The proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution rejects the core of democracy, which is one of the progressive elements of humanity, hence should not be enacted, says the Amarapura-Ramanna Samagri Maha Sangha Sabha.
Issuing a statement today they say, “steps must be taken to draft a new Constitution that upholds democracy and rule of law.”
We publish below the statement in full:
The Amarapura-Ramanna Samagri Maha Sangha Sabha made its position clear on the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution, and further confirmed that the proposed amendment is regressive and paves the way for an undeveloped tribal society, that will seriously impede progressive characteristics of human society such as freedom of thought and action, and therefore, the Sangha Sabha decided to make a strong emphasis to the Government that they should not pass the proposed 20th Amendment.
At present most countries in the world have based their government systems on the democratic principle that the three branches of the state, i.e. the legislature, the executive and the judiciary, should keep the equilibrium by means of checks and balances on each other. In 1978, introducing a new Constitution, Mr. JR Jayewardene undermined the system of checks and balances and concentrated unprecedented powers in the executive branch of the government. Since then, a broad discussion took place in the country, and 37 years later, in 2015, the 19th Amendment to the constitution restored those checks and balances removed by President Jayewardene. The proposed 20th Amendment once again threatens democracy by undermining the system of checks and balances. The end of this process will mark the birth of authoritarianism, arbitrary despotism.
The Government, in support of the 20th Amendment, emphasizes that their effort to bring in the 20th Amendment is to reverse some of the obstacles introduced by the 19th Amendment. However, here we wish to mention that justification put forth by the government needs deeper scrutiny. The 19th Amendment clearly made some legislation that strengthens the sovereignty of the people. Some of the progressive enactments of the 19th Amendment are as follows:
1. Re-introducing the Constitutional restriction for two terms for a President by Article 31(2), which had been removed under the 18th Amendment;
2. Restricting foreign citizens from becoming Members of Parliament or President by Article 91 (c) XIII;
3. Establishment of a Constitutional Council to oversee appointments to important positions in public service;
4. Establishment of Independent Commissions by Article 41 (b) VI;
5. Subjecting the appointment of Judges to superior courts by President, to the approval of the Constitutional Council by Article 41 C.
The above facts very clearly show that the 19th Amendment to the Constitution is not a regressive reform as the government claims. However, legal experts have pointed out technical shortcomings in the 19th Amendment, as such, any reform to the Constitution must attempt to redress the prevailing shortcomings and remedial action to address them. Instead, bringing in a new constitutional amendment such as the 20A, will only bring regressive reforms, add negativity and undemocratic features to the present Constitution. Following are some of the regressive elements proposed by the 20th Amendment.
1. Although the Parliament holds powers over public finance according to Article 148 of the Constitution, the 20 Amendment proposes to remove the offices of the President and the Prime Minister from the purview of the Auditor-General thus not subjected to government audit. This contradicts with the articles 3 and 4 of the constitution that specify people hold the sovereign power of the state;
2. The proposed changes to Articles 44, 45, and 47 under the 20th Amendment seem to invalidate the mandate and independence of the Members of Parliament;
3. The proposed 20th Amendment seem to subject the public service under direct political authority;
4. The proposed 20th Amendment, by Article 103, seem to remove the independent mechanism for elections;
5. The proposed 20th Amendment, by Article 109, seem to challenge the independent existence of the judiciary;
6. The proposed 20th Amendment, by Article 122, seem to abolish the right of the people to plead justice from judiciary;
7. The proposed 20th Amendment, by Article 153, seem to open space for embezzlement, fraud, and corruption.
In consideration of the above, it is quite clear what the country needs now is a new Constitution that suites a modern nation to face the challenges and steer the country forward, hence not another amendment to the constitution that undermines and paralyses aspects of democracy and humanity.
Therefore, we hereby kindly emphasize to the Government to foster a broad public discourse on a new Constitution that suits the country, and ensure that the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution is not enacted and conform the same by the Parliament.
Pallekande Rathanasara Thero
Sri Lanka Amarapura Maha Sangha Sabhawa
Aththangane Sasana Rathana Thero
Sri Lanka Ramanna Maha Nikaya