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Sri Lanka: How Ali Sabry defended Gota’s 20th Amendment in replying to UN CCPR

United Nations CCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) review of Sri Lanka will be held on 6th and 8th March 2023.

UN/NHRI/NGO briefing for Panama and Sri Lanka will be held at 10h00-12h00 on 6th March.

Consideration of the sixth report of Sri Lanka (public) will beheld at 15h00-18h00 on 8th March 2023.

For the review process Sri Lanka had to send replies to the issues raised by the Committee. These replies have been compiled under then Minister for Justice Ali Sabry and dated 06th May 2022. Just 3 days before the Rajapaksa family led assault on peaceful Aragalaya protest.

All States parties must report on the measures they have adopted relating to the rights described in the Covenant, and on the progress the State has made in the enjoyment of civil and political rights.

The Sri Lanka Government replies posted on the UN Huma Rights Committee web site shows how Minister Ali Sabri defended all actions of the Gotabaya regime including the infamous 20th Amendment tot he constitution.

The same Ali Sabry now supports Ranil Rajapaksa presidency and the 21st Amendment.

Here are the replies in relation to 20th Amendment send by Sri Lanka under Ali Sabry:

Question 2: 20th Amendment

  1. It may be noted that the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was abolished and was replaced by the 20th Amendment to the Constitution which was adopted with a 2/3 majority of the Parliament on 22 October 2020.
  2. In respect of the 20th amendment to the Constitution, the GoSL wishes to point out that the amendment concerned was enacted in full compliance with the procedure set out in the Constitution with regard to enacting legislation, which contains a number of in-built safeguards relating to transparency and judicial review aimed at preventing the passage of bills that are in contravention of the Constitution including its fundamental rights chapter.
  3. It may be also noted that the 20th Amendment to the Constitution was only an interim measure as an immediate remedy for paralysis of the Government existing at the time, and will eventually lead to a comprehensive constitutional reform process which is currently underway.
  4. In this context, it must also be noted that the judicial oversight provided under the Constitution under the 19th Amendment remains unaffected under the 20th Amendment.
  5. It may also be noted that the Parliamentary Council under the 20th Amendment consists of Members of Parliament and comprises the following:

(a) the Prime Minister;

(b) the Speaker;

(c) the Leader of the Opposition;

(d) a nominee of the Prime Minister, who shall be a Member of Parliament; and

(e) a nominee of the Leader of the Opposition, who shall be a Member of Parliament:

Provided that, the persons appointed in terms of sub-paragraphs (d) and (e) above shall be nominated in such manner as would ensure that the nominees would belong to communities which are communities other than those to which the persons specified in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) above, belong.

  1. The functional independence of the key Commissions including the Human Rights Commission, the Election Commission and the National Police Commission has not been eroded and continue to function under the Constitution and law governing their establishment, powers and functions without any compromise to the independence of such Commissions.
  2. It is pertinent to note the following provisions of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, which introduces Article 35 to the Constitution which reads thus:

 “35. (1) While any person holds office as President, no  proceedings shall be instituted or continued in any court or tribunal in respect of anything done or omitted to be done by him in his official or private capacity:  Provided that nothing in this paragraph shall be read and construed as restricting the right of any person to make an application under Article 126 against the Attorney-General, in respect of anything done or omitted to be done by the President, in his official capacity:  Provided further that the Supreme Court shall have no jurisdiction to pronounce upon the exercise of the powers of the President under paragraph (g) of  Article 33. 

(2) Where provision is made by law limiting the time within which proceedings of any description may be brought against any person, the period of time during which such person holds the office of President shall not be taken into account in calculating the period of time prescribed by that law.  

(3) The immunity conferred by the provisions of paragraph (1) of this Article shall not apply to any  proceedings in any court in relation to the exercise of any power pertaining to any subject or function assigned to the President or remaining in his charge under paragraph 2 of Article 44 or the proceedings in  the Supreme Court under paragraph (2) of Article 129  or to proceedings under Article 130 (a) relating to the election of the President or the validity of a referendum or to proceedings in the Court of Appeal under Article 144  or in the Supreme Court relating the election of a Member of Parliament: 

Provided that any such proceedings in relation to the exercise of any power pertaining to any such subject or function shall be instituted against the Attorney General”

  1. As such it is evident that any contention that the President has an unfettered discretion is misconceived, and does not take into consideration the checks and balances embedded in the Constitution in that regard. 

Read all replies to listed questions as a PDF:SL replies to CCPR 2023 G2233830

All reports related to the review can be accessed here: Human Rights Committee

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