙනුවට, අප කළ යුතු වන්නේ, අපට දැනට
සිටින ඉතා වටිනා පාර්ලිමේන්තු නියෝජිතයන් වන සුමන්තිරන් හා එරාන් වික්රමරත්න යන
මහතුන්ගේ සහය ඇතිව ප්රතිසංවිධාන සඳහා සකස් කළ ජාතික ප්රතිපත්තියක් සම්මත
මා ආපදා කළමනාකරණ සහ ජාතික මානව හිමිකම් අමාත්යංශයේ ලේකම්ව සිටියදී සකස් කරණ
ලද මානව හිමිකම් සැලසුම ක්රියාත්මක කිරීමේදී අපි වඩා කාර්යක්ෂමව මනා
සම්බන්දිකරණයකින් ක්රියා කළ හැකි අතර මානව හිමිකම් පිළිබඳව පණත් කෙටුම්පත සම්මත
කළ යුතුව ඇත. 2005 දී, මහින්ද චින්තනය මගින් පොරොන්දු වූ ආකාරයට ජයම්පති වික්රමරත්න
මහතාගේ සභාපතිත්වය යටතේ එම කමිටුව මම නැවත ක්රියාත්මක කළාට පසුව සකස් කළ
මූලික හිමිකම් පිළිබඳ කෙටුම්පත ද සම්මත කළ යුතුව ඇත.
එමෙන්ම, අමාත්ය ධූරයක් යටතේ, එක්සත් ජනතා නිදහස් සන්ධානය නඟා සිටුවීම සඳහා මගේ
සේවය ලබා දීමට හැකියාව ලැබේ. මා ඇතුළු හුනෛස් ෆාරුක්, රාධක්රිෂ්ණන් හා වසන්ත
සේනානායක යන මහත්වරුන් ඔබතුමා ජනාධිපති අපේක්ෂකත්වයට පත් කෙරුණු අවස්ථාවේදීම
මුලින්ම සහය දුන් කණ්ඩායම වේ.
ලිබරල් පක්ෂය මගින් එකගත්වය සඳහා යොමු කෙරුණු ඉල්ලලීම පිළිගන්නේ නම් එ. ජ. නි. ස. හා
ඔබගේ රජය, එ.ජා.ප. සමඟ මධ්යස්ත පදනමක පිහිටා අභිබවා නොයන පරිද්දෙන් ශක්තිමත්
බලවේගයක් ලෙස නගා සිටුවීමට කටයුතු කළ හැක.
මේ වන විට මම ලබා දී ඇති සාකච්ඡා කිහිපයක් ඇති බැවින් මගේ ඉල්ලා අස්වීම පෙබරවාරි මස
දාහත් වැනිදා සිට බල පවත්වන්නේ නම් ඉතාම කෘතඥ වෙමි. විභාගයන්ගෙන් පසු සිසුන්ගේ
නිකරුනේ නාස්තිවන කාලය සඳහා සිසුන් හට ප්රයෝජනවත් කුසලතා ලබා දීම සම්බන්දයෙන් සහ
ශ්රී ලංකා විශ්ව විද්යාල මුද්රණාලයක් පිහිටුවීම සම්බන්දයෙන් කැබිනට් පත්රිකා දෙකක්
කෙටුම්පත් කර ඉදිරිපත් කිරීමට කැමැත්තෙමි. ඔබතුමා එයට එකඟ නම් මෙම අදහස් ඉදිරියට
ගෙන යන ලෙස කැබිනට් අමාත්යවරයා හට ඔබතුමා උපදෙස් දෙනු ඇතැයි සිතමි. ඔබතුමා මගේ
ඉල්ලා අස්වීම මේ අවස්ථාවේ පටන් ක්රියාත්මක වීම වඩා සුදුසු යයි අදහස් කරන්නේ නම් මම හෙට
සිටය කාර්යාලයෙන් ඉවත්ව යාමට වුවද සතුටුය.
මහාචාර්ය රජීව විජේසිංහ (පා.ම.)
උසස් අධ්යාපන රාජ්ය අමාත්ය
පිටපත- ගරු කබීර් හෂිම් මහතා (මහාමාර්ග, උසස් අධ්යාපන හා යෝජන ප්රවර්ධන අමාත්ය)
Tabled Item 2 – Letter of Resignation (English)
I am writing to tender my resignation from the position of State Minister of Higher Education. When the appointment was made, I discussed with you my disappointment that I had not been made a Cabinet Minister. This was in violation of the commitment in the manifesto that the Cabinet would consist of representatives of all political parties in Parliament. But both Mr Radhakrishnan of the Upcountry People’s Front and myself from the Liberal Party had been left out.
Nevertheless I took up the task since I felt I had much to contribute in the field of Higher Education. However I have long realized that it is not possible to work effectively if one has lost the confidence of those in authority. Initially I assumed that I was working directly under you, and was content. But then it was announced that Mr Kabir Hashim had been appointed Cabinet Minister of Higher Education, in addition to his other portfolios of Highways and Investment Promotion.
I did not object then because I believe that Mr Hashim is one of the more honourable people in politics and also comparatively able. He also told me, when we first spoke on the subject, that he wanted me to take full responsibility for work in Higher Education, since he would be busy with the forthcoming election. He also added that he assumed I would also be responsible for Vocational Training.
However subsequently he told me that the Prime Minister had wanted this area kept with him. That too would not have been a problem. But I found that meanwhile he was issuing instructions to my Secretary without informing me.
First, he asked for information about appointments by the Ministry in the last few months as well as information about the usage of vehicles. I suspect this is for political purposes, but I would have not objected. However, as I wrote to him, it was unethical for the request to be made to the Secretary of the State Ministry without the Minister being informed.
Subsequently, again without keeping me informed, it transpired that he had asked for the resignation of the members of the University Grants Commission. Previously, before I was aware that he was the Cabinet Minister, he had suggested that vacancies should be given to UNP academics who had suffered under the previous government. I told him I thought any vacancies should go to non-academics who understood the need for social relevance in the university system. Though he did not demur, I suspect that he has now subscribed fully to the belief that appointments should go to political supporters. This may also explain the determination to keep Vocational Education under him, since a number of bodies in that field need to be reconstituted.
I believe a coalition government is necessary at this stage, but it must be a genuine coalition of those members elected through the UPFA who support Your Excellency as well as the UNP. I did not respond positively to the request of Mr Senaratne that I support your candidature, nor did Mr Vasantha Senanayake and myself, who had been pressing for reforms from within the government, come unhesitatingly to the press conference at which your candidature was announced, in order to entrench a UNP government.
Though the UNP has much to offer with regard to economic discipline, I believe this country also needs the commitment to social equity exemplified by the two great leaders you mentioned in your Inaugural Address, Mr D S Senanayake and Mr S W R D Bandaranaike. Unfortunately, from the seventies onward, the party of the first moved towards simple capitalism and the belief that the trickle down effect of economic growth would be enough to satisfy the social aspirations of our people. Contrariwise, the SLFP sank into an extreme form of state socialism, just when the rest of the world realized this did not work.
I believe subsequent leaders of the two parties did try to move towards a median position, but they have not been able to conceptualize this, and it is not well understood by many of those they have chosen to exercise Executive powers in Cabinet. I had hoped however that, under your Presidency, we could develop a coherent politics of moderation, an ethical approach to governance, and effective systems that are not subject to personal prejudices or predilections.
The manner in which the Cabinet Minister of Higher Education has completely sidelined me indicates that we should not be complacent, and that constant vigilance is needed. I should not therefore continue in my present position. But I shall be happy to continue to serve in government if you appoint me to the Cabinet so that I can function effectively. But if the Prime Minister and Mr Hashim believe they can handle university and vocational education on their own, I would be happy to serve in a different area such as Human Rights and Reconciliation, which requires concerted action at this state.
In particular, instead of reinventing the wheel, we should adopt the draft National Policy on Reconcliation which I prepared with the assistance of two of the finest Parliamenarians we have, Mr Sumanthiran and Mr Eran Wickremaratne, as well as representatives of Civil Society. We should work more coherently on implementation of the National Human Rights Action Plan, which was drafted when I was Secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights. And we should adopt the Bill of Rights, also drafted during that period, after I reactivated the Committee set up under the Chairmanship of Mr Jayampathy Wickremaratne in accordance with the pledge in the 2005 Mahinda Chintanaya.
