12 June, 2024


Reforms Must Strengthen Democracy

By Karu Jayasuriya

Karu Jayasuriya

It is my pleasure to send good wishes to the 9th Parliament that was declared open yesterday (August 20th). The new Parliament embodies the strong mandate given to the government. It is also welcome that more than a third of the Parliamentarians are first-time members, reflecting the people’s wish for a fresh start.

The observations made here in good faith are based on the 2/3 mandate sought and received by the Government at the Parliamentary elections held this month.

In his policy speech, His Excellency Gotabaya Rajapaksa announced the wish of his government to abolish the 19th Amendment to the Constitution and, subsequently, to introduce new constitution to the country. The 19th Amendment was a near-unanimous amendment to the Constitution. It was passed with an unprecedented 215 votes in favour.

As person who has dedicated the whole political career to the cause of strengthening Sri Lanka’s democracy, I would like to draw the attention of H.E. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Hon. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and the government to the need to protect and enhance the essence of democracy embedded in the 19th Amendment.

The 19th Amendment to the Constitution embodies the democratic aspirations of the people at the time of its adoption. The only progressive reform before the 19th Amendment was the 17th Amendment to the Constitution that was passed in 2001.

The 17th amendment was born as a result of the public outcry during the famous Wayamba Elections where several malpractices, killings, arson and harassment took place. Members of the clergy of all faiths, academics and members of the opposition, civil society and professionals voluntarily formed in to a ‘citizens committee’ that drafted the first document. The committee was chaired by me when I served as the Mayor of Colombo. The JVP agreed to support the then PA/SLFP government on the basis that 17th Amendment was introduced. Although independent commissions were formed the Elections Commission did not function due to the disagreement with regard to the Chair. Then President was not agreeable to appoint the suggested name. The Elections Commission was established in 2015.

As envisioned by Most Venerable Maduluwawe Sobitha thero, the 19th Amendment could build on that and strengthened the Parliament, reduced excessive powers accumulated in Presidency, re-introduced independent commission to ensure that critical institutes of the country such as public service, judiciary, electoral system, human rights and Police etc. are protected from political influence. It also introduced the Constitutional Council, with the membership of the government, Opposition, and the civil society to have a process by which appointments to important positions and independent commissions are made with a national consensus.

In the spirit of the 19th Amendment, it is welcoming to note that the President appointed 26 Ministers to the Cabinet, thereby following the 30-member limit introduced under 19A. Further, the Right to Information act, which is considered as one of the best in the world, has been integrated into the 19A, by way of recognizing Right to Information as a fundamental right. This is the only improvement to the fundamental rights introduced under the 1978 constitution.

These reforms have been enacted after wide consultation and negotiation within the Parliament and the civil society. In fact, the majority of the approving votes came from the UPFA members, led by President Maithripala Sirisena in 2015. Besides, even the present Parliament consists of a majority of members who have voted for the 19th Amendment.

In this situation, if the government abolishes the 19th Amendment, and a new Constitution is passed, that must be done after wide consultation with all stakeholders, including all political parties, citizens’ organizations, and eminent individuals and general public.

Democracy is a much-valued legacy of Sri Lanka and people treasure the freedoms they have. 19th Amendment symbolizes this democratic spirit. I request H.E. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Hon. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to undertake to properly analyze and evaluate any technical shortcomings of the 19th Amendment while respecting and upholding the essence of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in future reforms. As the proverb goes, one should not ‘throw the baby away with the bath water’. As such, respect for democracy and rule of law is mandatory for us to rise as a proud nation in the world.

As a responsible and concerned citizen, I wish good luck to the new government and the proposed constitution-making process, with the sincere hope that it will strengthen Sri Lanka’s democracy and provide an inclusive platform for the country to achieve prosperity for all.

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Latest comments

  • 4

    Mr Jaysooriya thank you for your article.

    What do you make of the composition of new parliament ? What is your opinion about man who threw human/cow urine on to your parliamentary seat – Prasanna Ranaweera/ one another condom supporter of Mahinda Rajakashes is now a state minister in the incumbent adminstration ?
    I always thought you were one of the best speakers we ever had in srilanken parliamentary history. On very day bitch s sons attacked you with Miriskudu/Chili powder and physical objects that caused srilankens to loose almost their image that the former leader had maintained. Following that brutal acts of RAJAKSPHE supporters in the parliament, International community questioned how could the srilankens ever be buddhists ? Buddhism according to them is known as one of the great philosohies that promote non-violence.
    There I happened to share some of my friends that srilanka is practising not buddhism, but a religion based on JATHAKA STORIES (myths as they described in Mahanwansha) rather than the true teachings of lord buddha. Not even 1% of so called buddhist monks in the country today are real buddhist monks. For some reasons they may have entered to MONKHOOD, but as of today, they have been destroying the buddhadama as no times in the past.

    • 1

      LM’s comment is what most right minded SL citizens think of SL situation. The choice of M.Sirisena was a MEGA-BLUNDER by CBK and others. Second blunder was to appoint Ranil. W as PM as he had obligations to Mahinda R for allowing him to Lead the UNP &prevented Sajith P or any others to take over the Lead of UNP. I simply fail to understand why TNA was supporting him in 2018 october. They should have supported Mahinda R as PM after getting somethings to alleviate TAMILS PLIGHT. Now the minorities are at the mercy of Sinhala Buddhists. I too want to keep all the good things of the 19th amendment.Do not chuck them as they were not the cause of failure of the previous regime.

  • 0

    yes Karu people voted against the endless commissions’ and the 19th amendment.

    So keep your opinions.

    • 3

      People did not vote against the commission. They did bot vote for pohotuwa. They voted against Sirisena RW mal administration
      They were so angry that they did not know what they were doing
      Karu is trying to tell them what they have done.
      Thank you Karu for that noble thought

  • 7

    This must be based on advice given by Prasad Kariyawasam, paid for by USAID!
    What more discussion does 19 A need? There was five years of its operation with the result of paralysis of the country, forced to keep 225 rogues in parliament due to the limits it imposed, preventing a change in October 208.
    Bugger that. People have given a mandate, virtually a referendum on 19A.

    • 0

      I did not know it was referendum on 19A. It was a general election. What an ignorant fellow I have been

  • 3

    All these power greedy mentally sick SLPP/SLFP inept nitwits will soon automatically fall into the Jayawardena Oya which is if I am right falls on the road to the parliament.
    Forgive me, I think that I have got the name of the river wrong.
    These power-crazy mostly with a criminal low-class background eve since their landslide victory have enabled the tone of quality of the present rank and file.
    Only the opposition has got a decent good breed of MP’s.
    Even the reduced 26 cabinet ministers along with the extra 38 so-called State Ministers are mainly of dubious character swabasha specialists with many a gamma ganankarraya trait’s.
    With this blend of acharu MP’s can one ever except the concept of democracy to be preserved.?
    Unless a miracle happens this sad sorry a Rajapuka creation shitty country will continue in every facet to be the globe’s best pariah beggar colony about to expand its current status as these present rulers who without a cent in the coffers of the government will take more and more loans especially from China at very high rates of interest to survive for their day to day existence.?

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