Friday, March 4, 2016

Fundamental Duties of the State,Political Parties and Citizens

by Laksiri Fernando
In seeking public opinions for a New Constitution, the Public Representations Committee (PRC) led by senor lawyer and social activist, Lal Wijenayake, has asked what form that a chapter on ‘directive principles of State policy’ should take. There is such a chapter in the present constitution, and there was one in the previous 1972 constitution. However, both constitutions said ‘these are not justiciable,’ to mean legal proceedings could not be initiated, making them effectively inoperative.  
The related questions asked or topics given by the PRC are ‘fundamental rights and duties’ and ‘individual rights and group rights.’ Considering that the proposed New Constitution should be ‘progressive, futurist, innovative and people centred,’ it is the opinion of the present author that instead of merely emulating a chapter on ‘directive principles,’ there could be a more effective chapter on ‘Fundamental Duties of the State, Political Parties and Citizens.’ This is in addition to a chapter on ‘fundamental human rights and freedoms.’  
This chapter could be ‘justiciable’ in the sense that ‘public interest litigation’ could be initiated in contrast to individual fundamental rights cases, and under any necessary prescribed limitations, to make particularly the State and the political parties accountable on the principles enunciated in this chapter. One necessary ingredient might be a ‘Human Rights Court’ both hearing cases under the fundamental rights chapter and ‘public interest litigation’ under the proposed present chapter. There is also an increasing awareness and opinion, following some initiatives in Germany, to make the political parties accountable and/or make them effective and constructive parts of a constitutional system.
This article proposes 16 propositions as examples of how such a chapter on fundamental duties, binding on the state, the political parties and also the citizens could be formulated. As you could see, the ‘non-governmental sector’ is roped into the formulations. The private sector is also not spared. While some of the propositions are routine or traditional, others might give perspectives on future directions.   
Constitution and Country             
It is the primary duty of the State, all state institutions and representatives/officials to recognize the Constitution as the supreme and fundamental law of the country and obey its provisions. All political parties, non-governmental sectors and all citizens are obliged to do the same while retaining the freedom to peacefully criticise and seek changes to its provisions in part or as a whole.
It is the duty of the State to protect and preserve sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity of the country. All political parties, non-governmental sectors and all citizens are obliged to do the same while retaining the freedom to peacefully differ, criticise and seek changes to the policies of the State in respect of the above.
Social and Ethnic Harmony   
It is the duty of the State to promote national unity among the people, build ethnic and religious reconciliation and harmony and maintain peace and stability in the country. All political parties, non-governmental sectors and all citizens are obliged to do the same while retaining the freedom to peacefully differ, criticise and seek changes to the policies of the State in respect of the above.
It is the duty of the State to recognize the diversity of cultures, customs and practices and protect them as far as they are not in breach of the constitution, laws or the cultures, customs and practices of others. It is the duty of the State to promote multiculturalism in the country, set out its policies and at the same time promote Sri Lankan identity above and over multiculturalism. All political parties, non-government sectors and all citizens are obliged to do the same while retaining the freedom to peacefully differ, criticise and seek changes to the policies and practices of the State in respect of the above.
The State shall not promote in any manner ethno-nationalism in the country directly or indirectly. On the contrary, the State shall promote civic nationalism and liberal patriotismbased on most enlightened religious and secular principles, fundamental human rights, and cosmopolitanism. The State shall launch educational programs, formal and informal, to promote the above. All political parties, non-government sectors and all citizens are obliged to do the same and participate in such educational programs at will while retaining the freedom to peacefully differ, criticise and seek changes to the policies and practices of the State in respect of the above.
Social Justice, Equity and Poverty Alleviation  
It is the duty of the State to ensure and promote social justice in all spheres of economic, social, political, civil and cultural life of the people taking inspirations and guidelines from international human rights and democratic norms and strictly following the ‘fundamental human rights and freedoms’ chapter in the Constitution. It is the duty of all political parties, non-governmental sectors and all citizens to do the same while retaining the freedom to peacefully differ, criticise and seek changes to the policies and practices of the State in respect of the above.
The State has special obligations to alleviate poverty and look after the poor and the marginalized in society. It is the duty of the State to promote policies and programs tobridge the gaps between the rich and the poor and promote equitable income distribution throughout the society and the country as much as possible. The State should seek the cooperation of the private sector and all sections of the society to develop the economy and society, in a sustainable and equitable manner and it is the duty of the private sector, all political parties, other sectors of society and all citizens to support the State in these ventures while retaining the freedom to peacefully differ, criticise and seek changes to such policies and practices.
