Imposed Rule

Chandi Dharmaratne

June 28, 2010 (LBO) – In the past four decades, whenever a political party or alliance secured a substantial majority of seats in parliament, that group of politicians has claimed the right to foist a new constitution on the people of this country. Constitution-making is not the prerogative, or indeed a legitimate function, of a government. To entrust, or surrender, that task to a government is, as Mr S Nadesan Q.C. observed in 1970, comparable to what the outcome might have been if at Runneymede, on the broad fields of Windsor, the Barons of England had invited King John to draft the Magna Carta. A constitution that is drafted by a government, or indeed even by parliament, will reflect only the consensus among the members of the majority party, if not the imperatives of the head of that government. By no stretch of one’s imagination could it be described as a social contract.

A Constitutional Commission

If any lessons are to be learnt from the mistakes of the past or the experience of other democratic countries, the task of drafting a constitution ought to be entrusted by parliament to a small but politically independent and representative constitutional commission. Before such a body, the government and other political parties, in