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Two more petitions to be filed against 20A by CPA and SJB

ECONOMYNEXT – The Main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) are to file Fundamental Rights Applications before the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka today challenging the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution, spokesmen for the bodies said.

The Executive Director of the CPA Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu and his organisation are petitioners while the SJB and its General-Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara will sign the opposition party’s petition.

Another petition by a private citizen had been filed yesterday shortly after the controversial amendment was tabled in Parliament, court sources said.

The amendment, proposed in Parliament by Justice Minister Mohamed Ali Sabry, reverts to a powerful Executive Presidency, undoing many of the changes brought about by the 19th Amendment which was passed by Parliament in 2016.

The proposal disempowers the Independent Commissions controlling the Police, Judicial Appointments, The Auditor-General’s Department and Elections bringing the appointments under the direct purview of the President.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who has repeatedly said he cannot carry out his developmental agenda with the current curbs on the Presidency, has claimed authorship of the 20A. The Cabinet of Ministers who approved of the proposal unanimously has taken “collective responsibility” for the draft.

Yesterday Opposition Parliamentarians staged a noisy protest against the proposal with the Leader of the Opposition Sajith Premadasa calling it a “dark day for democracy.”

“We are not against the President having power but the Prime Minister also must have power and there should be checks and balances for both,” Premadasa said taking a point of order.

“The President and the Prime Minister are both elected by the people and there must be power vested in them,” he said.

CPA, a think tank, published an analysis of the 20A by Constitutionalist Asanga Welikala in which he wrote that the “central problem with the Twentieth Amendment is that it attacks both cardinal principles of constitutional democracy.”

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“By removing virtually every established constitutional limit on the powers of the executive presidency, it attacks the idea of constraints. The system of unlimited rule by one person it will introduce is not an expression of popular sovereignty, but the cession or alienation of sovereignty from the people to the will of one person,” Welikala said.

“It is by articulating this conceptual basis of what is required by constitutional democracy that we can assess and understand the potential effects of the Twentieth Amendment Bill.” (Colombo September 23, 2020)

Reported by Arjuna Ranawana