Children, Women, Elderly and Disabled  
The State has special obligations to look after the rights and welfare of the children, women, elderly and people with disability. It is the duty of all political parties, non-governmental sectors, private enterprises and all citizens to support such efforts and likewise look after the rights and welfare of the children, women, elderly and people with disability within families and in society.
Free Education and Health Care
It is the duty of the State to maintain and promote free education including higher education with the cooperation of the private sector as necessary. It is also the duty of the State to maintain and promote free healthcare and hospitals with the cooperation of the private sector as necessary. The public private partnership (PPP) should be the norm. On both education and health, the State should determine target allocations from the annual budgets from time to time. When citizens offer education or health in the private sector, the State should ensure that those services are affordable. The State should have a national medical drugs policy to ensure all necessary medical drugs are affordable and available. It is the duty of all political parties, non-governmental sectors, the private sector and all citizens to support the policies and programs of the State onfree education and health care as much as possible while retaining the freedom to peacefully differ, criticise and seek changes to such policies and programs.
Welfare and Social Services
It is the duty of the State to maintain and promote general welfare and assistance services as necessary to the citizens without any political or any other partiality through the national services, provincial councils or local government institutions. These should be announced in national, provincial and local government budgets and policies. It is the duty of all political parties, non-government sectors and all citizens to support such efforts while retaining the freedom to peacefully differ, criticise and seek changes to such policies and programs. It is the prerogative of all citizens not only to obtain these services as necessary but also to support them through voluntary work or any other means.  
Environmental Protection
It is the primary responsibility of the State to protect the environment within its territory, land and offshore, in line with international standards and efforts, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is the duty of all political parties, non-governmental sectors including the private enterprises and all citizens to do the same and support the efforts of the State in those ventures while retaining the freedom to peacefully differ, criticise and seek changes to the policies and practices of the State.
Personal Security, Law and Order   
It is the primary duty of the State to maintain law and order and ensure social and personal security of citizens through effective and citizen’s friendly police service/s and other law enforcement agencies particularly preventing robbery, theft, crime and violence in society. It is the duty of all political parties, non-governmental sectors and all citizens to cooperate with the State, the police service/s and other law enforcement agencies in preventing robbery, theft, crime and violence in society while retaining the freedom to peacefully differ, criticise and seek changes to the policies and practices of the State, the police service/s and other law enforcement agencies in this respect.
Duties of Public Servants   
It is the primary duty of all State officials including the police officers to serve the citizens, be polite to them, and maintain the best professional standards and refrain from favouritism, nepotism or any kind of monetary or other misdeeds. It is the duty of all political parties, non-governmental sectors and all citizens to extend cooperation to state officials, follow all relevant rules in dealing with them and refrain from trying to influence them politically or in any other respect while retaining the freedom to peacefully raise issues, stand for one’s rights or peacefully differ, criticise and seek changes to the public services and practices as relevant.
Duties of Political Parties and Leaders
It is the duty of all political parties to be democratic in their policies and organizational structures, maintain high professional standards and refrain from nepotism, and any kind of monetary or other misdeeds. It is the duty of political party leaders to be accountable to their members, party organizations and maintain transparent and accountable practices for campaign funding and refrain from nepotism or any unethical practices.      
It is the duty of all political parties, politicians, national, provincial or local, to maintain high standards of professional ethics and refrain from favouritism, nepotism and any kind of monetary or other misdeeds. It is the duty of the State to have codes of ethics for all members of parliament, provincial councillors, and local government representatives.
Duties of Citizens                     
It is the duty of all citizens to be respectful to each other, recognize each other’s dignity and rights, be reasonable and rational in all dealings with the state officials or fellow citizens and refrain from violent or aggressive behaviour at all times. All politicians, citizens and media personnel should refrain from hate speech or expressions that could lead to incitement or social disharmony.    
Note that the duties to respect human rights including economic and social rights and freedoms are not included here as they can be more effectively protected and implemented through a ‘Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms’ chapter. All legally enshrined fundamental human rights automatically generate necessary duties.  

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