Jan 06

The President, the Speaker, the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, Members of Parliament, Judges of the Supreme Court and countless lesser mortals in public service have, as a pre-condition to assuming and functioning in their respective offices, sworn or affirmed that they would uphold and defend the Constitution of Sri Lanka, and faithfully perform the duties and discharge the functions of their said offices in accordance with the Constitution.

Now, the appointment of the members of the Constitutional Council and the Independent Commissions is a mandatory constitutional function effectively entrusted to the President, the Speaker, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.  Upon the passing of the 17th Amendment on 3 October 2001, they did appoint a Constitutional Council; and the Council, in turn, did its duty by the Constitution in recommending persons for appointment to the various Independent Commissions.  However, the former President failed, for her own reasons, to fulfill her duty to appoint the Election Commission and also delayed for several years the proper constitution of the Permanent Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption.

On account of the laxity of all the parties on whom the duty of appointing suitable persons to the Constitutional Council devolves, not only has the Council itself ceased to exist but so have the Public Service Commission and the Police Commission.  It will not be very long before the Human Rights Commission also breathes its last.  To compound this dereliction of their sacred duty, some of the parties concerned are trying to justify their failure to act by (a) blaming each other, and/or (b) arguing that this dilly-dallying has become necessary because the 17th Amendment needs improvement.

Long before our legislators found it convenient to pick holes in the 17th Amendment, CIMOGG, the OPA and others have pointed out the need to improve it.  This task is being looked into energetically by the OPA, with CIMOGG’s active participation, and whatever improvements are eventually recommended could, in due course, be looked into by the legislature, voted upon, and implemented.  However, the exercise of working out the changes required to be made to the 17th Amendment does not provide any justification whatever for the President, the Prime Minister, the Speaker and the Leader of the Opposition to continue with their present violation of the Constitution.

An ancillary point, with profound ramifications, needs to be considered in this context. If these important personages, who together represent well over 80% of the population of Sri Lanka, are going to treat our Constitution with such scant regard, would anyone believe that they would conform to any of the subsidiary laws of this country or honour any international or other treaties or agreements they enter into?

CIMOGG, therefore, calls upon these august personages to implement the current provisions of the 17th Amendment, as its stands, so that this gross violation of the Constitution is not prolonged any further.  Any proposed impovements to the 17th Amendment may be considered thereafter.


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