Samagi Jana Balawegaya Kalutara District MP Rajitha Senaratne yesterday charged that the attempts to arrest Rishad Bathiudeen and his bother are politically motivated.
“We can clearly see what’s going on here. Riyaj Bathiudeen was released, and the 100 Government MPs filed a petition about it. He was released after an investigation. Has even one of those MPs read the investigation reports?” the former Health Minister questioned.
Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Colombo district MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe has submitted a 09-page letter to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa with regard to his concerns on the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution.
In this letter MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe has written regarding the 20th Amendment, he has stated that he wrote his concerns as no one was allowed to speak about the 20th Amendment in the meeting convened by the President on the 09th of October.
Have China’s efforts to regain its loss of credibility in the wake of its clumsy handling of the information on the Covid-19 virus outbreak from Wuhan in December 31, 2019 (actually according to the medical journal Lancet, it was first noticed on December 1, 2019), failed?
It would seem so as the latest Pew Research Center report released on October 6 indicates that negative perceptions on China have risen sharply in many countries.
The results of the survey of 14,276 people conducted in 14 countries showed that a majority of the people had an unfavourable view of China. The negative views scored 81 percent in Australia, 74 percent in the UK, 71 percent in Germany and 73 percent in the US. That whopping 78 percent of the people say that they don’t trust President Xi Jinping should be of concern to the leader out to create a new world order and realise his Chinese dream.
If the survey had included India, probably the results would have been even more damaging for China, after the PLA’s unfinished adventurism in Ladakh.
The 20th Amendment should not be proceeded with in its entirety and instead a new Constitution should be the national priority at this moment, the Catholic Bishops Conference (CBC) said today.
The statement issued by the Catholic Bishops Conference is as follows:
In the wake of the change of government following the presidential and parliamentary elections, the Catholic Bishops Conference in Sri Lanka is constrained to share its grave concern to protect the sacredness of the state that transcends the mutable political and governing bodies.
The 1978 constitution changed primarily the Westminster type cabinet democracy to an executive presidency. Since then the 19th Amendment has been made citing various reasons. However, one cannot deny that the main reasons have been to ensure economic growth, national security, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the island nation.
Apparently the projected 20th Amendment under consideration does not seem to put forward any other rationale for this move.
The Amarapura and the Ramanna Maha Nikayas yesterday made a joint appeal to the Government to withdraw the 20th Amendment to the Constitution warning that its enactment would seriously undermine democracy in the country and pave the way for authoritarianism and despotism.
The Secretaries of the two Nikayas, in a joint statement, called on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa not to go ahead with the enactment of the Bill, and also urged all Members of Parliament (MPs) to reject it.
“This Constitutional 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,” said Sri Lanka Amarapura Maha Sanga Sabha Venerable Maha Lekhakadhikari Dr. Pallekande Rathanasara Thera.
In a letter to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday former Minister Rishad Bathiudeen’s brother Riyaj Bathiudeen, said his release by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) was due to the CID being satisfied there was no evidence to warrant continued detention, and in accordance with a ruling issued by a Colombo Fort Magistrate.
The letter, which was issued to media by Riyaj Bathiudeen, said he was arrested on 14 April by the CID at his residence in Puttalam on the allegation that he had engaged in telephone conversations with Inshaf Ahamed.
A section of Sri Lanka’s powerful Buddhist clergy is opposing a Constitutional Amendment proposed by the government of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa which would have given him sweeping powers over Parliament and the Judiciary.
Two leading prelates representing two orders (Chapters) of monks told reporters that the 20th Amendment to the Constitution would “deal a death blow” to democracy in Sri Lanka.
Ven Prof Pallekande Rathanasara Thero Chief Registrar of the Amarapura Sect and Ven Aththangane Sasana Rathana Thero Chief Registrar of the Ramanna order told reporters in Colombo this afternoon that the proposed amendment will not have a balance of power between the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary.
The statement did not include the most powerful and influential of the Chapters of Monks, the Siam Nikaya. However, Rathanasara Thero said that their intention was to get all three traditions of Monks on board
“Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision, offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever, ’twixt that darkness and that light.”
