Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 27 September 2015





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

CC primed for take-off

Parliament approves civil society nominations :

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe Speaker Karu
Opposition Leader R.Sampanthan Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa
JVP MP Vijitha Herath Dr. Radhika
Minister W.D.J.
Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne Shibly Aziz PC

The National Unity Government’s genuine desire towards strengthening the democratic foundations took another step forward with the formation of the 10-member Constitutional Council (CC) to urgently reactivate the 11 independent commissions that come under its purview, ensuring independence to key institutions including Police, Bribery and Election Commissions.

The reactivation of the CC has taken a new turn in Sri Lanka’s democratic structure, which was at a standstill over the past several years due to the non-functioning of several independent institutions that had been confined to mere names. The CC was first introduced by the United National Party (UNP) Government under the 17th Amendment to the Constitution in 2001 to ensure more transparency with the creation of a Council with representation from the executive and legislative branches, the government, political parties, and the public.

However, the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government in 2010 replaced the 17th Amendment with the 18th Amendment, establishing the Parliamentary Council, which was no longer an authoritative body but merely one that only had the power to nominate members to the independent commissions.When the CC was first introduced in 2001, many including professionals and civil society members welcomed the move hoping that the independence of vital institutions would be preserved. However, under the former UPFA Government, the functions of independent institutions such as the Human Rights Commission became obsolete.

Despite the presence of the Parliamentary Council, it was former President Mahinda Rajapaksa who had the final say over the appointments of his own political appointees to key positions of these independent bodies. President Maithripala Sirisena promised to re-introduction CC to ensure the independence of 11 key institutions which comes under its purview - the Elections Commission, the Public Service Commission, the National Police Commission, the Audit Service Commission, the Human Rights Commission, the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption, the Finance Commission, the Delimitation Commission, the National Procurement Commission, the University Grants Commission and the Official Languages Commission. Parliament on April 28 this year passed the landmark 19th Amendment to the Constitution with an overwhelming majority to prune the draconian powers of the Executive Presidency and also to set up independent commissions under the CC to depoliticise major arms of the State such as the judiciary, bureaucracy, Police and the Elections Commission.

The 10-member Constitutional Council appointed under the 19th Amendment to the Constitution consists of Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Opposition Leader R.Sampanthan, Ministers Patali Champika Ranawaka (nominated by President Mathripala Sirisena to represent the Head of State), Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, W.D.J. Senewiratne and JVP MP Vijitha Herath and three civil society representatives. The names of three civil society members to the council - Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne, founder, Sarvodaya Movement, Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy, former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict and Shibly Aziz, President’s Counsel were approved by Parliament on Tuesday (September 22) completing the formation of the ten member CC.

CC composition

Originally, the composition of the CC comprised seven independent members belonging to the civil society and three Members of Parliament. However, many UPFA members opposed the composition, fearing that the UNP’s tenure in the opposition had created a strong link between the party and civil society. The UNP, which categorically rejected such claims stated that the appointment of the members of civil society to the Council would only go ahead following approval by Parliament. However, in order to ensure the passage of the 19th Amendment, then UNP-led minority government was forced to change the composition of the CC to seven Members of Parliament and three civil society members.

Criticism has emerged over the composition of the Council, with some political analysts arguing that MPs who hold ministerial portfolios should not be elected as members of the Council. Critics say that since Patali Champika Ranawaka and Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe are ministers in the current Cabinet, it would open avenues for accusations of political interference. When the Motion was moved on Tuesday (September 22) to seek Parliament’s approval to appoint the three civil society members to the CC, MEP leader and UPFA Colombo District Parliamentarian, Dinesh Gunawardena, raising a point of order demanded to know as to how two Cabinet Ministers have been included in the CC.

MP Gunawardena said when the 19th Amendment was brought before Parliament for approval, it was stated that the CC would not include members of the Cabinet, to maintain its independence from the Executive. That has been changed with the appointment of two members of Cabinet to the CC. The MP demanded an explanation from the government as to how it changed from its previous position. The inaugural meeting of the CC was convened on September 10 under the patronage of Speaker Karu Jayasuriya. At their meeting, the Speaker stressed the need to quickly constitute the Council and begin appointment of members to the Commissions. After completing the appointment of its ten members, the CC reconvened at the Parliamentary complex on Wednesday (September 23).

The main function of the Council is to recommend suitable persons for the position of Chairperson or members of the independent commissions coming under the purview of the Council. No person shall be appointed by the President to any of the offices of the 11 commissions unless such appointment has been approved by the Council upon a recommendation made to the Council by the President.

Main function

In the discharge of its functions relating to the appointment of Judges of Supreme Court and the President and Judges of the Court of Appeal, the Council shall obtain the views of the Chief Justice, the Minister in charge of the subject of Justice, the Attorney General and the President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka. The Council shall meet at least twice every month, and as often as may be necessary to discharge the functions assigned to the Council and such meetings shall be summoned by the Secretary General to the Council on the direction of the Chairman of the Council. The Council shall once in every three months, submit to the President a report of its activities during the preceding three months.

Subject to the provisions of Article 126, no court shall have the power or jurisdiction to entertain, hear or decide or call in question, on any ground whatsoever, or in any manner whatsoever, any decision of the Council or any approval or recommendation made by the Council, which decision, approval or recommendation shall be final and conclusive for all purposes.



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