By Chandani Kirinde
A Private Member’s Bill to enable the President to hold the Ministry of Defence and any other ministries will be introduced to Parliament by MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe shortly.
The 22nd Amendment to the Constitution has been published in the Gazette ahead of its presentation to the House, Rajapakshe told Daily FT. The Amendment, he says, is intended to give clarity to the allocation of ministries to the President, which has become a grey area under the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.
The provision will come as an amendment to Article 43 of the Constitution and states, “The President shall hold the Ministry of Defence and any other ministries.”
Rajapakshe said that the Supreme Court in a 2003 determination ruled that plenary executive power including the defence of Sri Lanka is vested and reposed in the President of the Republic of Sri Lanka, and hence it is only the President who can hold the Defence portfolio.
“There can be no grey areas and lack of clarity in a Constitution, which is why I am introducing the amendment as the 19th Amendment has brought about a lot of confusion,” he said.
No one has been allocated the Defence portfolio by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, even though Chamal Rajapaksa was appointed as the State Minister for Defence.
Prior to the enactment of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, the Defence portfolio was held by the President, but this constitutional enactment prohibits the Executive from holding any ministry.
Thirty-one State institutions including the Police Department, State Intelligence Service (SIS), Department of Immigration and Emigration, Registration of Persons Department and National Dangerous Drugs Control Board as well as the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRC) were brought under the purview of the Defence Ministry by the subjects and functions Gazette issued by the President even though there is no clarity on who the Minister in charge of the subject is.
President Rajapaksa has said he would abolish the 19th Amendment if his party gets a two-thirds majority in the next Parliamentary Election.
Meanwhile, MP Rajapakshe’s Amendment to the Constitution also seeks to vest back with the President some of the powers that were reduced by 19 A.
This include giving him the discretion to appoint Superior Court judges as well as other officials such as the Attorney General, the Auditor General, the Ombudsman, etc. bypassing the Constitutional Council.
“The only requirement for the President when making these appointments should be to do so in consultation with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) in case of judges and the Public Service Commission (PSC) in case of other public officials,” he said.
Such appointments are now made subject to the approval of the Constitutional Council.