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Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Conflict Resolution: Tamil Eelam - Sri Lanka  > All Party Conference, 1983/84  > Sri Lanka Proposals at All Party Conference, 14 December 1984 > Statement by TULF after collapse of All Party Conference, 21 December 1984  > An Assessment by Patricia Hyndman - Report to Law Asia Human Rights Standing Committee, June 1985

All Party Conference, 1983/84
Sri Lanka Proposals

14 December 1984

On 14 December 1984, the Sri Lanka President set forth specific proposals to the All Party Conference. These proposals were  in the form of Draft Legislation: the Tenth Amendment to the Sri Lanka Constitution, the District and Provincial Councils Bill, and the Local Authorities Bill. A Statement of the objects and reasons of the proposed legislation was presented by the All Party Conference Secretariat, BMICH, Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 7 dated 14 December 1984:

A Statement of the Objects and Reasons
of the Proposed Legislation

The proposed new Chapter XVIIA of the Constitution provides for the establishment of a District Council for every administrative district in the Island. The period of office of members of a District Council will be co-terminous with the life of Parliament and a dissolution of Parliament will operate as a dissolution of the District Council. The President has the power to dissolve a District Council when the limits of the administrative district for which it is established are altered by sub-division or amalgamation, in which case another District Council will be established for the new administrative district. By entrenching the establishment of the District Councils in the Constitution, it is proposed to integrate them into the national system of government and also to ensure that the main institutional framework is not changed by a simple majority in Parliament.

The new District and Provincial Councils Bill provides for the membership of the District Councils. Every District Council will consist of the Members of Parliament of the administrative district and a certain number of elected members. The number of elected menberss for each administrative district being determined by the President having regard to population. geography and other factors. The elected members of a District Council will be elected on the basis of proportional representation. The first and second names on the list submitted by the party securing the highest number of votes at the District Council elections will be elected Chairman and Vice Chairman respectively of the District Council. Appropriate amendments will be made to the Local Authorities Elections Ordinance to enable this.

As in the case of the existing Development Councils, every District Council will have an Executive Committee presided over by the District Minister. The Executive Committee will formulate plans for approval by the District Council. The District Councils will exercise its powers in relation to the subjects specified in the 1st Schedule to the District Councils Act. At present Development Councils have both development and local government functions. The District Councils will confine themselves to development functions but will exercise their powers covering a much wider range of subjects. The local government functions now exercised by Development Councils will in future he exercised by the Pradeshiya Sabhas.

Every District Council will have power to make ordinances in respect of matters set out in the 1st Schedule to the District and Provincial Councils Act. These ordinances will be subject to judicial and political control. Judicial control will be exercised by the Councils namely on the ground of ultra vires. Political control will be exercised by the President who has a power of disallowance over ordinance. It is envisaged that this power will be exercised on the ground of inconsistency with national policy. Parliament is precluded from conferring power on District Councils to make ordinances with respect to any subject specified in the Eighth Schedule.

Chapter XVIIA of the Constitution also provides for the constitution of Inter-District authorities to be called Provincial Councils for two or more administrative districts in a province. A Provincial Council will be constituted if the District Council established for these administrative districts resolve to do so and their decision is approved by a majority of the registered voters in each of these administrative districts. Each of the constituent District Councils must resolve to delegate the same powers to the Provincial Council. Unless there is agreement among the Councils as to the powers to be delegated, the Provincial Council will not come into being. 

The membership of the Provincial Council will consist of the members of the constituent District Councils. The Council will be presided over by the Chief Minister. Provincial Councils will function in the same manner as District Councils, with the Chief Minister playing the role that the Executive Committee plays in relation to a District Council. He will act as the channel through which executive power will be delegated to the Provincial Council. 

