28 March, 2020

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Resist Any Attempts To Dilute The Composition Of Constitutional Council: BASL Tells Maithripala

There is a move to dilute the provisions of the 19th Amendment by seeking to have the majority of the membership of the Constitutional Council comprise of Members of Parliament, say the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

Geoffrey Alagaratnam President Bar Association of Sri Lanka

Geoffrey Alagaratnam
President Bar Association of Sri Lanka

Sending a letter to the President a short while ago the BASL said; “Such a move will dilute the independence of the Constitutional Council and will in effect take the nation back to the period of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, and will lead to a serious erosion of democracy.”

“We wish to bring to the notice of Your Excellency the vehement opposition of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, to any move to dilute the composition of the Constitutional Council. Such a move will seriously affect the independent nature of the appointment of judges and will effectively make the 19th Amendment worthless.” the BASL said.

We publish below the statement in full;

26th April 2015

His Excellency Maithripala Sirisena,
President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka,
Presidential Secretariat
Colombo 1.
Your Excellency,

MOVES TO DILUTE THE PROVISIONS OF THE 19TH AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has consistently urged the executive and the legislature that the process of appointment of judges should be in a transparent and independent manner in order to uphold the independence and integrity of the judiciary.

It is in this light that the Bar welcomed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution and urged Members of Parliament to enact the changes set out therein in so far as it relates to the Constitutional Council, the Independent Commissions and the appointment of Superior Court judges.

Upholding the submissions made on behalf the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, the Supreme Court, has, in its determination observed that the Constitutional Council as proposed by the 19th Amendment would be a representative body reflecting the views of diverse groups in Parliament and would be apolitical in so far as the seven non ex-officio persons who are not politicians and are distinguished in public or professional life, are concerned.

The Bar Association now learns that there is a move to dilute the provisions of the 19th Amendment by seeking to have the majority of the membership of the Constitutional Council comprise of Members of Parliament. Such a move will dilute the independence of the Constitutional Council and will in effect take the nation back to the period of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, and will lead to a serious erosion of democracy.

The Bar is mindful that democracy being left entirely in the hands of politicians is not a healthy practice and that constant vigilance and an input from society is vital for a vibrant democracy

We wish to bring to the notice of Your Excellency the vehement opposition of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, to any move to dilute the composition of the Constitutional Council. Such a move will seriously affect the independent nature of the appointment of judges and will effectively make the 19th Amendment worthless.

The Bar views with equal concern the effort to remove from the 19th Amendment, the Minister of Justice and the President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka ,from the consultative process suggested to appoint Superior Court Judges.

The Supreme Court in its determination held that seeking the views of different stakeholders in appointing judges including the Minister of Justice and the President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, will not be offensive to the powers of appointment, but will rather enhance the quality of those appointments.

In these circumstances we urge Your Excellency to resist any attempts to dilute these salutary provisions already considered and upheld by the Supreme Court. Such a move would defeat the very purpose of the 19th Amendment, which Your Excellency has been so steadfastly striving to have enacted.

Yours faithfully

Geoffrey Alagaratnam
President Bar Association of Sri Lanka

Ajith Pathirana
Secretary Bar Association of Sri Lanka

cc.
Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe, MP, Prime Minister of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Hon. Nimal Siripala de Silva, MP, Leader of the Opposition.

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    Well done BASL. Always give priority to the rights of the people. Theres still a big role to play in introducing proper democratic mechanism to safe guard the peaceful co existence of all communities.

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