But I may also be able to serve you better through working to build up the UPFA. This was the grouping through which many of us who supported your candidature early on, such as Mr Hunais Farook and Mr Radhakrishnan and Mr Senanayake and myself, were elected to this Parliament. If the UPFA accepts the request for an agreement which the Liberal Party has made, perhaps I could contribute towards rebuilding it as a force for moderation, able to work constructively with the UNP without permitting the restricted vision of that party to dominate your government.
I would be grateful if my resignation could be effective only from February 17th, since I have made some appointments I would like to keep. I would also like to submit draft Cabinet Papers on the establishment of a Universities Press of Sri Lanka and on providing useful skills to students in the period now wasted after public examinations. If you approve, you could ask the Cabinet Minister to take these ideas forward. But I shall of course be happy to vacate office tomorrow if you feel this would be more appropriate.
Prof . Rajiva Wijesinha MP
cc. Hon Kabir Hashim
Tabled Item 3 – The FUTA record of the meeting 27 Jan 2015
Notes from Meeting at Temple Trees on 27th January 2015.
Prime Minister Mr Ranil Wickramasinghe
Minister of Investment Promotion, Highways and Higher Education, Mr Kabir Hasheem
Minister of Education, Mr Akila Viraj Kariyawasam
Mr C. Thenuwara (UVPA)
Prof .Rohan Fernando (OUSL)
Dr. Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri (Colombo)
Dr. Anura Uthumange (SJP)
Dr. T. Jayasingham (Eastern University)
Dr. A.W. Wijeratne (Sabaragamuwa)
Dr. Rangika Halwatura (Moratuwa)
Prof. Devaka Weerakoon (Colombo)
Dr. Harini Amarasuriya (OUSL)
Dr. Prabath Jayasinghe (Colombo)
Prof. Aruna Kumara (Ruhuna)
Dr. Upul Abeyratne (Ruhuna)
Dr. Anura Karunathilaka (Kelaniya)
Dr. Jaufer (South Eastern University)
Dr. S. Barnayaka (Peradeniya)
Mr. Saman Ekanayake (Prime Minister Office)
- Prime Minister stated that all UGC Commission members including the Chair will be requested to resign. Request letters will come through the Secretary to the President
- Minister Kabeer Hashim stated that he requests all Council members of universities to resign.
- If individual universities present allegations against VCs, these will be investigated. It was mentioned that Jaffna, Eastern, South Eastern, Colombo and Peradeniya have already submitted documents in this regard.
- A Task Force will be appointed to look at Education Reforms. FUTA reiterated that ad hoc policy reforms should not take place and expressed concerns about recent announcements by the State Minister for Higher Education regarding revisiting the University Act and other policy initiatives.
- A committee of retired and currently working senior academics will be appointed to provide a situation report of universities particularly with regard to revisiting university Act, politicisation and loss of autonomy. This will be appointed immediately.
- All Circulars/Gazettes reducing the power of the UGC’s regulatory functions will be withdrawn (particularly in relation to non-state universities). Regulatory functions will no longer be directly under the Ministry.
- Universities with no student councils will be asked to immediately establish councils.
- All Universities will be requested to withdraw Rakna Lanka Security Service from providing security services
- To remove all surveillance equipment such as CCTV cameras from public spaces in all universities
- The joint statement agreed upon by the former government and FUTA will be revisited.
- The Higher Education Minister (Mr. Kabeer Hashim) will conduct regular meetings with FUTA (once a month) to discuss pressing and ongoing issues.
- Any salary related recommendations stated in the 2015 budget will be implemented.
Notes Prepared by Rohan Fernando and Harin Amarasuriya
Rohan Fernando (PhD)
Professor in Geology
Department of Physics
Faculty of Natural Sciences
Open University of Sri Lanka
Tabled Item 4 – Letter from Cabinet Minister Kabir Hashim to the President
Tabled Item 5 – Letter to the Chairman of the UGC on February 5th 2015
Tabled Item 6 – Constitutional Amendment to reform the electoral system
Delete Sections 95 to 99 of the Constitution and replace with
95 (i) Within one week of Sections 95 following being amended, the President shall establish a Delimitation Commission ….(as in current 95). The Commission shall be required to present its Report within three months of its being appointed.
(Current 95 (2) to remain)
96. (1) The Delimitation Commission shall divide Sri Lanka into 100 constituencies so that the population of Sri Lanka shall be divided equitably between those 100 constituencies, with the variation between the constituency having the largest number of voters and that having the smallest number not exceeding 10%.
(Clauses (5) and (6) of the current Constitution shall remain as (2) and (3)
- The President shall by Proclamation publish the names and boundaries of the constituencies, which shall be the basis of elections to Parliament at the next ensuing General Election.
- (1) At General Elections, each voter shall be entitled to cast two separate votes. One shall be for an individual, chosen from amongst those nominated for the constituency in which such voter is entitled to vote. The second shall be for a political party, from a list of those registered political parties that are contesting that election. Political parties will be deemed to be contesting the election if they have nominated candidates for at least 5 constituencies.
In addition to candidates nominated for constituencies, each Party contesting the election shall be entitled to nominate on a National List 5 candidates who are distinguished for service in any two of the following areas – Administration, Business Enterprises, Cultural Activities, Education, Social Service. Each Party, in presenting its National List to the Elections Commissioner shall indicate the qualifications of each candidate on that list.
(2) Each constituency will return as the first representative of that constituency the individual who received the most votes cast within that constituency.
(3) One hundred more members will be returned to Parliament on the basis of the second party vote, such that the final composition of Parliament shall reflect proportionately the votes cast for each such Party.
(4) After the number of seats each Party is entitled to on the Party Vote is communicated to each Party, it shall nominate upto half the number of seats it is entitled to from the National List, to the maximum of 5. The remaining vacancies shall be filled by those candidates contesting individual constituencies on behalf of the Party who received the highest percentage of votes in the individual vote.
- (1) Current 99 (13) (a) save that the section from ‘Or independent group’ to ‘Parliament’ should be deleted.
(b) Where the seat of a Member of Parliament elected on the individual vote to a constituency becomes vacant, a bye-election shall be held for that constituency, with each voter being entitled to one individual vote.
(c) Where the seat of a Member of Parliament elected by means of the Party Vote becomes vacant, the political party to which such member belonged shall be entitled to fill that seat, either through nomination of a candidate on its National List, or through the next candidate of those who contested individual constituencies on behalf of the Party who received the highest percentage of votes in the individual vote.
Renumber Clause 104 as 104 (1) and add
104 (2) If the Proclamation under 97 shall not have been made at the time of the next General Election, the Elections Commissioner shall hold such election on the system described above, subject to the proviso that, instead of the 100 constituencies envisaged, he shall determine between 100 and 120 constituencies on the basis of the electoral registers currently in use in the several constituencies into which each Electoral District has now been divided.
He shall combine constituencies in consultation with the Delimitation Commission appointed by the President, such that constituencies with fewer than 80,000 registered voters shall be combined with similar neighbouring constituencies.
Any constituency with more than 200,000 registered voters shall return the two members who received the highest number of individual votes at the election held under these transitional provisions.
Tabled Item 7a – it ‘is important that government responds swiftly to the public’
March 12th 2015
Hon Kabir Hashim
Minister of Highways, Higher Education and Investment Promotion
I was startled yesterday to be sent, from the Ministry, several letters addressed to the (State) Minister. Some of them also had my name, but if seemed clear that these were all official documents.
It looks like nothing had been looked at since I vacated office. This seems unacceptable. It is important that government responds swiftly to the public. I had set a system in place before I left to ensure that responses were sent as soon as letters were received, while those required to act would do so within a week, and respond accordingly.
Multi-tasking is not difficult, as you may have noticed from the work I was doing on Good Governance while I was State Minister. I think that has been appreciated by the Minister as well as other members of your party who are committed to this. In the present context, given that as you mentioned you are busy with elections, perhaps you could delegate dealing with all correspondence to the Deputy Minister who could certainly handle this through an effective system.
Please look into this matter, since this is a sector that requires much care, and could be the key to the development this country needs.
