20A will impact women negatively: SJB women’s wing Samagi Vanitha Balavegaya

Samagi Vanitha Balavegaya (SVB), the Samagi Jana Balavegaya’s women’s wing

ECONOMYNEXT – The Samagi Vanitha Balavegaya (SVB), the women’s wing of Sri Lanka’s main opposition party Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), has expressed “grave concern” at what it calls the deleterious impact that the proposed draft 20th amendment to the constitution would have on women and children in Sri Lanka.

“We are saddened that the struggle for dignity and rights of the women of Sri Lanka may be further jeopardised due to the attempted over centralisation of power in the presidency,” the SVB said in a statement.

If the executive branch of the country enjoys overly extensive governing privileges, the group said, it may misuse these privileges or abuse their powers.

The SVB further said that in a democratic system, the government should be based on a separation of powers, and the independence of those powers, specifically, that of the judiciary. The judicial branch should, therefore, institute limitations and preventives to restrain the powers of all branches so as to ensure that the acts of governments remain as lawful as possible.

Raising concerns about the abolishment of the constitutional council, the approval of appointments and the proposed parliamentary council, the SVB said that women’s and children’s rights in public and private life have often been obtained and ensured of implementation by independent commissions like the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka and protected by the courts.

“These institutions which are vital for women and children struggling to find redress in difficult circumstances have been deeply compromised by the 20th amendment which affects their independence and impartiality and will have a direct and harmful impact on women and children,” it said.

The statement also said the 20th Amendment would in effect relegate the judiciary to a position inferior to that of the executive and legislature in Sri Lanka and added that an independent, impartial, honest and competent judiciary is integral to upholding the rule of law, engendering public confidence and dispensing justice.

“Judicial appointments to all levels must be made on merit on the basis of clearly defined criteria and by a publicly declared process. Women are especially vulnerable in the area of justice,” SVB said.

It further stated that decreasing the power of the auditor general denies women access to crucial information to hold the state accountable for its expenditure, especially regarding state entities that make decisions which affect women and children, particularly in institutions in which the majority of employees are women.

By removing the progressive legislation enhancing the people’s sovereignty in setting out the duties of the president through the proposed amendment, the SVB said, it also removes the president’s duty to promote national reconciliation and integration, the “most pressing need”, especially for the many women and children who have been affected by Sri Lanka’s decades-long history of conflict.

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In conclusion, the SVB said that it is essential that there exist laws outlining the rights of the people and the duties of the State. For this reason, the group said, legislators have often carefully drafted rules of civil and criminal procedure.

“These rules should ideally include safeguards so that the State does not abuse its powers or exceed its authority to an extent that negatively affects human rights. These safeguards are indispensable to women and children in their struggle for justice and equal opportunities to contribute to the well-being and progress of Sri Lanka,” it added.(Colombo/Oct21/2020)

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