People Being Easily Misled about New Constitution – AFRIEL

Daily News, 20 October 2017

Zahrah Imtiaz

A survey led by the youth organisation AFRIEL, has found that the knowledge of the people in the North and South regarding the process of adopting a new constitution was minimal and thus people were being easily misled about the new constitution.

AFRIEL representatives handed over their report, ‘Constitution for Peoples’ Governance -A youth led programme to promote public support for a new constitution, public opinions and recommendations’ to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in Parliament yesterday.

The report encourages the government to have an efficient mechanism between policy makers and the people to share truthful information about the drafting process of the new constitution and encourage the participation of the public in the constitutional reforms process.

AFRIEL established in 2013, is a youth led organisation mainly focused in the North seeks to empower youth in the North and South and have them bridge the ethnic divide.

A conference held in 2015 with political party representatives and civil society organizations had led them to conduct this survey in the 22 districts of; Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Vavuniya, Mannar, Mullaitivu, Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Ampara, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Badulla, Ratnapura, Galle, Hambantota, Matale and Matara with the participation of 5,796 individuals.

The 8000 member strong organisation said in the last year alone racially motivated political groups had been very active in spreading false propaganda over the constitution and that these need to be countered with the truth. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe addressing the media said the Constitutional Assembly which is scheduled to meet next week will hold a debate on the matter and discuss how to proceed forward with it.

AFRIEL’s report showed that opinions in the North and South did not favour an Executive Presidency and that they wanted it abolished as promised.

When it comes to Social, Economic and Cultural rights, land ownership, right to decent employment, to be eligible for welfare schemes and have access to it without discrimination, right to freedom of religion, citizenship to those who had fled the country during conflict, right to obtain administrative and judicial services in their own language, freedom from torture and disappearances, freedom of peaceful assembly, right to education in their mother tongue, to have the state and citizens hold the right to protect the environment and a stronger Election Commission which will ensure the right of franchise featured prominently in the group discussions held in the North and South.

The report further noted:“It is evident that the Sinhalese majority is now in fear of protecting their indigenous identities while the minorities are facing a challenge where their identities are being questioned. Hence, it is necessary for the law makers to take decisive political decisions to build a united country while focusing on the fact that it is vital to create a broadly educated society to achieve such feat. But the Sinhala majority has been deceived continuously to achieve narrow minded political motives targeting the majority Sinhala votes, which eventually has paved way for distance and disbelief among the communities to grow”.