Prof Rajiva Wijesinha
c. Hon Eran Wickremaratne, Deputy Minister of Highways, Higher Education and Investment Promotion
Karu Jayasuriya, Minister for Democratic Government
Tabled Item 7b – work done during my brief tenure at MOHE
1. January 2015
A number of interesting points emerged in my discussion yesterday with students from the Faculty of Social Sciences and Languages. They were worried about what they saw as the reduced intake into the Faculty.
- Checking of admissions and improving the system
In general perhaps you should check with regard to every Faculty in the system how many fail to register of those who gain admission.
Also, is the system of filling vacancies satisfactory? Students think this can be done immediately, to make sure numbers do not go down, but given delays in the system I suspect vacancy filling does not work well. Let me have statistics. It would then make sense to analyse this information.
We must – and sooner rather than later – work out a system of admissions that reduces the wasted time. Can we not get universities to call for applications before the Advanced Level, and then give conditional offers, so that work can begin soon after the results come out?
- Maximizing resources
Related to this is sensible use of facilities. As far as I can make out, we now have an endless cycle of increasing admissions and then finding that buildings and staff are not enough. You should ask every university to work out what is the ideal intake with reference to buildings they have, or have begun to build.
Staff resources should be used more sensibly. Sabaragamuwa told me that they have around 20 contact hours a week, which is absurd. University students should not need to attend so many lectures. Staff must learn to encourage reading and thinking, and syllabuses should be streamlined since pouring knowledge into students that will not be used again makes no sense as compared with developing competencies for the world of work and society. In this regard they must have much more time and space for extra-curricular activities, as well as space for self study. Sabaragamuwa Arts does not have a reading room, nor a Faculty Library.
- Books and modernizing syllabuses
Again, please check with every university, and find out which Faculties do not have Libraries and whether these can be developed . They need not be equipped with massive numbers of expensive books, but multiple copies of basic texts should be available.
In this regard please ask the Standing Committee on the Humanities to draw up basic reading lists for all subjects. The students said that they had not read anything recent, and the Economics ones had not heard of Friedman, being still stuck it seems with Adam Smith and Keynes. Please ensure that all universities have
I think this confirms the need to quickly set up relationships with reputed academic publishers, and perhaps start a University Press, perhaps with CUP or OUP or Longmans to collaborate initially.
- Administrative reforms
Some of the problems could be resolved through streamlined administrative systems and delegating authority. Every Faculty should have a budget for basic needs that is spent in consultation with the students. Also ensure that Faculties produce minutes of their meetings with Action Points noted, and that within two weeks of the meeting the Dean can discuss with students and relevant Heads what progress there has been.
On a more parochial matter, the students were worried about a lack of resources for Geography. They complained that setting up a Geography Department had been agreed but was being delayed. I did not think a Department was a necessity, but if this has been agreed, the decision should be implemented, or else students should be told why this is inappropriate. However they should have the resources to learn properly.
Finally, I was disturbed to find out that the NCAS has been involved in developing something called the SLQF with regard to Technical Education. Coming on top of the fact that the NCAS was concerned with Quality Assurance, I think this shows that the UGC has connived in distorting what the NCAS was supposed to do. Far from ensuring Advanced Study in the Arts, it has turned into a tool for fulfilling what should be done by dedicated specialists.
This must stop. Please make sure that the NCAS is headed by someone who is dedicated to the subject, and will ensure better academic standards in the humanities. We cannot have a situation where neither staff nor students know about the most recent developments in their fields of study. The NCAS together with the Standing Committee must draw up norms and ensure that graduates are on a par with graduates in similar subjects from other parts of the world. Basic reading lists must be drawn up, and access to books ensured.
I would be grateful if you could put the following items on the Agenda today, for at least preliminary discussion. With regard to the first I would expect a draft today, since this was requested by COPE some time back.
a) Criteria for appointment to University Councils
b) Ideas regarding pre-university training (a letter requesting consultation of students is also being sent)
c) Mechanisms to improve transparency. As you know, the government is pledged to introduce a Freedom of Information Act, but I think that the accounts of universities should be open to all stakeholders even without them having to ask. Can you think about a circular to enforce this, or another way of making the authorities accountable? The last few years have seen much suspicions as to expenditure on construction, and we must overcome these. Please let me know whether involvement of the Ministry has led to this situation.
d) A code of conduct for academics that will prevent politicization of the system. While academics must have political rights, perhaps this should be limited in the case of officers, and members of the UGC, since they might otherwise fall prey to pressures, and apply them in turn.
e) Measures to tighten criteria with regard to university admission while ensuring remedial teaching for those who might fail because of shortfalls of teachers in their schools
f) Necessity of answering letters without delay (I attach a letter from an LLM student to the Colombo University Vice-Chancellor. This was sent on October 20th2014 and refers to a letter of 10th January which did not receive a response. This is not acceptable, and you must make sure that this does not occur again. Please send me a copy of the response by next Monday). This must be mandatory with regard to complaints.
Tabled Item 9a – Draft Cabinet Paper to Establish Language Centres in every Division, and Develop Training Programmes for Staff to run such Centres
Currently students waste a lot of time between public examinations and the next step in the educational ladder. More than three months pass between the Ordinary Level Examination and the commencement of classes in schools for the Advanced Level. After the Advanced Level students have to wait a minimum of one year before they are admitted to university.
Such enforced idleness is socially destructive. After the Ordinary Level, parents start sending students for tuition, in part to avoid them having nothing to do. Once this practice starts, it flourishes, and even after teaching commences, students (and some teachers) are more concerned with tuition classes than classes in schools.
The situation after Advanced Levels is also upsetting, in that many students find they cannot gain admission to university, whereas this is the only thing for which they have been gearing up. While some students in urban areas have other classes which they attend, such facilities are not available in the country as a whole. In short, many youngsters end up wasting the most valuable years of their lives.
In addition, students who come to university, and others, are ill prepared for the world of work. Many students now highlight the difficulties they face because their English is not good enough to allow them to take full advantage of educational opportunities at university. A recent survey of student needs also indicate that they would like courses in Personality Development and Socialization, while some students have also said they would wish to have their mother tongue writing skills improved. They have welcomed the idea of further work in the periods after the Ordinary Level and the Advanced Level Examination that are now wasted.
It is therefore desirable to develop good courses which students can follow during this period. Universities will be invited to give credit to students for these courses, or else they can receive credit from the government Vocational Training Institutes.
The project will also need to identify centres for the purpose. It will be helpful if schools can be made available on the model of the old General English Training Programme that was held in the nineties. Alternately Divisional Secretaries could be requested to find a building that could be used for the purpose, since in most Divisions there are several unused buildings. The ideal would be to identify at least one such Language Centre in every Administrative Division, and perhaps a few more in large Divisions, extending to a maximum of 400.
For this purpose it is also necessary to develop a good training cadre, but this can be done readily at local level, by obtaining the services of currently unemployed graduates and Diploma holders. They will be trained in conducting classes in
- a) English
- b) Critical Thinking
- c) Personality Development
- d) Socialization through games and cultural activities
- e) Mother tongue writing skills
- f) Third Language Speaking Skills
- g) Study Skills
- h) Mathematical Skills and Calculation
Each Centre should have a cadre of 8 teachers plus a Principal and an Administrative Officer, both of whom should also teach. Applications will be invited for a 6 month Certificate course, for which a fee will be charged. These courses may be conducted at Training Centres under the Ministry of Higher Education. The best of those who obtain a Certificate will be hired, and have the opportunity to move on to a Diploma while engaged in teaching at the Language Centres. Retired teachers may also be hired for the programme in the short term, but will be expected to go through a refresher course for the purpose.
The Project would envisage hiring 4000 teachers, who would be expected to work in rotation to cover classes for 7 days a week. The programme will commence in October 2015, and courses will be for three month periods with credits for every course for every such period. Students attending such courses will be charged nominal fees, to cover the costs of materials. Students will also be expected to engage in project work during this period, and to make presentations on such work.
Tabled Item 9b – Draft Cabinet Paper to Establish a University Press of Sri Lanka, and Develop a culture of book usage in universities.
At present there is little emphasis on reading books in many courses in Sri Lankan universities. Students have got used to taking down notes and learning them up by heart because of the tuition culture that has taken over Advanced Level learning. In addition there is no requirement in many courses to get through prescribed reading. Though some syllabuses have long reading lists, these are often unrealistic, and even lecturers who prescribe or teach such courses have not read what is set out.
