UNP unveils constitutional reform proposals

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 17 February 1998, 23:59 GMT]
The opposition United National Party (UNP), will kick off its campaign to muster support its package for constitutional reform with a public meeting in Galle on February 20, said UNP sources today. Journalists have been invited to cover this event.

The UNP's set of proposals, of which only a part has been made public as yet, is devised to counter the package for constitutional reform of the Peoples' Alliance Government.

The UNP proposals demand power sharing between the principal ethnic minorities and other groups in the Central Government.

The PA package on the other hand, is for the devolution of power at the periphery, through regional councils. The UNP proposals envisage the creation two vice presidents 'one Tamil and the other a Muslim' which will allow the minorities a greater say in the exercise of executive power.

Similarly, the second chamber that is proposed will not only serve as a brake on legislation, according to the UNP, but also help to ensure balance when legislation involving ethnic sensitivities is scrutinised.

Finally, the UNP proposals include the executive committee system which was in operation in Sri Lanka during the 1930s and early 1940s, as an alternative to party based democracy. The executive committees are seen as a system of governance whereby confrontational politics of the party system minimised.

The second part of the UNP proposals, now rescheduled to be released in March, is supposed to give details of a scheme for devolving power to the periphery.

Some Tamil and Muslim political parties have written to the UNP expressing their regret that the proposals look at power sharing at the centre as an alternative to devolution.

In a joint statement the Ceylon Workers' Congress (CWC), Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and the Democratic Peoples' Liberation Front (DPLF) have asked the UNP to send comprehensive proposals for devolution in the other set of proposals due in March.

The leader of the CWC Government Minister S. Thondaman has referred to the UNP proposals in scathing terms. The important matter however is the timing of the proposals to be released by the UNP.

It is felt that the release of the proposals in March will not give the required time for the PA to begin campaigning for the non-binding referendum on the package which it was hoping to commence before June. June is the deadline for the Provincial Council elections.

The UNP is confident of faring better at the provincial elections than at the referendum. However, sources feel that the PC elections will be decisive for the UNP too.

The performance could decide the future of the present UNP leadership they said.

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