Proposed 20A to the Constitution makes the President “a super-creature” – Suren Fernando
ECONOMYNEXT – The proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution concentrates power in the President creating a “super creature not accountable to Parliament or the Courts,” says lawyer Suren Fernando.
Fernando, who was a National List nominee for the main opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya, (SJB) says the sweeping powers given to the Presidency takes away the checks and balances on the powers of the President brought in by the 19th Amendment (19A).
The government yesterday Gazetted the proposed amendments which also allows dual citizens to hold political office.
This would open the door for Basil Rajapaksa, the Chief Organiser of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna to enter Parliament and hold a Cabinet position.
The younger Rajapaksa brother of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa is a dual citizen of the United States and Sri Lanka.
In an interview with EconomyNext Fernando said the crucial proposal to diminish the powers of the Constitutional Council (CC), created by the 19A will move power away from Parliament to the Executive.
The proposed Parliamentary Council will have no civil society representation and can only advise the President.
The previous CC made the appointments and also reviewed the work of the independent commissions.
The incumbent President “will have the sole power to appoint the members to Commissions, the Apex Courts (Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal) as well as the Inspector General of Police and the Attorney General.”
“This creates the risk that President will appoint people he thinks are favourable to him,” Fernando says.
In the case of Parliament and the Cabinet, the President under the proposed amendments will have the supreme power to appoint anyone he wishes as Ministers. The President can also hold any Ministry he wishes.
“This means that that through this power, he can control Parliament as well,” Fernando opined.
The Amendment does say that the President is answerable to Parliament, “but that will be nominal,” Fernando says.
Under the 19A the President could only appoint Members of Parliament on the advice of the Prime Minister.
The proposal also abolishes the Audit Service Commission and the National Procurements Commission which were introduced by 19A as watchdog bodies on Public Finance.
“It was because of the Audit Commission that the Bonds Scam was discovered,” Fernando said.
The 20A also re-introduces the immunity granted to the President which was taken away in the 19A. Currently the President is immune from criminal prosecution during his term. (Colombo September 4, 2020)
Reported by Arjuna Ranawana