This lapse is understandable in a context in which there is little suitable reading material. Books are very expensive and, while some libraries have good stocks, in many cases the language used is too difficult for the average student to understand readily. Meanwhile there has been no tradition of academic publishing in Sinhala and Tamil, so that students who wish to read in those languages too have little from which to choose.
It is also particularly desirable to provide for publication of low cost materials for language learning, since opportunities for self-study must be made available. Currently much time is spent in producing materials, which for instance all English Language Teaching Units seem to do, with no effort to have uniform high quality materials. Such Units regularly produce new materials and ignore useful items which different individuals in the same unit have produced.
It is desirable therefore to set up an academic publishing industry in Sri Lanka, which will produce user friendly books for the majority or students. This is particularly important for Arts students, whose English language skills are comparatively limited, and who have not been encouraged to read for the most part.
It is proposed therefore to establish a University Press of Sri Lanka, which shall be administered by the Ministry of Higher Education and cater also to Vocational and Technical Training Institutes.
Initially it shall develop through partnerships with established academic publishers in the region who will be willing to help produce low cost, and if necessary simplified, editions of their works for the Sri Lankan market. Production of basic textbooks in Sinhala and Tamil will also take place. It will also work on suitable English Teaching texts and also practical exercises to stimulate Study Skills and Critical Thinking.
The Press, together with its partners, shall establish book centres in universities wishing to engage in partnerships for this purpose. It will be expected to cover the costs of producing and selling books, though government will provide seed money for establishment of the institution, and will also fund a full time Director with limited staff. The Press will not engage in printing activities but, as with academic publishing houses generally, outsource printing on the basis of tenders.
The Governing Body of the Press shall be a Syndicate chaired by the Secretary to the Ministry of Higher Education, and including five Professors with national and international publications to their credit. No books by members of the Syndicate may be published by the Press. All publications shall be approved by the Syndicate as well as advisers appointed by partner publishing houses, and will be subject to editing by those partners until quality editors can be employed locally.
Tabled Item 10 – Minutes of the Committee on Standing Orders
Tabled Item 11 – motion to introduce the Bill of Rights
Delete clauses 10 to 17 of the Constitution and replace with
10 Freedom of thought, conscience and religion
(1) Every person is entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.
(2) No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of the fundamental right declared and recognized by this Article.
10A Right to human dignity
(1) Every person has inherent dignity and the right to have his or her dignity respected and protected.
(2) No restrictions shall be placed on the on the right declared and recognized by this Article.
10B Inherent right to life
(1) Every person has inherent right to life and no person shall be arbitrarily deprived of life.
(2) No person shall be punished with death.
(3) Every person against whom a sentence of death has been pronounced before the coming into force of the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution, shall have such sentence commuted to one of rigorous imprisonment for life.
(4) No restrictions shall be placed on the on the rights declared and recognized by this Article.
10 C Right to recognition as a person before the law
(1) Every person shall have the right to recognition as a person before the law.
(2) No restrictions shall be placed on the right declared and recognized by this Article.
11 Freedom from torture
(1) No person shall be subject to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
(2) No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of the fundamental right declared and recognized by this Article.
11A Security of the Person
(1) Every person has right to-
(a) bodily and psychological integrity; and
(b) not to be subjected to medical or scientific experiment without such person’s informed consent.
(2) No restrictions shall be placed on the on the right declared and recognized by this Article.
12 Right to equality and freedom from discrimination
(1) All persons are equal before the law and are entitled to the equal protection of the law.
(2) (a) No person shall be arbitrarily discriminated against on any ground including on the ground of such as race, gender, sex, sexual orientation, maternity, marital status, caste, ethnic or social origin, colour, age, disability, religion, conscience or belief, political or other opinion, culture, language, place of birth, and place of residence.
(b) It shall be lawful to require a person to acquire within a reasonable time sufficient knowledge of any national language as a qualification for any employment or office in the service of the State or in the service of any public corporation, Provincial Public Service or local government service where such knowledge is reasonably necessary for the discharge of the duties of such employment or office.
(c) It shall be lawful to require a person to have sufficient knowledge of any language as a qualification for any such employment of office where no function of that employment or office can be discharged otherwise than with knowledge of that language.
(3) No person shall, on any of the grounds referred to in subparagraph (a) of paragraph (2) (a) of this Article, be arbitrarily subject to any disability, liability, restriction or condition with regard to access to shops, public restaurants, hotels, places of public entertainment and places of public worship of the person’s own religion.
(4) Nothing in this Article shall prevent special measures being taken by law, subordinate legislation or executive action where necessary for the sole purpose of the protection or advancement of disadvantaged or underprivileged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged or underprivileged because of ethnicity, gender, sex, age or mental or physical disability.
(5) No restriction shall be placed on the exercise of the rights declared and recognized by this Article other than such restrictions prescribed by law as are necessary in a democratic society for the protection of national security, public order or the protection of public health or for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others.
13 Freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention and punishment and prohibition of retroactive penal legislation, &c.
(1) No person shall be arrested, imprisoned or otherwise physically restrained except in accordance with procedure prescribed by law.
(2) Every person arrested, held in custody, or otherwise deprived of his or her liberty shall be treated with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.
(3) Save as otherwise provided by law, no person shall be arrested except under a warrant issued by a judicial officer causing such person to be apprehended and brought before a competent court in accordance with procedure prescribed by law.
(4) Every person arrested shall be informed, in a language which the person appears to understand, of the reason for the arrest and of the person’s rights under paragraphs (5) and (6) of this Article.
(5) Every person arrested shall have the right to communicate with any relative or friend of the person’s choice, and, if the person so requests, such person shall be afforded means of communicating with such relative or friend.
(6) Every person arrested shall have the right to retain and consult an attorney-at-law. The State shall afford all reasonable facilities to enable the effective representation of the arrested person.
(7) Every person arrested shall not be detained in custody or confined for a longer period than under all the circumstances of the case is reasonable, and shall, in any case, be brought before the judge of a competent court within twenty-four hours of the arrest, exclusive of the time necessary for the journey from the place of arrest to such judge, and no person shall be detained in custody beyond such period except upon, and in terms of, the order of such judge made in accordance with procedure established by law.
(8) Every person detained in custody or confined, has the right to be released on bail or upon the execution of a bond unless otherwise provided by law. The amount of bail and the amount of every such bond shall be fixed with due regard to the circumstances of the case and shall not be excessive.
(9) Every person suspected of committing an offence shall be charged or indicted or released without unreasonable delay, having regard to the facts and circumstances of the case.
(10) Every person charged with or indicted for an offence shall be entitled to be heard in person or by an attorney-at-law of the person’s own choosing and shall be so informed by the judge.
(11) (a) Every person charged with or indicted for an offence shall be entitled to be tried –
(i) without undue delay;
(ii) by a competent court;
(iii) at a fair trial; and
(iv) subject to sub-paragraph (b) of this paragraph, at a public hearing.
(b) A judge may, at the judge’s discretion, whenever the judge considers it necessary, in proceedings relating to sexual matters or where the interests of juveniles so require or for the protection of national security or public order necessary in a democratic society or in the interests of order and security within the precincts of such court, exclude there from, persons who are not necessary for the purposes of those proceedings.
(12) (a) Every person shall be presumed innocent until the person is proved guilty.
(b) Nothing contained in any law shall be held to be inconsistent with sub-paragraph (a) of this paragraph to the extent that such law imposes upon an accused the burden of proving particular facts.
(13) No person shall be compelled to testify against himself or herself or to confess guilt.
(14) (a) No person shall be held guilty of, or punished for, an offence on account of any act or omission which did not, at the time of such act or omission, constitute an offence, except for any act or omission which, at the time it was committed, was criminal according to the principles of public international law.
(b) No penalty shall be imposed for an offence more severe than the penalty in force at the time when an offence was committed.
(15) Every person who has been convicted or acquitted of an offence in accordance with law by a competent court shall not be liable to be tried for the same offence save on the order of a court exercising appellate or revisionary jurisdiction.
(16) (a) No person shall be punished with imprisonment except by order of a competent court and in accordance with procedure established by law.
