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Land, police powers to be devolved

Senior Constitutional lawyer Jayampathi Wickremeratne MP
The government said yesterday that the Parliamentary Sub Committee on Devolution had proposed that land and police powers be devolved to the provinces in keeping with the provisions of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

Senior Constitutional lawyer Jayampathi Wickremeratne MP, told a news conference in Colombo, that proposals made by the six parliamentary sub committees appointed to submit proposals on various subjects including the national question, human rights and public administration to be included in the proposed new Constitution had been submitted to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who had in turn presented it to Parliament.

The national legislature would in due course be converted into a Constituent Assembly to draft the new Constitution, which would require both a two-thirds majority in Parliament and approval of the people at a referendum, he said.

Describing the proposals as positive and forward looking, Wickremeratne noted that it had called for full implementation of the 13th Amendment, which would include devolution of police and land powers to the provinces within a unitary State.

He said that another feature of the proposals was the Bill of Rights similar to the one found in South Africa, aimed at strengthening human rights, right to life, education, health, formation of trade unions, etc. "A new provision guaranteeing equal opportunities for women has also been proposed."

Explaining the right to life provision, Wickremeratne pointed out that it would inter alia for example give a person who did not have a place to live , the right to demand one from the State.

He observed that bankrupt politicians rejected by the masses were trying to sabotage the reconciliation process by spreading false rumours against the government, accusing it of trying to divide the country.

Those elements were also trying to whip up emotions in the military, hoping that its members would rise against the elected government, Wickremeratne said, adding that such fantasies would not materialise since members of the security forces knew that there was no need to resort to undemocratic actions as the law of the land prevailed unlike under the previous regime.

A grassroots level campaign had been launched to educate the public on how the proposed new Constitution would benefit them and the country, he said.
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