OUTLINE OF THE PROPOSALS OF THE UNITED NATIONAL PARTY PRESENTED TO THE ALL PARTY REPRESENTATIVE COMMITTEE
ON 8 JANUARY 2007

 

 

It gives me great pleasure to present in outline to this Conference the proposals of the. United National Party (UNP) for a solution to the ethnic problem that has engulfed the Northern and Eastern parts of our country over the last 20 years and retarded national development and progress.

I might state at the outset that the UNP recognises that the eventual solution would have to be political in character, upon a basis acceptable to the majority members of each of the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities. To this end in view, the UNP has consistently advocated a solution within one nation with adequate power-sharing between the Centre and the Provinces.

This concept of the Party has been expressed in the Oslo Communique of 05th December 2002 and subsequently recognised in the Tokyo Declaration of 10th June 2003.The thinking of our Party is also reflected in the document termed “The Ethnic Issue” which forms part of the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the SLFP and the UNP on 23rd October 2006. The UNP stands by these three documents as reflecting the basic thinking of the Party for a just solution of the ongoing conflict. We find that the Majority Report of the Experts Committee is in many respects in line with the thinking of the UNP, as reflected in the aforesaid three documents.

I might also mention that the UNP participated at the discussions on this question and the amendments to the Constitution necessary to give effect to the solution of the same at the joint discussions chaired by then President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga in 2000, where the SLFP delegation was led by Prime Minister Hon. Ratnasiri Wickramanayake and the UNP delegation led by UNP and Opposition Leader Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe. The Constitutional methodology for the concept of adequate power sharing is contained in Chapter 1 of the Draft Bill for the Amendments to the Constitution, which was presented to Parliament on 03rd August 2000, but did not proceed to become law.

For greater clarity, I might set out the main footholds of the Party’s policy for a solution to the ethnic issue.As I have already stated, the basis is adequate and acceptable power-sharing between the Centre and the Provinces in one united Sri Lanka. The Centre will decide all matters of national policy and also exercise powers relating to the national service sector, such as, the raising and provision of finance, administering Ports and Airports, maintenance of Railways and postal services, national water resources and forest reserves.

 

The Centre will also be vested with the requisite legal authority to prevent the separation or cessation of any region from the Republic, safeguard the defence and territorial integrity of the Republic, and protect the territorial waters and air space of the Republic.All other matters would be left in the hands of the Provincial Administrations.The legislative and the executive powers of the People, as embodied in the Constitution, will provide for Parliament and the Regions to legislate in their respective areas of power-sharing.

 

The UNP supports the merger of the Northern and Eastern provinces for an initial period of 6 to 8 years, after which a Referendum will be held to decide whether or not the merger should be permanent. The Party will support the legislation necessary to give effect to the merger. Adequate safeguards will be provided to protect the interests of the Muslim and Sinhala Communities in the East.

The unit of devolution will continue to be the Province and the Provincial Council, together with the Municipal Councils and the Urban Councils and the Pradeshiya Sabhas. Consideration could also be given to further devolution to the village level through a system similar to the Panchayat Raj system in India.We recognise that encouraging and developing a meaningful Sri Lankan identity will help to diminish the existing sharp demarcation between the three majority communities.

 

The UNP supports the establishment of a Constitutional Court consisting of Judges drawn from the higher judiciary, members of the Profession and Academics who are versed in Constitutional Law. The Court will be assisted by a panel of representatives of the different communities who are knowledgeable with the practical aspects of the questions that are likely to arise for the decision of the Court and the view-point of the majority communities thereon. The Conference will have to necessarily give its mind to whether or not a national Referendum will be required to give effect to its final proposals, particularly, if any of the changes proposed have a bearing on Articles 3 or 4 of the Constitution.

Observations of the United National Party (UNP) on the “Discussion Paper on the Main Proposals to Form the Basis of a Future Constitution”

The UNP appreciates the effort of the Hon. Minister – Chairman of the Committee in preparing and placing before the Committee the above document.

The UNP makes the under-noted observations on the same:

  1. The eventual solution would have to be political in character, upon a basis acceptable to the majority members of each of the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities. To this end, the UNP has consistently advocated a solution within one nation with adequate power sharing between the Centre and provinces. The  development of a Sri Lankan identity has also been advocated. We note that these concepts are recognized in paragraphs 1.2 and 1.3 of the above document.

