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* New constitution will transform Sri Lanka - Prime Minister
Thu, Sep 21, 2017, 11:57 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Sept 21, Colombo: Sri Lanka's Prime Minister says presenting of the new Constitution to the Constitutional Assembly today is a historic occasion since the nation battered by division is now seeing the government and opposition adopting a common cause for a positive change.

Chairman of the Steering Committee of the Constitutional Assembly Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe delivering a special statement in parliament today (21) said the country would be transformed through the new constitution while it signifies a new era of prosperity and development.

He said the new Constitution presented today is an interim report, and will only be finalized after citizens are given an opportunity to express their feedback.

"Complying with the democratic process and giving due consideration to the views of the public, we will build a stronger and brighter Sri Lanka," he said.

The Premier pointed out that the main Tamil party, Tamil National Alliance took an unprecedented step and conveyed that if the two main political parties in the government agreed with the conditions in the interim report, the Tamil party will also agree.

"This is a historic moment, the government and the opposition joined together to form a common consensus in a country that had been severely divided. We cannot allow this valuable opportunity to be lost," the Premier said.

"After we came into power, we reinstated democracy ensuring equal rights to all Sri Lankans. The new Constitution is one that ensures a strong economy based on a progressive framework, where its benefits will be divided among all citizens," the Prime Minister said

He said the national government has taken another step in fulfilling the pledge made on January 8, 2015 to bring in a new Constitution.

"We intend to prepare a constitution that will benefit all Sri Lankans irrespective of their cast, creed or social standing. It is a constitution that will bring about a strong economy, which will benefit all. We must take this opportunity to expand our democracy and build stable peace. These are areas that were deprived to us over the past three decades. It is essential to build a strong democracy which will ensure prosperity to all," he said.

The Prime Minister said Steering Committee report was a foundation for discussion - all parties were given the opportunity to include their ideas and suggestions.

"We formulated this collectively and everyone's ideas and suggestions have been included in this report. We have suggested that Sri Lanka should be a unitary state," the Prime Minister said.

"In order to bring in investment to generate employment that will enhance the prosperity of all Sri Lankans, a strong economy and development is essential."

"We have now been given an opportunity to build a bridge of peace expelling division and distance between the various races, which for so long had threatened economic development being held hostage by violence and volatility for so long," he added.

The Premier said that there are suggestions for power devolution included in the report and the country's future would be determined by the agreement reached. He said all members are prepared to accept a united Sri Lanka, which cannot be divided.

"This dedication and commitment we make to bring about peace and stability will make a huge difference to our future generations. We cannot allow this opportunity to escape us. There is no room for revenge within our democracy."

The Prime Minister prominence given to Buddhism within Sri Lankan society will be safeguarded while the foundation of the new Constitution are the principles of Buddhism. "We place our trust in the Buddhist teachings that it will guide our nation," he said.

He said the government would not allow anyone to inculcate fear in the minds of the people and destroy the country's economy creating instability and division.

"We have come before you with a solution. From the North to the South we have extended support in dividing power to the provinces. The Provincial Councils are known as the third level of state governance. It is a blessing that these proposals have received the approval and support of the government and the opposition."

He said the presidency and executive need to be discussed further and a broad discussion is needed.

"The interim report is a joint effort, which received the support of President Maithripala Sirisena. A Constitutional Council was established to oversee the process of a new Constitution. Hence, we hope that this will create a positive dialog throughout the country," the Premier said.

"This is a historical juncture that will ensure our future generations a prosperous and peaceful nation. I expect this topic to not only be discussed within the Constitutional Council but discussed broadly among the general public throughout the country," he added.

"This new Constitution will transform our country and this occasion will symbolize a new era of prosperity and development," the Prime Minister asserted.


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