(b) The arrest, holding in custody, detention or other deprivation of personal liberty of a person –
(i) pending investigation or trial shall, if not unreasonable having regard to the circumstances, not constitute punishment;
(ii) by reason of a removal order or a deportation order made under the provisions of the Immigrants and Emigrants Act or other such law as may be enacted in substitution therefor, shall not be a contravention of this paragraph.
(17) (a) No restrictions shall be placed on the rights declared and recognized by paragraph (2), paragraph (10), items (ii) and (iii) of sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (11), paragraph (14), paragraph (15) and paragraph (16) of this Article.
(b) No restriction shall be placed on the rights declared and recognized by paragraphs (1), (3), (4), (5), (6), (7), (8), (9), items (i) and (iv) of sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (11) and paragraphs (12) and (13) of this Article other than such restrictions prescribed by law as are necessary in a democratic society for the protection of national security, public order, or for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others.
14 Freedom to hold opinions
(1) Every person shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
(2) No restriction shall be placed on the rights declared and recognized by paragraph (1) of this Article.
14A Freedom of speech and expression including publication and freedom of information
(1) Every person is entitled to the freedom of speech and expression including publication and this right shall include the freedom to express opinions and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing, in print, in the form of art, or through any other medium.
(2) No restrictions shall be placed on the right declared and recognized by this Article other than such restrictions prescribed by law as are necessary in a democratic society for the protection of national security, public order, the protection of public health or morality, racial and religious harmony or in relation to parliamentary privilege, contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence or for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others.
14B Right of Access to Information
(1) Every person shall have the right of access to –
(a) any information held by the State, including Provincial authorities; and
(b) any information held by any other person and that is required for the exercise or protection of the person’s rights.
(2) Every citizen shall be entitled to obtain, on payment of an appropriate nominal fee stipulated by regulation, any information pertaining to state action or policy or expenditure, or the actions, policy and expenditure of provincial and local authorities.
(3) Parliament shall by law make provision to give effect to this right.
(4) No restrictions shall be placed on the right declared and recognized by this Article other than such restrictions prescribed by law as are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or the rights of others, privacy, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.
14C Freedom of peaceful assembly
(1) Every person is entitled to the freedom of peaceful assembly.
(2) No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of the right declared and recognized by this Article other than such restrictions prescribed by any law as are necessary in a democratic society for the protection of national security, public order, racial or religious harmony, the protection of public health or for the purpose of securing the due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others.
14D Freedom of association
(1) Every person is entitled to the freedom of association.
(2) No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of the rights declared and recognized by this Article other than such restrictions prescribed by law as are necessary in a democratic society for the protection of national security, public order, racial or religious harmony, national economy the protection of public health or morals or for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others.
14E Trade Union Rights
(1) Every person is entitled to the freedom to form and join a trade union of the person’s choice and for such trade union to function without undue hindrance.
(2) Every person is entitled to the right to participate in trade union action, including strike, provided that the right is exercised in conformity with law.
(3) No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of the rights declared and recognized by this Article other than such restrictions prescribed by law as are necessary in a democratic society for the protection of national security, public order, racial or religious harmony or for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others.
14F Freedom to manifest religion
(1) Every person is entitled to the freedom, either alone or in association with others, and either in public or in private, to manifest the person’s religion or belief in worship, observance, practice, propagation and teaching.
(2) In the exercise of the rights declared and recognized by paragraph (1) of this Article, no person shall have the right to impair or otherwise restrict any other person’s freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of that other person’s choice.
(3) No restriction shall be placed on the rights declared and recognized by paragraph (1) of this Article other than such restrictions prescribed by law as are necessary in a democratic society for the protection of national security, public order, or for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others including the freedom declared by paragraph (2) of this Article.
14G Right to enjoy and promote culture and use of language
(1) Every person is entitled alone or in association with others to enjoy and promote such person’s culture and, to use the language of such person’s choice.
(2) Persons belonging to a cultural or linguistic community shall not be denied the right, with other members of that community, to enjoy their own culture or to use their own language.
(3) No restriction shall be placed on the exercise of the rights declared and recognized by this Article other than such restrictions prescribed by law as are necessary in a democratic society for the protection of public order, racial or religious harmony, the protection of public health or morality, the protection of the environment or for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others.
14H Freedom to engage in any lawful trade, occupation, profession, business or enterprise
(1) Every person is entitled to the freedom to engage alone or in association with others in any lawful occupation, profession, trade, business or enterprise.
(2) No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of the rights declared and recognized by this Article other than such restrictions prescribed by law as are necessary in a democratic society for the protection of the national economy, national security, public order, protection of public health or morality, the protection of the environment or for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others or in relation to –
(a) the professional, technical, academic, financial and other qualifications necessary for practising any profession or carrying on any occupation, trade, business or enterprise, and the licensing and disciplinary control of a person practising a profession or carrying on an occupation, trade, business or enterprise in the exercise of such fundamental right; and
(b) the carrying on by the State, a State agency, a company fully owned by the State or a public corporation of any trade, business, industry, service or enterprise, whether to the exclusion, complete or partial, of citizens or otherwise.
14I Freedom of movement
(1) Every person lawfully resident within the Republic is entitled to the freedom of movement within the Republic and of choosing such person’s residence within the Republic.
(2) Every person shall be free to leave the Republic.
(3) No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of the rights declared and recognized by this Article other than such restrictions prescribed by law as are necessary in a democratic society for the protection of national security or public order or national economy or the protection of public health or morality or for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others or for the extradition of persons from the Republic.
14J Freedom to return to Sri Lanka
(1) Every citizen shall be entitled to return to the Republic.
(2) No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of the right declared and recognized by this Article.
14K Right to privacy and family life
(1) Every person has the right to privacy, the right to be protected from arbitrary interference with family life, the inviolability of the home, correspondence and communications and shall not be subjected to unlawful attacks on such person’s honour and reputation.
(2) No restriction shall be placed on the exercise of the rights declared and recognized by this Article other than such restrictions prescribed by law as are necessary in a democratic society for the protection of national security, public order or national economy or the protection of public health or morality or for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others or for the enforcement of a judgment or order of a competent court.
14L Right to ownership of property
(1) Every citizen is entitled to own property alone or in association with others subject to the preservation and protection of the environment and the rights of the community.
(2) No person shall be deprived of property except as permitted by law.
(3) No property shall be compulsorily acquired or requisitioned save for a clearly described public purpose or for reasons of public utility or public order and save by authority of law which provides for the payment of fair compensation having regard to the prevalent market value of the property at the time of such acquisition.
14M Family rights
(1) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
(2) Every man or woman of marriageable age shall be entitled to marry and to found a family and the rights of men and women within the family shall be equal.
(3) No marriage shall be entered into without the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
(4) The State shall take appropriate steps to ensure equality of rights and responsibilities of spouses as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution, in which instance provision shall be made for the necessary protection of any children.
14N Rights of the Child
(1) Every child shall have the right –
(a) to have his or her birth registered and to have a name from his or her date of birth;
(b) to acquire nationality;
(c) to be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation;
(d) to family care or parental care or to appropriate alternative care when removed from the family environment;
(e) to basic nutrition, shelter, basic health care services and social services;
(f) to have legal assistance provided by the State at State’s expense in criminal proceedings affecting the child, if substantial injustice would otherwise result;
(g) not to be detained except as a measure of last resort, in which instance, the child may be detained only for the shortest appropriate period of time, and has the right to be –
(i) kept separately from detained persons over the age of 18 years; and
(ii) treated in a manner, and kept in conditions, that take account of the child’s age;
(h) Not to be used directly in armed conflict and to be protected in times of armed conflict.
(2) No child shall be discriminated against on the ground of the child’s or his or her parent’s or legal guardian’s race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status including the marital status of parents.
(3) Every child shall have the right to grow up in an environment protected from the negative consequences of the consumption of addictive substances harmful to the health of the child and, to the extent possible, from the promotion of such substances.
(4) Every child shall have the right to free primary and secondary education provided by the State, and to free higher and vocational education subject to appropriate and transparent selection processes based on merit and social equity.
(5) A child shall not be employed in any hazardous activity, shall be protected from exploitative labour practices and shall not be required or permitted to perform work or provide services that-
(a) are inappropriate for a person of that child’s age;
(b) places at risk, the child’s wellbeing, education, physical or mental health or spiritual, moral or social development..
