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PM leaves for Germany, Finland

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is due to leave for Germany today, October 5 on a private visit.

After a tour of Berlin he will proceed to Finland on an official tour from October 9.

The Finland tour is intended to strengthen bilateral relations between Finland and Sri Lanka and establish new mutual ties in the trade, economic and industrial fields.

He said candidate Maithripala Sirisena pledged a new constitution to strengthen democracy with national unity at the last election while addressing issues at the base of ethnic conflict.

“During the process of formulation of the draft of the new constitution, the first task was to get all the parties together,” the Premier said. “We set up a national government. The tradition of enacting a new constitution was to appoint a select committee, which we thought was not appropriate for Sri Lanka.So we used the modified version of a Constitution Assembly where we converted parliament into a Constitution Assembly by resolution and gave powers to that assembly of Committee of whole Parliament to prepare a draft of constitution to present to Parliament.This way,we can get consensus.All members could express their views and narrow the differences.”

The Premier said that the Constitutional Assembly will enable them to consult the whole country before they reach an agreement. “If an agreement could not be reached, the Assembly has to report so to Parliament,” the Premier said. “A steering Committee has also been appointed in this connection. During last year, the issues were vibrantly discussed during this process. The forum was to get the views of the members and not the views of the parties. We consulted the political parties in the Parliament Chief Ministers, Governors Leader of the Opposition the Women’s focus in Parliament and some of the other groups. We identified six subjects namely Law and Order, Public Security, Fundamental Rights etc and were directed to six sub committees. They submitted their reports. Another adhoc committee study the practical issues and by January this year we had all reports ready and tabled in Parliament.”

He said further that the report contained the views of the Sub Committee and not the views of steering Committee. He added that by June they had reached consensus on some areas.

“On the other areas, we have to narrow the differences,” Premier said. “We felt that we should start writing the report that contain the views of everyone including which had the consensus, agreements and also which should be discussed further. What we have brought out is a report of the whole committee. This Interim Report has been presented to Constitutional Assembly by now. There has been an alarm in some quarters that we are going to pass a constitution tomorrow. No this interim report was to be debated by a constitutional assembly for a start of general debate in the country. Then the Interim Committee will start meeting different stakeholders other than the political parties who love to express their views. This stage is an important one and we will debate at the end of October.This is not the last report.We will start talking all the stakeholders later”.

He added that all agree that this country can’t be divided. “It will be “Ekeeya in Sinhala”,Premier Wickremesinghe said.”Buddhism is given the foremost place while all other religious rights will be guaranteed.In January we will hold the elections to the local authorities under a new system,” he said.