3RD LEAD

Leaked Expert panel's reports trigger controversy

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 13 December 2006, 13:19 GMT]
The 17-member panel of "Legal/Constitutional Experts" tasked by Sri Lanka' president Mahinda Rajapakse to aid the sub committee on Constitutional Reforms to formulate proposals for constitutional changes, in June 2006, failed to agree to produce a single set of recommendations, and instead produced four separate, competing reports which were leaked to the media. The exercise widely believed by the Tamils and noted Think-tanks in Colombo, as a project by Colombo to buy time while engaginng in military offensives in the East, has triggered controversy in ruling circles, as Colombo attempted to distance itself from recommendations in the main reports.

Eleven members of "expert panel" produced what came to be known as "majority" report, that contained power-sharing propoals based on the current provincial system. Mass Media and Information Minister Anura Priyadrshana Yapa, Monday, described as "outrageous and devious attempt by certain media organisations and groups" in portraying a draft report to assist the All Party Representative Committee (APRC), as a "proposal emanating from the Government to resolve the North and East question."

Four Sinhala hardliners headed by a leading lawyer and Presidential Counselor, H.L. de Silva, a stark opponent of the federal model, together with lawyer Gomin Dayasiri, with two others, Manohara de Silva, a lawyer of Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), the all monk ultra nationalist party, and Professor G.H. Peiris, drafted a separate report ("Minority Report"), which called for decommissioning of arms, de-merger of North and East, and opposed to dividing Sri Lanka on ethnic lines saying “creation of ethnic conclaves will accelerate the disintegration of the country and contribute to further aggravation of ethnic tensions that could provide an impetus to secession”.

Mr HL de Silva and Dayasiri appeared as counselors for the JVP petition that led to the recent ruling by Sri Lanka Supreme court on NorthEast de-merger, and functioned as legal advisors to the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) delegation to Geneva II Talks. "From 1956 [Mr Dayasiri] has been in the forefront of the Sinhala Buddhist anti-Tamil and anti Christian campaigns, Daily Mirror said.

In addition, there were two dissenting reports, by the panel chairman and former civil servant, M.D.D. Pieris, and K.H.J. Wijayadasa, former Secretary to President Ranatunga Premadasa.

The JVP announced Tuesday its withdrawal from the All Party Representative Committee (APRC).

On Sunday, Democratic Left Front (DLF), in a communique, criticized the "Majority"expert panel's report for falling short of the "high degree of autonomy and the possibility of a near federal constitutional dispensation promised in the 2002 Oslo Declaration," but attempted to welcome it as forming an "an adequate basis as a Southern Consensus for initiating negotiations with the Tamil and Muslim people."

While welcoming the reports' approach to address the concerns of the different "ethnic communities" as a core issue, the communique said the report "felt constrained to balance this out with near paranoia about threats to sovereignty and fears of secession."

The Expert panel's Report has gone too far in evoking excessive presidential powers and focussing excessive authority in the Centre to the detriment of devolved Provincial democracy, the communique said, and added that "granting the President the right to dissolve Provincial Governments if he/she feels that sovereignty is threatened," is "undesirable."

 

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