… adequate checks and balances in place
The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has warned the government and all political parties represented in parliament that if the 21st Amendment (introduced in Parliament as the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution Bill) fails to create strong independent institutions, it will affect future law reform initiatives such as the anti-corruption composite bill. Here is the full text of BASL’s statement: “The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) notes that on October 21, 2022, Parliament approved the enactment of the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution, which has now been renamed 21st. Amendment to the Constitution.
The Bill approved by Parliament was broadly that which was introduced in Parliament on August 10, 2022 and published in the Official Gazette on August 2, 2022 by the Government, subject to some amendments at committee stage mainly to put it in accordance with the determination of The Supreme Court.
The need to amend the Constitution arose following the public outcry that erupted across the country in response to the current economic crisis. the executive, including the executive presidency. The 20th Amendment to the Constitution nullified the checks and balances introduced by the 19th Amendment on the exercise of executive power.
Unfortunately, the 21st Amendment to the Constitution does not fully restore the status quo ante which prevailed before the 20th Amendment to the Constitution and does not place adequate checks and balances on the powers of the executive president.
The BASL, in its previous statements on the 22nd Amendment bill, pointed out the bill’s shortcomings and the danger that the appointments of a majority of members to the Constitutional Council would be controlled by the party or parties in government, which which would cause it to lose its independence and therefore affect the independence and integrity of the offices and institutions that will be appointed through the Constitutional Council.
Nevertheless, now that the 21st Amendment is signed into law, it is essential that the Constitutional Council to be appointed under it and the independent commissions that will be subsequently reconstituted be independent, impartial and be institutions that will contribute to restore confidence in Sri Lanka and its Establishments.
As such, the BASL calls on the President, the Prime Minister, the President, the Leader of the Opposition and all political parties represented in Parliament, to guarantee in the first place the integrity of appointments to the Constitutional Council and to ensure that that these appointments be free from partisanship. and in such a way as to inspire public confidence. To this end, it is important to ensure that non-ex officio members of the Constitutional Council appointed from among parliamentarians and from non-members of Parliament are transparent. and open and also to ensure that those appointed are acceptable to members of the public and are persons of the highest integrity and reputation.
Once the Constitutional Council is established, it should then adopt a transparent, open and inclusive process by which it appoints the chairpersons and members of the independent commissions and other institutions established by the Constitution and other laws. It is also noted that upon the enactment of the 21st Amendment, the chairmen and members of independent commissions will cease to hold office upon the reconstitution of those commissions.
In doing so, it is imperative that those appointed to the Election Commission, the Civil Service Commission, the National Police Commission, the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission, the Commission for investigating allegations of bribery or corruption, the Finance Commission and the Boundaries Commission should be individuals who not only have the required qualifications and ability, but also those whose appointments are widely accepted. It is also important to ensure that the enactment of the 21st Amendment is not used as an excuse or mechanism to disband committee chairs and members whose services have helped establish public trust in these institutions.
It is also vital that the government make provision for the commissions to have financial independence and that these commissions adopt procedures that promote accountability and transparency in their work. will also affect future law reform initiatives, such as the Anti-Corruption Compound Bill, and will have a negative impact on the rule of law in Sri Lanka