    In essence, the Centre should be invested with the conduct of national policy in all fields, and the defence of the nation and its territorial integrity. All matters of a provincial or local nature will be decided by the Provinces.

  2. A Declaration was made in Tokyo on 10 June 2003 at the conclusion of the Tokyo Conference on Reconstruction and Development of Sri Lanka. The Sri Lanka Government was a party to this Declaration. The Declaration contemplates a negotiated settlement of the ethnic problem based on a federal or power sharing structure within a united Sri Lanka.

    The Tokyo Declaration contains the basis of what could be an agreed settlement:

    The Paper 1 of the MOU between the SLFP and the UNP relates to a settlement of the conflict (Ethnic Issue) in the North-East.

    The UNP advocates that the proposals put forward by this Committee should be on the basis of the Tokyo Declaration and the aforesaid Paper annexed to the MOU.

  3. The UNP will conduct bilateral discussions with the Government to formulate an early settlement, whilst participating in this Committee.

    The UNP believes that the task of this Committee is to identify the main issues involved in a settlement of the ethnic issue, and to put forward an agreed view upon each of the same.

    The same will thereafter have to be discussed with the LTTE and agreed upon with any approved changes.

    The proposed settlement based on the above will have to be submitted to the People at a Referendum for their approval. Once such approval is obtained, then the necessary laws to implement the final settlement including the Constitutional amendments could be prepared on a firm basis.

  4. The Peace Talks should be re-opened. A Muslim delegation must be permitted participation at these Talks, and be allowed to consult the Muslim people during their progress.

    A return to the observance of the Ceasefire Agreement should be given priority so as to have the necessary atmosphere for constructive talks.

  5. The unit of devolution for the North-East should be discussed and agreed upon at the Peace Talks.

 

ALL PARTY REPRESENTATIVES COMMITTEE
MAIN ISSUES FOR CONSIDERATION BY THE COMMITTEE
SUBMITTED BY THE UNITED NATIONAL PARTY

The UNP identifies the under-noted as the main issues which the Committee should discuss, endeavour to reach consensus upon, and make recommendations to the All Party Conference.

The UNP advocates that these issues be resolved in the background of the concept of one Nation with adequate power sharing, and on the basis of the Party’s Memorandum dated 8th January 2007 submitted to the Committee.

  1. Whether the State should be Unitary or Federal in character or One Nation with adequate power sharing between the Centre and the Provinces.

  2. In the event of the State being Unitary or One Nation with adequate power sharing between the Centre and the Provinces,

      1. What should be the functions of the Centre;Should it include the authority to
        1. decide matters of national policy
        2. defence (incuding territorial waters and air-space and the country’s territorial integrity)
        3. iscal policy and foreign aid
        4. provision of postal and rail services.
      2. What should be the devolved subjects including the imposition of taxes.
      3. In what circumstances could a state of emergency be declared in a Province by the Centre.
      4. In what circumstances should the Centre be authorised to assume the powers and functions of a Provincial Administration (i.e. Article 154 of the Constitution and Article 356 of the Indian Constitution);
      5. The distribution of legislative functions between the Centre and the Provinces.
  1. The divisions of functions between the Centre and the Provinces in respect of Land Policy, the administration of state lands, and the making of grants of state land to citizens.

  2. Language.

  3. Should the Constitution contain only a Reserved List and a Regional List (as in the draft Constitution Bill of 2000)

  4. Should the unit of devolution continue to be the Provinces and Provincial Councils? Should there be further devolution to the village level (as in India). If so, the modalities of such devolution.

  5. Should the Peace Talks be resumed; if so, should a separate Muslim delegation be permitted at these Talks.

  6.  Should there be merger of the North-East Provinces. Should this question be decided at the Peace Talks with the LTTE with a Muslim delegation participating.

  7. In the event of merger of the North-East Provinces, what safeguards should be provided for the Sinhala and Muslim communities in the two Provinces.

  8. Is a Second Chamber or Upper House necessary? If so, the method of appointment of members, and the role of the same.

  9. Should there be 2 Vice Presidents? If so, the method of their selection and their functions and duties.

  10. The structure of the Constitution Court.

  11. The constitutional mechanism for the resolution of Centre- Provincial disputes and inter- Provincial disputes.

  12. Should the proposed changes be placed before the People at a Referendum for their approva

K.N. Choksy, PC, MP
Representative, United National Party.

12th February 2007.