The Pulse

Public Perceptions on Constitutional Reform in Sri Lanka

A new report highlights some important issues.

Public Perceptions on Constitutional Reform in Sri Lanka
Credit: CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay

The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) is out with a new report on constitutional reform in Sri Lanka. The paper is based on field research that was conducted in August and September of this year. It includes data from all of the country’s twenty-five districts. This is another clearly written and compelling report from CPA’s survey unit, Social Indicator. Constitutional reform is a major component of the coalition government’s agenda.

Let’s look at some of the findings.

Broadly speaking, Sri Lankans are not very aware of the constitutional reform process. 1.1 percent of Sri Lankans are extremely aware that such a process is taking place. 21.9 percent are somewhat aware. Approximately 25 percent of respondents didn’t know that a constitutional reform process had been undertaken.

Moreover, nearly 70 percent of respondents have not heard of the Public Representations Committee on Constitutional Reforms (PRC), the entity created to get feedback from the public vis-à-vis constitutional reform. Less than 1 percent of respondents are extremely aware of the PRC.

In terms of the specifics pertaining to reform, 34 percent of respondents believe the country needs a new constitution. On the other hand, 34 percent of respondents say what’s needed is for changes to be made to the existing constitution. There are other interesting data points about whether the executive presidency should be abolished and how the state should be described, among other matters.

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Aside from the public’s overall lack of awareness about the process, another key takeaway from the report is that there doesn’t appear to be any sort of national consensus about what should be done. That isn’t surprising, although it means that the government’s messaging, awareness-raising and communications strategy surrounding this initiative is crucial. Quite evidently, Colombo’s performance thus far leaves a lot to be desired.