COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister who failed to fully de-politcise the public service due to opposition filibustering, managed to save the elections commission from last ditch attempts to further undermine their independence.
A Constitutional Council which will oversee several individual commissions was to have a majority of non-political members, but the opposition managed to keep it politicized by pushing for a majority to be politicians.
Prime Minister Wickramasinghe said he gave into the demand to have a majority of politicians in the commission to save other aspects of the 19th amendment but said he would make further attempts in the future to produce an independent public service.
During the Committee stage debate, opposition parliamentarians demanded a clause to make the individual commissions coming under the Constitutional Council separately answerable to parliament.
Wickremesinghe said he had already agreed to opposition demands to put 7 politicians to the Constitutional Council and it was not correct to put them under further controls of politicians.
He almost managed to get the house to agree to allow the individual commissions to give six monthly reports, but was shot down by Wimal Weerawansa backed up by opposition members.
Weerawansa insisted that the parliament was not a politicized body under the control of one party. The Parliament however had earlier removed an entire 17th amendment in a partisan manner.
"Let the Commissions be a buffer between the politicians," Wickremesinghe pleaded, to no avail.
Though he failed to save the Police Commission, Wickremesinghe steadfastly refused to give ground in the case of the Elections Commission insisting repeatedly that it be removed from the list of being made directly answerable to parliament and be completely independent.
The Judicial Services Commission was also outside the list.
The opposition also wanted further changes on giving authority for disciplinary action on policemen to the police chief instead of the Police Commission.
Wickremesinghe said he was well aware of how the police functioned under the Rajapaksa regime and he did not need to be told. Justice Minister Wijedasa Rajapaksa said the Police Commission could delegate the power if it wanted to.
The independence of Sri Lanka’s public service during the British period and until the republican constitution was ensured by the Civil Service Commission which was in charge of appointments, transfers and disciplinary action.
As a result politicians were unable to interfere in the public service especially in punishing public servants for not carrying out their instructions.