To: All Honourable Members of Parliament.
An earnest request to the Sri Lankan Parliamentarians:Support the passage of the proposed 19th Amendment to the Constitution
As you debate the above Constitutional Amendment in the Parliament under challenging circumstances, we thought that it is important to encourage you to see to its successful passage.
One of the major political reforms put to the people of Sri Lanka at the January 2015 Presidential election was the abolition of the Executive Presidency. The Presidential Election Manifesto and the various promises made during the election campaign led the people of Sri Lanka elect President Maithripala Sirisena in the belief that an interim national government, with Ranil Wickremasinghe as Prime Minister, will enact constitutional amendments to abolish the Executive Presidency. Almost all political entities and individuals who supported the ‘Common Opposition Candidate’, with the exception of Pivituru Hetak Jathika Sabhava, had the strongest expectation of fully abolishing the Executive Presidency.
The same manifesto also pledged to: … … abolish the 18th Amendment to the Constitution and replace it with the establishment of independent Commissions in order to secure the impartiality of institutions such as the judiciary, police, elections, auditing and the office of the Attorney-General (p.16). These far-reaching constitutional reforms are fundamentally vital for ‘good governance’ the people of Sri Lanka rightfully deserve.
We recognise that the proposed 19th Amendment to the Constitution will abrogate the 18th Amendment, and enable the establishment of Constitutional Council and other Independent Commissions. The Amendment also upholds proper procedures for making judicial appointments and recognises the ‘Right of access to information’ held by the government.
In light of the fact that the complete abolition of the executive presidency could only be achieved with the approval at a Referendum, AAGGSL strongly urges all political entities and individuals to support the passage of the proposed amendment, irrespective of their political differences. This will at least ensure partial fulfilment of the aspirations of the majority of the citizens, who voted for establishing Good Governance and enduring peace in Sri Lanka. Concerns of electoral reforms – though important – are secondary for now, and they can be and should be addressed in the spirit of things, responsibly and separately.
The recent Supreme Court decision – that the Parliament with two-thirds majority could (a) take away the Executive powers to appoint judges of the Supreme Court; (b) appoint Police Commission, Public Service Commission, Human Rights Commission, Elections Commission and Bribery Commission – gives renewed impetus for the passing of these important amendments.
We urge that you act in the best interest of the country at heart with courage and good will.
Please be advised that the AAGGSL respects the rights and will of all peoples of Sri Lanka, and is committed to supporting the establishment of practicing democracy and rule of law in our motherland. Strengthening democracy and empowering people always receive global recognition.
Dr Lionel Bopage
President, Australian Advocacy for Good Governance in Sri Lanka