The new Article 45A of the Constitution provides for the appointment of a Chief Minister of a Provincial Council. He will be the person who in the opinion of the President, is likely to command the confidence of the members of the Council. The Chief Minister will be a member of the Second Chamber which is to be called a Council of State. A Provincial Council will enjoy only those powers that are delegated to it by the constituent District Councils. These powers once delegated cannot be revoked. A Provincial Council will not exercise any powers additional to those exercised by District Councils. The exercise of those powers will however be over a larger area, that is, over the administrative districts for which the Provincial Council is constituted.

The District and Provincial Councils Act provides for the apportionment of the assets and liabilities on the withdrawal of a District Council from a Provincial Council. A Provincial Council can make ordinances in the same way as a District Council, and subject to the same limitations.

The new Chapter XIIA of the Constitution provides for the establishment of a second chamber called the Council of State.

The Council will comprise of 75 members composed as follows

(1) The Chairman and Vice Chairman of every District Council - 50 members

(ii) There will also be 18 members, two members appointed from each province from amongst members of those communities which arc not represented or inadequately represented in the District Councils established within that province. There will also be 7 members appointed by the President.

The term of Office of the Council of State will be co-terminous with the life of Parliament and a dissolution of Parliament will operate as a dissolution of the Council. The members of the Council of State will not be members of Parliament, but will enjoy the same rights, privileges and immunities as a Member of Parliament. In addition to its other functions, the Council of State is intended to serve as a reservoir for the selection of Ministers.

The Council of State will have the powers to recommend to Parliament, the passing of a law on any subject, and may, for this purpose, present a draft Bill to Parliament. The Council of State can also communicate its opinion to Parliament on the following categories of Bills:

(a) A Bill which has been determined by the Supreme Court to affect any fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution ; and

(b) A Bill which in its opinion, imposes disabilities on any community not imposed on any other communities or confers privileges on any community not conferred on other communities.

Parliament will not be bound by the opinion of the Council of State but it is envisaged that Parliament will give consideration to the opinion of the Council of State before passing the Bill. The Council of State will also have powers in relation to private bills moved in Parliament. Evidence taken in the Council of State for such a Bill can be acted upon by Parliament.

The Council of State also has the power to recommend to Parliament the withdrawal of a Bill which in its opinion, affects any fundamental right or language right guaranteed by the Constitution, or in the regional interests or national unity and integrity and which is not an urgent Bill within the meaning of the Constitution. The Council of State may also suggest amendments to any such Bill.

If Parliament accepts the recommendation for withdrawal or any suggested amendments, the Minister proposing the Bill will withdraw the Bill or move the suggested amendments at the Committee Stage of the Bill. If Parliament does not accept the amendments suggested by the Council, the Speaker will refer the amendment to a Committee of Parliament or to a Joint Committee of Parliament and the Council of State. The passing of the Bill will be postponed until the Committee has reported to Parliament.

The Council of State will set up three permanent Committees - 

A Committee to inquire into inter-district or inter-provincial matters

A Committee of National Unity

A Committee of Social and Economic Affairs.

A Committee to inquire into Inter-District or Inter-Provincial matters will be presided over by the President and will inquire into, and advise on such matters. A Committee of National Unity will inquire into, and report on, petitions alleging discriminatory treatment by the Executive against any citizen on the ground of race, religion. language, caste or sex. The Social and Economic Affairs Committee will examine social and economic problems affecting one or more administrative districts and has the power to make recommendations with a view to co-ordinating policy and action with respect to those problems. The Council of State will also have power to set up committees for the purposes referred to in Article 84U.

In the exercise of power the Council of State will have the right to invite a Minister or Deputy Minister to explain to it, the implications of a Bill placed on the Order Paper or Parliament or the position of the Government on any matter falling within the purview of a subject or function assigned to that Minister.

The President, Prime Minister, a Minister of the Cabinet of Ministers or any Deputy Minister shall by virtue of his Office have the right to attend and address the Council. In the exercise of this right they will be entitled to all the privileges, immunities and powers other than the right to vote.



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