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The Constitutional Assembly

T

he Framework Resolution of 9th March 2016 created a representative body known as the Constitutional Assembly whereby all 225 Members of Parliament sit as a committee for the purpose of drafting a Constitutional Proposal. The needs and aspirations of the people within the constitutional reform process is reflected through the composition of the Constitutional Assembly as a body comprising the democratically elected representatives of the people of Sri Lanka. The Constitutional Assembly is chaired by the Hon. Speaker of Parliament and is aided by seven Deputy Chairmen who have been elected by the Assembly to chair sittings in his absence. The quorum for meetings of the Constitutional Assembly is fixed at twenty and sittings are conducted within the Chamber of the Parliament. The proceedings of the Constitutional Assembly are open to members of the public.

The first sitting of the Constitutional Assembly was held on 5th April 2016 and was presided over by Hon. Karu Jayasuriya as the Chairman. The following seven members were elected as Deputy Chairmen of the Constitutional Assembly:

The Framework Resolution of March 2016 further provided for the setting up of a Steering Committee tasked with the preparation of the Draft Constitutional Proposal for consideration of the Constitutional Assembly. Accordingly, the Steering Committee was appointed by the Constitutional Assembly on 5th April 2016 and is chaired by Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Prime Minister. The 21 members of the Steering Committee reflects the general political party leadership within Parliament.

In preparing the Draft Constitutional Proposal for consideration of the Constitutional Assembly, the Steering Committee is aided by six Sub-Committees. These Sub-Committees were appointed by the Constitutional Assembly on 5th May 2016 to deliberate on areas of Fundamental Rights, Judiciary, Law and Order, Public Finance, Public Service, and Center-Periphery Relations. The final reports of the Sub-committees were presented to the Steering Committee in August/ September 2016 and tabled in the Constitutional Assembly on 19th November 2016. The recommendations contained therein are to be debated in the Constitutional Assembly and considered by the Steering Committee in drafting constitutional proposals on the respective subject areas. The Final Report of the Steering Committee and the Draft Constitutional Proposals will be subject to deliberation and debate by the Constitutional Assembly.

In terms of clause 4 (a) of the Framework Resolution the Constitutional Assembly may appoint or call for experts in any field or profession where deemed necessary by the Constitutional Assembly. Clause 10 provides for the appointment of other experts to aid and advise the Constitutional Assembly and its various Committees. On 5th May 2016, a  Panel of Experts
Prof. Suri Ratnapala

Designation - Emeritus Professor of Law at The University of Queensland and a part-time Commissioner at The Australian Law Reform Commission

Qualifications - LLB (Colombo), LLM (Macquarie), PhD (Qld), and FAAL.

Experience - Professor of Public Law at The University of Queensland.

Prof. Austin Pulle
Prof. A.M. Navaratna Bandara
N. Selvakkumaran
Prof. Camena Guneratne
Prof. Kapila Perera
Suren Fernando
Niran Anketell
Asoka Gunawardena
Ms.Chamindry Saparamadu
was appointed to the Constitutional Assembly and its sub committees in terms of the aforesaid clauses. The meetings of the panel of experts are chaired by the Hon. (Dr.) Jayampathy Wickramaratne and the Hon. M. A. Sumanthiran, Co Chairs of the Management Committee appointed by the Steering Committee.
 
Clause 4 (b) of the Framework Resolution provides for the appointment of an

Naufel Abdul-Rahman

Designation - Secretary to the Leader of the House of Parliament

Qualifications - Bachelor of Law (Colombo), Dip. In Business Administration (Colombo), Fellow of the British Institute of Management (England)

Experience - Advocate of the Supreme Court of Ceylon

Additional Secretary

Ms.Yuresha Fernando

Yuresha Fernando was appointed Additional Secretary to the Constitutional Assembly in terms of Clause 4 (b) of the Framework Resolution. Her substantive post is as Senior State Counsel (SSC) of the Attorney General’s Department, and has had 15 years of experience practicing as an Attorney-at-Law. She was a member of the team of counsel appointed by the Hon. Attorney General to examine the 19th Amendment Bill and to appear in the Supreme Court in the determination proceedings.
 
She graduated from the University of Colombo with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree and read for her Masters in Laws (LLM) at the University College London (UCL) as a Chevening scholar, specializing in Public and Comparative Constitutional Law.

to the Constitutional Assembly. Accordingly Ms.Yuresha Fernando was appointed to the aforesaid post on 5th May 2016. The Constitutional Assembly Secretariat was set up in Parliament as decided by the Steering Committee for purposes of providing overall administrative and technical support for the process.
 

The first round of debates in the Constitutional Assembly commenced at the stage of considering the Interim Report of the Steering Committee, which was presented to the Assembly at its fifth sitting held on 21st September 2017. The Final Report incorporating approved amendments will be submitted to the Constitutional Assembly thereafter, together with the Draft Constitutional Proposal containing the actual text of a Constitution for Sri Lanka. If the Constitutional Assembly approves the Draft Constitutional Proposal by a two-thirds majority, it will be submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers. The Draft Constitutional Proposal will also be presented to the Parliament. Thereafter, the Constitutional Assembly will stand dissolved.

With the dissolution of the Constitutional Assembly, the Draft Constitutional Proposal would be converted to a Bill for consideration by Parliament in accordance with the scheme laid out in the Second Republican Constitution of 1978 (present Constitution) for formally enacting a new constitution for Sri Lanka.

Please click here to read the official reports of the sittings of the Constitutional Assembly'.