Rights, freedoms first topic for charter writing

Rights, freedoms first topic for charter writing

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Rights, freedoms first topic for charter writing

The charter commission meetings will take place not on Parliament’s main campus but in its nearby historical additional building on Atatürk Boulevard. AA photo

The “rights and freedoms” chapter of the constitution will be the first issue on the agenda of Parliament’s constitution making commission when it begins to write the draft of the new charter on Wednesday, the Hürriyet Daily News has learned.

The decision was made during a preparatory meeting of the cross-party Constitution Conciliation Commission last week with the assumption that the “rights and freedoms” topic would be the least contentious. When discussing the new text, the existing constitution will not serve as a reference.

Under the general principles agreed on between commission members, each issue will be discussed as a whole and then according to sub-topics. Individual commission members will make the proposals. Once the “rights and freedoms” chapter is closed, the commission is planning to proceed with the chapters of “legislation,” “justice” and “relations between central government and local administrations.”

A sub-commission made up of one lawmaker from each of the four parties is scheduled to convene today to discuss further details about the writing process. The whole commission will then convene on May 8 to seal an accord, which will be signed on behalf of the four parties.

Even though the Republican People’s Party (CHP) agrees in principle with the points agreed upon so far, the party will make a proposal for the commission to start working from the “preamble” section rather than the “basic rights and freedoms” chapter. “If we manage to write down a sound preamble in consensus, it will be easier to write down the remaining articles. Drawing up the articles first and then coming back to the preamble may create problems,” CHP commission member Atilla Kart told the Daily News.

Total consensus
According to other main points agreed on last week, the commission will work full-time, three days a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays with the objective of drawing up the draft by July. But if they miss their deadline the commission will continue working throughout the summer with a goal of getting the draft ready for submission to public debate in November.

The provisions will be drafted by the lawmakers themselves and not the legal advisors they have assigned to help them. When necessary, the experts will step in to provide assistance. Nothing will be put down in written form unless all four parties agree on the wording. The commission will be dissolved if any of the parties withdraws.

Discussions at the commission will be recorded in full, but a party will be able to ask that any given assessment it makes be kept out of the minutes. Upon such requests, the recording will stop and a complete “blackout” will be imposed.

Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek will not be required to attend all meetings. When Çiçek is absent the parties’ representatives will chair the meetings on a rotating basis. The commission will make periodical public statements on the proceedings.

The commission has also agreed to pay visits to the four party leaders on May 15 if their schedules that day allow. The leaders will be asked to voice strong support for the new constitution and not make the issue a subject in political bickering.

‘Digital manipulation’
Daily News has learned that the CHP voiced concern during last week’s meeting that the commission’s discussions could be listened in on and called on the government to take measures against such an eventuality. The CHP’s Kart told his fellow commission members that the building where the new charter would be written is next to the Undersecretariat for Public Security and could be eavesdropped on. Çiçek did not respond to Kart at the meeting but later told journalists that all illegal wiretappings should be prevented.

In further remarks at the commision Kart raised suspicions that thousands of letters sent by citizens online were part of a government-backed campaign to “impose” certain views on the panel. “The commission had received 21,500 opinions by April 20. From April 20 to April 30, the number of opinions reached 45,000. From April 30 to May 4, the number rose further to 65,000. And those opinions came in the form of the same 19-point proposal. The commission has virtually come under digital pressure. It is a manipulation done with government power. Certain views are being imposed. This has created serious concerns,” Kart was quoted as saying.