(6) The rights recognized by this Article shall be in addition to and not in derogation of any other right to which a child is entitled as a citizen or person under this Chapter.
(7) For the purposes of this Article “child” means a person under the age of eighteen years.
(8) In all matters concerning children, whether undertaken by institutions of state or public or private social welfare institutions, the best interest of the child shall be of paramount importance.
14O Right to education
(1) Every person has the right to education which shall be directed to full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity, to improvement of the ability to think critically and with sensitivity to the needs of others, and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Education will include extrea-curricular and leisure activities that contribute to the development of social skills and initiative and innovative capacity.
(2) Primary education shall be compulsory and available to all.
(3) Secondary education in its different forms, including technical and vocational secondary education, shall be made generally available and accessible to all by every appropriate means, including by free education provided by the State.
(4) Higher education shall be made available to all on the basis of capacity and equitable opportunity, by every appropriate means, including by free education provided by the State.
(5) Basic education shall be encouraged or intensified as far as possible for those persons who have not received or completed the whole period of their primary education.
(6) Nothing in this Article shall exclude the right of a lawful guardian of a child, acting on that child’s behalf, or of any adult, to select an education provided by a private institution of education whether denominational or otherwise.
14P Freedom from Exploitation
(1) No person shall be subjected to trafficking, slavery or forced labour.
(2) “Forced labour” as used in paragraph (1) of this Article shall not include performance of labour pursuant to a sentence of a court of competent jurisdiction or any work or service which forms a part of normal civic obligations.
14Q Labour rights
Every citizen has the right to the enjoyment of just and favorable conditions of work which ensures, in particular:
(a) remuneration which provides fair wages and equal remuneration for work of equal value without distinction of any kind, in particular women being guaranteed conditions of work not inferior to those enjoyed by men, with equal pay for equal work;
(b) safe and healthy working conditions;
(c) equal opportunity for everyone to be promoted in employment to an appropriate higher level, subject to no considerations other than those of competence and appropriate qualifications including seniority and experience where relevant; and
(d) rest, leisure and reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
14R Right to health
(1) Every citizen has the right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health and to have access to preventive and curative health-care services including through free health services provided by the State to all who require such services.
(2) No person may be denied emergency medical treatment.
14S Social rights
(1) Every citizen has the right to have access to –
(a) sufficient food and water;
(b) adequate housing; and
(c) appropriate social assistance including social security when unable to support the citizen and the citizen’s dependents.
(2) No person shall be evicted from the person’s home or have the home demolished, except as permitted by law.
14T Right to an adequate environment
All persons have the right to an environment that is –
(a) not harmful to their health or well being; and
(b) protected for the benefit of present and future generations.
14U Responsibility of the State to respect, secure and advance Fundamental Rights
In giving effect to Article 4(d) of this Constitution, all organs of State shall take all necessary measures including the enactment and implementation of necessary legislation and the adoption and implementation of appropriate policies and programmes for the full realization of the rights declared and recognized by this Chapter.
15 Protection of fundamental rights in times of public emergency
(1) Where a Proclamation has been duly made pursuant to the provisions of Chapter XVIII, and subject to paragraphs (2) and (3) of this Article, measures may be prescribed by law derogating from the exercise and operation of the fundamental rights declared and recognized in this Chapter to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation and necessary in a democratic society, provided that such measures do not involve discrimination on grounds recognized under paragraph (2) of Article 12 and for the purpose of this Article “law” includes regulations made under the law for the time being in force relating to public security.
(2) In prescribing measures under paragraph (1) of this Article, there shall be no derogation –
(a) from any of the rights declared and recognized by Articles 10, 10A, 10B, 10C, 11, 11A, 14, ,14M, 14N (except 14N(1) (e)), and 14P;
(b) from the right declared and recognized by Article 13(7) unless at the same time legal provision is made requiring –
(i) the Magistrate of the area in which such arrest was made to be notified of the arrest; and
(ii) the person arrested to be produced before any Magistrate, within such time as is reasonable in all the circumstances of the case.
(3) In prescribing measures under paragraph (1) of this Article, the State shall have a minimum core obligation to ensure the satisfaction of minimum essential levels of the rights recognized by Articles 14N (1) (e), 14O, 14Q, 14R 14S and 14T and in discharging such obligation the State shall not discriminate solely on any of the grounds set out in Article 12 (2).
16 Existing written law and unwritten law
All written and unwritten laws in force at the time of coming into force of …. (this) Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution shall be read subject to the provisions of Chapter III and IV and in the event of a court declaring that any such law is inconsistent with any such provision, such law shall be deemed to be void to the extent of such inconsistency.
17 Remedy for infringement of fundamental rights by State action
(1) Subject to following paragraphs of this Article, every person shall be entitled to apply to the Supreme Court as provided by Article 126 in respect of the infringement or imminent infringement by State action of a fundamental right to which such person is entitled under the provisions of this Chapter;
(2) Where the person aggrieved is unable to make an application under Article 126 owing to reasonable cause, an application may be made on behalf of such a person, by any relative or friend of such person, if the person aggrieved raises no objection to such application.
(3) An application may also be made in respect of any group or class of persons affected, in the public interest, by any person or by any incorporated or unincorporated body of persons, acting bona fide.
(4) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the Constitution, every person shall be entitled to apply to the Supreme Court as provided by Article 126 for a declaration that any law, statute of a Provincial Council or a provision thereof is inconsistent with a fundamental right under the provisions of this Chapter.
(5) For the purposes of this Article and Article 126, “State action” includes legislative action, executive or administrative action and judicial action.
17A Rights of non-citizens permanently and legally resident
A person who, not being a citizen of any country, has been permanently and legally resident in the Republic on the date on which …… (this) Amendment to the Constitution comes into force and continues to be so resident, shall be entitled to all the rights declared and recognized by this Chapter, to which a citizen of Sri Lanka is entitled.
17B Interpretation of fundamental and language rights provisions
(1) In interpreting the rights declared and recognized by Chapter III and Chapter IV, a court, tribunal or other body –
(a) shall promote the values that underlie an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom;
(b) shall have regard to the international legal obligations of the Republic and other sources of international law; and
(c) may have regard to foreign law.
(2) When interpreting any written or customary law, every court, tribunal or other body shall promote the spirit, aims and objects of this Chapter and Chapter IV.
(3) The rights declared and recognized in this Chapter and in Chapter IV do not derogate from any other rights or freedoms that are recognised or conferred by common law, customary law or legislation, to the extent that they are consistent with Chapter III and Chapter IV .
Tabled Item 12 – an Amendment to the Constitution to strengthen the Public Service
Dear Secretary General
As I hope I shall have made clear that I am a Private Member, I hope you will expedite the introduction of the two Constitutional Amendments I have proposed.
I would also like to propose the following Amendment
Article 52 (1) – Delete the words ‘the President’ and replace with ‘the Public Service Commission’.
Delete 52 (3)
Mr Speaker, as the Former Chief Whip also said earlier today, it is an unusual pleasure to speak today as the Leader of the Liberal Party in Parliament. In that capacity I extend my congratulations to His Excellency the President on his strength of character in taking up what seemed an impossible challenge, and the eminently civilized way in which he has worked after his victory. We also congratulate the Prime Minister for understanding political realities and thwarting the game plan of the former President by supporting a common candidate. It is salutary that, in addition to being Prime Minister, he has taken charge of economic development, since I believe we need the careful planning and discipline that he will bring to this portfolio.
Mr Speaker, though the Liberal Party is a small one, we can take credit for having first identified the problems of this Constitution and this Electoral system which our government is pledged to change. Though I know the parties of the left objected to the 1978 constitution, they did so on the basis of a return to the Westminster model. This was foolish because they had been victims of excessive power in the hands of a Prime Minister under the Westminster system, during the previous few years.
