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Sub-Committees

T

he Sub-Committees of the Constitutional Assembly were set up as supporting bodies to the Steering Committee. At the second sitting of the Constitutional Assembly held on 5th May 2016, six thematic Sub-Committees were appointed to assist the Steering Committee in its mandate of drafting a constitutional proposal.

The six sub-committees are as follows:

Each Sub-Committees consists of 11 members, including the Chairman, as resolved by the Steering Committee at its sitting on 04th May 2016, and subsequently approved by the Constitutional Assembly. The appointment of members to the Sub-Committees was done in an equitable manner taking into consideration party representations within Parliament, and was based on nominations made by political parties. The six Chairmen were appointed from among the members selected to the Sub-Committees and was based on considerations of seniority.

The Sub-Committees were mandated to develop constitutional principles for consideration of the Steering Committee in respect of the designated subject areas. The Sub-Committees functioned independently in determining the manner in which sittings were organized, and were at liberty to engage expertise and to invite representations. The deliberations before the six Sub-Committees were consultative and interactive in nature and included shared experiences and insights on various aspects of the subject matter discussions.

At the commencement of the sittings, Sub-Committees were furnished with documents such as the Ceylon Constitution Order in Council of 1946 (Soulbury Constitution), the First Republican Constitution of 1972, the Second Republican Constitution of 1978, the Draft Constitutional Bill of 2000, the Proposals the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) as basic reference material. Furthermore, principles and guidelines formulated by the Steering Committee from time to time, as applicable to the Sub-Committees, were conveyed to the respective Chairmen.

Special regard was given by the Sub-Committees to the views of the public received through the Public Representations Committee (PRC) Process. The Report of the Public Representation Committee (PRC) was given serious consideration by the Sub-Committees. This Report, which contains summarized submissions of the public as well as recommendations of the Public Representations Committee, was considered an important source document on the present aspirations and needs of the people of Sri Lanka.

The 2nd Report of the Public Representation Committee was also compiled based on representations that were received at a later stage. Further, members of the PRC were seconded to the six Sub-Committee as experts based on the nominations made by the Chairman of the PRC.

The deliberations of the Sub-Committees included discussions with various stake-holders including political party representatives, members of interest groups and organizations and were invited to make written and/or oral representations before each Sub-Committee. Representations received by the Steering Committee from political parties, provinces and interest groups were also referred to the six Sub-Committees for their consideration. In addition, interactive sessions were conducted among some Sub-Committees with the participation of representatives from key sectors with experts in the respective subject areas including Secretaries to Ministries, Senior Representatives of Provincial Councils (PCs), Heads of Departments, Senior Personnel from Independent Commissions and Civil Society representatives.

As a measure of synchronicity, the Steering Committee decided at its meeting held on 23rd June, 2016 to specifically assign the members of the Panel of Experts to assist the Sub-Committees. This enabled closer coordination of the work of the Sub-Committees and ensured that experts who were assigned to a particular Sub-Committee could also draw from the diverse viewpoints of others on the Panel when making contributions. Experts assigned to the respective Sub-Committees played a pivotal role both in furthering discussions and in assisting with the compiling of the Sub-Committee Reports.

The work of the Sub-Committees was also supported by the Research Team of the Constitutional Assembly Secretariat. Research briefs on the respective subject matters were compiled by the Team based on comparative study and international best practices. These research briefs were circulated among the Members and experts to the Sub-Committees in order that consideration could be given, where necessary, to any relevant examples from around the world.

The process of consultation, discussion and deliberation by the Sub-Committees culminated in the presenting of the Final Reports to the Steering Committee. The recommendations contained in the final reports of the Sub-Committees are to be considered by the Steering Committee at the stage of drafting constitutional proposals on the respective subject areas for the consideration of the Constitutional Assembly.

Prior to the commencement of Sub-Committee deliberations, senior parliamentary staff were appointed as secretaries to the Sub-Committees by the Secretary General of Parliament in order that necessary administrative support could be provided during sittings.