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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Govt. & Opposition Agree on 10-member Constitutional Council

( President Sirisena has appointed Champika Ranawaka as his representative to the CC)

In spite of heavy ‘confrontations’ both in and outside parliament over allegedly fraudulent Treasury bond issues, the UNP-led government and the Opposition have reached agreement on the formation of a 10-member Constitutional Council paving the way to the setting up of 11 Independent Commissions.

Of the 10-member Constitutional Council, three are ex-officio members – namely Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa and Opposition Leader Nimal Siripala de Silva.

In accordance with the recently adopted 19th Amendment to the Constitution, Wickremesinghe and de Silva named MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, PC and John Seneviratne as nominees of the UNP and the SLFP, respectively, government sources told The Sunday Island.

Responding to a query, sources said that Wickremesinghe and de Silva had agreed on one-time UN Under Secretary General Radhika Coomaraswamy and former Auditor General S.C. Mayadunne as two of the three civil society representatives in the CC, whereas Muslim political parties agreed to reach a consensus on their representative over the weekend.

SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem yesterday told The Sunday Island that consultations were taking place among Muslims, including Minister A.H.M. Fowzie, UNP General Secretary and Minister Kabir Hashim as well as Minister Rishard Bathiudeen to reach agreement on what he called an eminent and apolitical person. “We confident of reaching agreement on this during the weekend, he said.”

Sources said that smaller parties, including the JVP agreed on veteran politician R. Sampanthan as their representative. President Maithripala Sirisena named JHU stalwart Patali Champika Ranawaka as his representative, setting the stage for the CC to meet this week to enable the setting up of 11 Independent Commissions. JHU spokesperson Nishantha Sri Warnasinghe yesterday confirmed Minister Ranawaka’s appointment.

Well informed sources said that the formation of the 11 Independent Commissions would pave the way for President Maithripala Sirisena to dissolve parliament. Sirisena told state and private heads of media as well as editors of print media that a new government would be in place in September though he didn’t comment on possible date for dissolution of parliament. However, the President emphasized in no uncertain terms that failure to reach consensus on electoral reforms envisaged in 20th Amendment to the Constitution wouldn’t be an obstacle to his plans to dissolve parliament to ensure September deadline for a new government.

Ministerial sources told the Sunday Island that the dissolution would be subject to appointment of the 11 Independent Commissions. Sources pointed out that the CC’s composition had to be amended due to the SLFP strongly objecting to original proposal for seven civil society members in the grouping.

Ministerial sources said that the UNP gave in to the SLFP’s demand to ensure Opposition backing for the 19th Amendment.

Sources said that all Independent Commissions would be activated before the dissolution of parliament though some were skeptical about the possibility.

The passage of 19A fuelled speculation that Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha thera, who had spearheaded the campaign to oust then President Mahinda Rajapaksa would be accommodated in the CC. The Opposition also alleged that the UNP was planning to include lawyer J.C. Weliamuna and prominent human rights activist Dr. Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu in the CC.

The UNP alleged that a group backing former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had been working overtime to undermine 19A and the subsequent process meant to name 10-member CC and members of Independent Commissions. That had been a strategy to destabilize the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration, the UNP said, expressing confidence the government project was on the right track.

by Shamindra Ferdinando



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