We, or rather the Founder Leader of the Liberal Party, Dr Chanaka Amaratunga, was the first to clearly identify the dangers of excessive power, and to explain the way in which checks and balances could be introduced. In this regard I am sorry that I received very little support from other parties for the Standing Order changes I proposed over a year ago. Thought the Leader of the NLSSP did raise a question on my behalf, and the then Chief Whip tried valiantly to get some progress, no one else in authority seemed to care. In this regard I hope, Mr Speaker, that in introducing changes we work in terms of principles rather than engaging in ad hoc measures. We should make sure that Parliamentary Committees are constituted as happens in the rest of the world, with no authority to Ministers, but rather ordinary Members of Parliament being the Chairs. This should be mandatory for finance oversight committees and, while I am sorry that the TNA and the JVP are not in the cabinet, I believe their commitment to financial integrity should find full play in the chairing of those committees.
Hasty legislation was the reason for former President Chandrika Kumaratunga not acting in terms of the 17th Amendment and refusing to appoint the Elections Commission suggested by the Constitutional Council. I am glad therefore that, in getting rid of the 18th amendment, as to which I trust this house will be unanimous, we replace it with something based on constitutional practice in the rest of the world without blindly returning to the 17th amendment.
Similarly Mr Speaker, with regard to electoral reforms, we were the first to suggest change and to advocate a mixed system. We were then accused of trying to introduce foreign customs. However, soon enough all parties agreed on the need for the German system, though twice there were efforts to distort this. I remember discussing this in the nineties with the then Minister of Constitutional Affairs in this Parliament, and him admitting there were slight changes, changes that in fact distorted the principles of the German system. Late in 2002 I urged the Hon Karu Jayasuriya to act quickly, but he delayed, and the government was dismissed. I am glad therefore that the Hon Prime Minister made clear our commitment to swift reforms in this regard.
Mr Speaker, in celebrating the need for reform, the Liberal Party can be proud that alone in government it formally advocated reforms for the last two years. I should mention here though the debt owed also to the Hon Vasantha Senanayake, who along with me drafted a formal letter to the former President at the beginning of last year about the need for Reform. Had the former President listened to him and accepted, even with amendments, the constitutional change he tabled, perhaps things might have been different. But, instead of taking advice from moderates in the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, which I hope will return to its traditional moderation under its new leader, he was led astray by extremists and those who thought the state was theirs to plunder.
Mr Speaker, the Liberal Party told the President in writing in October that he should not have a hasty election but instead work on the reforms promised in the manifesto on which the UPFA had won the election. We told him we could not support him in an election without reforms. I know that the left parties had also advised him not to have a hasty election, and I am sorry that they, whose integrity I used to admire, did not also stand by their beliefs the way a few of us did.
I have been told I was courageous, but since as the former President said, I was someone without a political future, as a member of the Liberal Party, I had perhaps nothing to lose. The real heroes of today are His Excellency the President, the other members of the SLFP and in particular the Hon Vasantha Senanayake who spoke out so early, and the leader of the UPFA and the per minority members who left government in that tumultuous week after the Election was called. In wishing the government well, in hoping for opposition cooperation now for reform, I salute them for courage which I hope will not be necessary again in our political system after we get rid of the excessive authority of the Executive authority.
Prepared for the debate on the Votes on the Ministries of Justice and of
Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms
During the Committee Stage of the Budget Debate, November 21st 2014
(Not delivered because of the common candidate press conference)
I rise to speak on the votes today of two important Ministries. My main concern will be rehabilitation, where I think the Ministry can be proud of its work in having rehabilitated around 12,000 former combatants after the conclusion of the conflict with the LTTE in 2009.
This is of special concern to me, Mr Speaker, because as Head of the Peace Secretariat I was deeply worried about plans for rehabilitation. Nothing was being done about this, in part because the subject was then the preserve of the Ministry of Justice, which was more concerned then with what might be termed judicial issues. This was understandable, since there was much concern then about child soldiers, given the brutality of the LTTE in its system of forced recruitment.
In this regard, Mr Speaker, I must pay tribute to the Norwegian ambassador in place when I was first asked to work in this field, Mr Hans Brattskar. He was categorical in his response to the LTTE when it tried to remove the subject of child soldiers from the agenda of its discussions with government in June 2006. He made it clear that the Sri Lankan side had every reason to raise the issue, and perhaps it was that which led to the LTTE dodging those talks.
Later it was Mr Brattskar who first formally told the Sri Lankan government that the LTTE was engaging in forced recruitment of two persons in each family, by the time of his last visit to Kilinochchi. This was in marked contrast with the silence of the other internationals working in the area, who were complaisant in the wicked practices of the LTTE. Indeed when I upbraided the then Head of Save the Children, about his only worrying when the families of his staff were affected, he asked whether I objected to his trying to save them. Not at all, I said, what made me furious was his failure to have spoken out when other children were being abused.
All this was of a piece with what seemed unprincipled connivance, though I believe one should not attribute to viciousness what springs often from moral laziness and incompetence. Thus the head of UNICEF did nothing to check on the abuse of the 1 million dollars given to the LTTE for rehabilitation, and even seemed to acquiesce in recruitment of 17 year olds on the grounds that the LTTE had not amended its legislation in that regard – a shocking tolerance of the pretensions of terrorists.
It is incidents such as that, Mr Speaker, that have contributed to the deep distrust displayed by government towards the international community, and this must be understood even as we urge a more positive attitude, which will take advantage of the many with decent and positive values. We must set in place systems that will limit abuses, but there is no justification for blanket prohibitions. And of course we must also do more to make it clear that we can work effectively with aid agencies, guiding them to fulfil our national priorities whilst working in accordance with their fundamental principles and policies. Read the rest of this entry »
On the votes of the Ministries of Higher Education and Sports
During the Committee Stage of the Budget Debate, November 17th 2014
Mr Speaker, I am happy to speak on the votes of these two Ministries, which are both in their different ways so vital for the development of this country. Though I shall for obvious reasons concentrate on the work of the Ministry of Higher Education, I would like to congratulate both Ministers for their imaginative approach to the subjects coming under them. With regard to Sports, the efforts of the Minister to have it incorporated formally in all schools are laudable, and I can only hope he succeeds.
This was a decision of the Consultative Committee on Education, and it is a pity that those decisions have not as yet been translated into action. But while all the reforms that are contemplated are worthy, it does make sense to proceed with what is possible, given that vested interests seem to be delaying the full fruition of the Parliamentary recommendations. I hope therefore, that with His Excellency the President also committed to making sports compulsory, the Minister will soon succeed.
This is the more important because the qualities that develop through Sports in particular, but also other extra-curricular activities, are essential for productive employment. Team work and leadership and other aspects of socialization are vital, and at present opportunities to develop these are confined to children in the more popular schools. I have been shocked at the lack of extra-curricular activities in the many rural schools I look at during Reconciliation meetings in Divisional Secretariats in the North and East, and I am sure this is true all over the island. Given that for most jobs what employers look for is not just academic attainments, but evidence of other skills, it is vital that the proposal of the Minister has an impact soon in rural areas too.
This bears on the main point I wish to make with regard to Higher Education, where urgent reform is needed. The Minister and the Secretary did their best, and though the draft they prepared could have been improved, it is a great pity that the Legal Draughtsman’s Department ignored that draft and spent ages producing something not substantially different. I suspect, Mr Speaker, that the damage done to development by the Legal Draughtsman’s Department, by its delays, will loom large in the future, and amongst its worst shortcomings was the delay with regard to Higher Education.
Significantly, the need to have thought more carefully about this came up when the whole concept of Free Education was popularized. Though what Kannangara did with his Central Schools was invaluable, in extending opportunities nationwide, when the idea of Free Education was thrust upon the State Council Committee at the very end of its deliberations, there was more stress on the word Free, and not enough on Education.
Characteristically, D S Senanayake pointed this out, in his speech to the State Council towards the end of its days. What he said then is well worth quoting at length –
Industry in this country has yet to be developed. Today Government service is still regarded as offering the most attractive jobs. The Civil Service is today looked up to as the most attractive branch of the Government service. But I feel that if our country is to prosper, we must recognise the fact that it is the industrialist who can prove to be of great service to the country while at the same time benefiting himself,. The industrialist can be of far greater service to the country than the Civil Servant.
We speak of industrialization in Ceylon but we do not seem to realise that we require well-trained personnel to enable us to compete in the industrial sphere with other parts of the world. We also want agriculturists who could help this country to compete on equal terms with the rest of the world.
We realise that 80 per cent of the people of the country, according to the estimate of the Special Committee on Education, must take to industry and agriculture. I feel therefore that any scheme of educational reform that takes no account of these factors tends to ignore the usefulness of our student population to the community in the future.
