By Kingsley Karunaratne –
The Meeting of the Christian Solidarity Movement was held on 26th Nov. evening, presided by its Convener Rev. Fr. Sarath Iddamalgoda at the auditorium of the Centre for Society & Religion, Colombo. The theme for discussion was about 13th amendment, abolished 17th amendment and the 18th amendment to the constitution and the concerns re’ impeachment motion of Chief Justice. The guest speaker was the Human Rights Activist, S.G. Punchihewa, the attorney at law.
He first referred to the constitution changes done in 1972.He said that it was a basic interference into the basic administrative system which was introduced in 1947.In 1972 Public Service Commission was abolished and the functions carried out by the PSC was handed over to the cabinet. So after 1972, cabinet ministers undertook the functions of previous Public Service Commission, thereby the politicization of entire public service thus commenced and the honorable civil service which the British started was disconnected. The independence of the civil service was seriously damaged as a result.
In 1978, the Public Service Commission was again established but the system of having permanent secretaries was not restored. With the creation of executive presidential system, the civil service came under the control of the President. During 1947 to 1972, the civil service which the British introduced to our country was framed within the basic framework of the Rule of Law.
The 13 Th amendment was brought by President J.R. Jayawardena on the influence of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of India in 14th of Nov.1987, for the devolution of power of the centre to the provinces. This was actually meant for North & East provinces, but the then government wanted to implement to all the provinces as well to the North & East. This is a system where the political power, language etc.are shared through a system of Provincial Councils.
On 3rd October 2001, the 17th amendment was introduced with the unanimous agreement of all parties of the parliament to depoliticize the system of governance. A constitutional council was formed accordingly and five independent commissions were formed, for public service, Elections, Police Service, Human Rights, and Judicial services. The appointments to the commissions were done as per the recommendations of the constitutional council, thereby making the system independent.
However in 8th September 2010, the 18th amendment to the constitution was passed, abolishing the 17th amendment. Accordingly the independent public institutions cease to exist in Sri Lanka. Under this system, Punchihewa explained how the Attorney General who has directly come under the President had acted during the past two years without any impartiality.
On the impeachment motion of the Chief Justice, he said that the three institutes, Legislature, Executive and the Judiciary must act independently within the scope of their power limitations as described in the constitution. The sovereignty of the people depends on the political power, fundamental rights and the franchise.
There is one institution, Judiciary even with the weakening done in 1972 & 1978 constitutions, it has a limited power to declare whether a proposed bill is in conformity with the constitution or not. The judiciary used this power and declared the Divineguma bill to be unconstitutional as in its present form. So this angered the government and the net result is the impeachment of Chief Justice. Actually speaking, according to him, the sections 38 & 39 are inconsistent with the constitution. This prevents the right to information of the citizen. Some sections do not consistent with the sole authority of parliament on public finance.
Though the impeachment had been brought under the article 107(2), it is not consistent with article 4 (c), he argued. He further said that the way in which the inquiry of impeachment article 107(3) is not that clear. In India, from 1968, there is a clear cut procedure to impeach a higher court Justice, which is feasible and fair. Finally he stressed that even just a minor employee of the state enjoy legal job security whereas the Chief Justice has been denied the justice and the equal protection of law as a citizen according to article 12.
After this speech, the meeting converted into round table discussion and after many deliberations, the following resolutions were adopted unanimously.
1. The struggle for changing the entire system (constitution) to be continued while at this crucial stage, we as Christians must object to this impeachment process.
2. Members of the Christian Solidarity Movement must gather outside the Supreme Court Complex adjoining Law Library and protest for one hour from 8am to 9 am on 4th December 2012.