SrI Lanka’s Bishops Want New Constitution

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The Catholic Bishops Conference in Sri Lanka (CBCSL) has called upon the government not to amend the 13th Amendment to the Constitution or repeal it but to discuss it with all parties to bring about a totally new Constitution.

A statement issued to media yesterday signed by President of the CBCSL, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith and Secretary General of the CBCSL, Bishop Valence Mendis, says: “What is needed is the proper study and careful consideration of all factors along with a broad-based consultation of the different political parties and civil society groups before any changes are to be made.”

The full text of the statement is as follows:

We have learned through the National Media that there is an intense debate going on with regard to the 13th Amendment of the National Constitution. This amendment provides for the devolution of power to the provinces and has been in effect over the last two decades. There have been a few examples of tension with regard to the use of devolved authority, but by and large the system has allowed greater participation of people in the matter of governance.

Even if this systems may not be perfect, it is our contention that at this moment when Sri Lanka is striving to make permanent the hard won peace_ after a 30 year conflict, pondering upon this constitutional provision, may lead to over centralization of authority and to international meddling in the internal affairs of this country. Essentially the problem in the North is a National question for which the solution is to be found by the local political leadership of both the Sinhala and the Tamil communities. What is needed is the proper study and careful consideration of all factors along with a broad based consultation of the different political parties and civil society groups before any changes are to be made. We are not convinced that this is happening.

It is also our contention that instead of tinkering with continued amendments to the Constitution, it is time for us to think about a totally new Constitution which is fair by all communities and all political and social forces and helps to bind people together while respecting diversity. For this reason, we the Catholic Bishops would request the Government not to proceed with the proposed amendment to the 13th amendment or to its total repeal but to discuss with all parties, specially through the Parliamentary Select Committee, and think about a totally new Constitution which would guarantee justice, peace and true prosperity for all citizens of this country irrespective of ethnic, religious or social differences. In that respect it is only fair that the Provincial Council election in the North be held as scheduled according to the 13th Amendment and later study the possibility of a new Constitution.

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