When the age-limit is revised to sixteen, what happens? We carry on with the same kind of education up to the age of sixteen, whether it is bad Sinhalese, bad Tamil or English. We would not get that bias that is required, that was expected to be given to students from eleven to sixteen. They would not get that training; and if we get any students at all, they will be students over sixteen who have been rejected everywhere. They will not have the necessary bias and we will have to start all over again.
One problem Senanayake diagnosed was the failure of adequate consultation. He put that down to the unusual system that obtained under the State Council, where there was no question of Cabinet responsibility –
The duty of making the actual proposals is entrusted to the Executive Committee concerned … But I have one little complaint to make in this regard. Although an Executive Committee does or omits to do something, the only body that is blamed for it is the Board of Ministers. In these circumstances, one feels that it would be well if the Ministers as a body were given an opportunity of considering a report as a whole and were allowed to put forward their own proposals … So far as my Ministry and I were concerned, we would have been only too happy to be associated with my good friends in evolving a scheme or discussing a scheme for discharging our duty to the large number of students who were to be placed under our care.
Unfortunately, though we have Cabinet government now, the norms of Cabinet government do not apply, and there is insufficient coordination. Thus the need to diversify, to provide more and better vocational and technical training, and also provide degrees and opportunities for advancement in skills suitable to higher level employment, is not taken seriously.
With the cooperation also of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Skills Development, I have been able to look into the situation more closely, and not only as regards the North and East. But though there is great goodwill on all sides, we do not have systems in place to ensure swift action, and also to empower more and better service providers. Unfortunately the efforts of the Minister of Higher Education proved abortive, while our efforts at COPE to introduce a greater sense of accountability in those now responsible for education at the universities has not been properly understood. Setting in place mechanisms to all institutions to fulfil their responsibilities to the students as well as the country at large would be easy, but it requires great will and commitment.
I am grateful to the Minister and the Secretary who decided earlier this year to appoint me to an Advisory Position. Better late than never, I thought at the time, given my long experience of the system and education in general. However, having now put forward a constitutional amendment to prevent Members of Parliament having any formal involvement with any Ministry, which seems important if the Doctrine of the Separation of Powers is to be upheld as best possible under this strange hybrid Constitution we have, I felt I should resign. Besides, though my suggestions were well received, the system moves so slowly that we need more effective mechanisms if we are to develop a system suited to the modern age, and the varied talents of our students. I hope then that the Minister will try in what time remains to move swiftly on the excellent ideas with which he began his tenure of office.
These include the promotion of public-private partnerships in providing educational services. This is essential if we are to increase the range of courses on offer, as well as provide better education to more people. Unfortunately there was insufficient consultation and explanation to begin with, which allowed opponents, including those within the government who are still stuck in unthinking dogma, to claim that the plan was to do away with free education. Nothing could have been further from the truth, but rather what was sought was to provide education to those who now have no access to free education, and who often have to spend exorbitant amounts to obtain degrees in other countries, degrees as to which we have no monitoring capacity.
The failure to regularize the availability of paid courses within Sri Lanka put paid to our being able to encourage courses that would benefit the nation, it also prevented us from developing a scholarship scheme which would have allowed bright students access to different forms of delivery. And we were deprived of developing healthy competition that might have made the more traditional of our universities realize they had to make changes in their programmes.
I remember, Mr Speaker, when this government seemed full of innovation and committed to pluralism, the enthusiasm of university administrators in Australia who wished to set up courses within this country. There were experts in nursing and in teaching who would have done much to enhance the skills of our students. But nothing was done to help them, and we are now struggling to satisfy the need for developing expertise in these fields. Unfortunately, when we bring up the subject of pedagogical skills in the Consultative Committee, we find resistance despite the efforts of the Minister and the Secretary to get things moving.
I should note however that there are signs of improvement, with more attention to English and soft skills, though perhaps these should be spelled out more carefully, with greater attention to training of trainers in these areas. We should also look at good practice in the past, as with the courses in thinking and self-expression developed by Oranee Jansz when she was Co-Coordinator of the General English Language Training programme until that was swallowed up by the universities, who then deployed the funds for capital expenditure for the most part. Indeed they have only themselves to blame if a similar course had to be started by the Ministry of Defence, which at least knows how to develop initiative and pride in work. The pity is that the universities are not prepared in general to learn from best practice, their own or that of others, which is why we must hope the innovations the Minister is trying to introduce will take root.
There is much to do in these fields, Mr Speaker, and we cannot afford to move slowly. I hope therefore that this Ministry is not stinted of funds, but that better systems of accountability will be introduced – including, as I have long suggested, sharing the accounts with the students, who will be our best safeguards against corruption – and more effective monitoring, as we have suggested in COPE, to make sure that the learning process is constantly upgraded, and that its products are able to serve the nation imaginatively and with a range of skills, as D S Senanayake wanted over half a century ago.
… after the unprecendented action of two Cabinet Ministers who did not vote for the government in a vote of confidence, after which one of them has put the government on probation.
Last year, when I did not vote for the impeachment of the Chief Justice, instructions had been given, before I even returned home, to reduce my Security. I did not see this as a problem, since I have long argued that we now deploy far too much security, which makes a mockery of your great achievement in getting rid of terrorism from Sri Lanka in 2009. Two officers, as I now have, are quite enough for Members of Parliament, with perhaps one more for Constituency members. And certainly Ministers too could do with far less security, given the numbers and the expense involved.
I was happy therefore to contribute even in a small way to reducing government expenditure, and I realized that such a token reprimand made sense given the general requirement to support government in votes. However it is generally accepted in all parliamentary democracies that votes of conscience are acceptable, and certainly so when there is no threat of instability for government.
The case is very different in the case of a No Confidence Motion against government, and it is unthinkable that Cabinet members should refrain from voting. I hope therefore that I will not be the only person to suffer for having failed to vote, given also the great difference between that occasion and this.
On a related point, two years ago you called me to say I should not criticize public servants who are not able to respond. That was with regard to the falsehood told you by Ms Kshenuka Seneviratne, calculated to rouse suspicions about the Indian Parliamentary delegation as well as the Leader of the House. I noted that it would have been reprehensible to remain silent, and you told me then that I should write to the Ministry. I did so, but have not as yet had a response. I was told by the Secretary to the Ministry of External Affairs at that time that he had sought advice from the Presidential Secretariat, given the seriousness of the matter, but had received no response.
I should note that your Secretary was aware of the incident, and confirmed that you had indeed been misled about the delegation, but that he had sought reassurance from the Ministers of Economic Development and of External Affairs, who had confirmed that there was no truth whatsoever in the story you had been told. Given the tremendous sympathy displayed towards Sri Lanka by the head of the Indian delegation, Sushma Swaraj, and the important role she is likely to play in the new Indian government, it is worth reflecting on the enormous damage that would have been done to Sri Lanka had you cancelled your meeting with that delegation as was your inclination after your mind had been poisoned.
Recently I was sent by Mr Kumar Rupesinghe the text of an interview given by the Minister of Housing and Construction, in which he is deeply critical of the Secretary to the Treasury. This is the more reprehensible since, as Mr Rupesinghe pointed out, the Secretary must be acting in accordance with policies decided on by government and by you as Minister of Finance. This is a very different situation from that of Ms Seneviratne who acted on her own in spreading malicious gossip.
I hope therefore that suitable action will be taken to make it clear that the Secretary to the Treasury should not be publicly insulted when following government directives and that such conduct is not acceptable in a Member of the Cabinet.
In all fairness however to the ideas expressed by the Minister of Housing and Construction, I believe he too has now understood the need for reforms, so that we might fulfil the tremendous potential the country had at the time of the last election. But it would be a pity if reforms sent us backward, whereas the commitments to pluralism and wider consultation that were made at the time would help us to move forward and overcome the various threats we face. We should also be aware of the increasing feeling against current structures, and should therefore – given your immense popularity as compared with that of your Cabinet colleagues – work towards a Presidency that can function effectively with full accountability to a Parliament that is strengthened to fulfil its basic responsibilities.
cc. Hon Dinesh Gunawardena, Chief Government Whip
Mr Lalith Weeratunge, Secretary to the President