“Then to side with truth is noble, when we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and ’tis prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses while the coward stands aside,
Till the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.” – James Russell Lowell
The coming week will see Five eminent Judges of Sri Lanka Go down in history following an anxiously awaited ruling by the Supreme Court on or before October 13th 2020. The five Judge bench is headed by Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya. The other four are the senior – most Supreme court judges namely Buvaneka Aluwihare, Sisira de Abrew,Priyantha Jayawardana and Viith Malalgoda.
As is well-known the Sri Lanka Podujana Party (SLPP) led Govt of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has gazetted the draft bill of the envisaged twentieth amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution. The draft in its present form seeks to disempower the Sri Lankan legislature, circumscribe the Judiciary and strengthen the executive to a very great extent. It is widely feared that if and when the 20th amendment comes into force ,the executive presidency would have the potential to evolve into a Constitutional dictatorship.
There is much concern over this among the people. Thiry-nine fundamental right petitions challenging the proposed 20th amendment have been filed. A record number. The petitioners are mainly from political parties and civil society organizations. They seek recourse from the Apex court in what may very well be a last ditch effort to thwart the attempt to institutionalise authoritarianism through Constitutional means. It is also noteworthy that this may be the last occasion where Sri Lankan citizens could mount legal challenges against proposed Constitutional changes in this manner. The 20th Amendment if passed in its present form will disallow it in the future.
The Courts have given a patient hearing to all submissions made by counsels on behalf of the various petitioners. Since there was a record number of petitions and the Courts were required by law to make a ruling within a specific time-frame time limits for the oral submissions had to be imposed. All submissions ended on October 3rd. The Court will deliver a ruling on or before October 13th to the Speaker of Parliament..
In handing down its determination on the 20th Amendment Bill, the Supreme Court has ruled that four clauses need a referendum of the People along with a two-thirds majority in Parliament while the rest can be passed by a two-thirds majority of Parliament alone, according to a copy of the Court’s opinion that was available with senior government officials yesterday.
The four clauses that four out of five judges held require a referendum as well as a two-thirds majority in Parliament are the 20th Amendment Bill’s restoration of Presidential immunity to the extent of preventing fundamental rights challenges by citizens, repealing the President’s duty to create the conditions for the holding of free and fair elections as requested by the Election Commission, the dissolution of Parliament within one year and removal of the constitutional duty on public officers to obey directives of the Election Commission with failure to do being an offence (Clause 22)
With the Supreme Court’s Determination on the 20th Amendment Bill being made available in the public domain, some aspects of the ruling warrant immediate attention. The 20th Amendment Bill had been challenged by thirty eight petitioners alleging inconsistency of its clauses with the People’s sovereign legislative and judicial powers.
The Bill was argued to require approval not only by a two-thirds majority in Parliament but also by the People at a Referendum. A Divisional Bench headed by the Chief Justice with four other judges heard the arguments along with submissions by eleven intervenient petitioners largely in support of the Bill
\Four clauses ruled as needing a Referendum
A more critically analytical appraisal must await the formal release of the Determination. But it may be opportune to look at the Court’s reasoning in regard to an aspect which has received close judicial attention and which consequently, is perhaps the most interesting thereto. This relates to Clause 5 of the 20th Amendment Bill which had, inter alia, sought restore presidential immunity to its original formulation in Article 35 of the 1978 Constitution. It did so in two ways.
First, by deleting the constitutional change brought to Article 35 by the 19th Amendment in allowing citizens to file citizens to file fundamental rights challenges to Presidential acts through citation of the Attorney General.
Second, by restoring the full power of the Executive Presidency as contemplated in the 1978 Constitution, the 20th Amendment Bill also brought back the ability to cite the Attorney General in proceedings relating to the exercise of any power pertaining to any subject or function assigned to the President or remaining in his charge under Article 44(2).
The Court looked at the second change as beneficial.
Charles Percival de Silva known as CP de Silva or CP was a mercurial personality who strode across the Sri Lankan -known then as Ceylon- political scene like a colossus. He passed away on October 9th 1972. CP de Silva was a former Civil servant and cabinet minister who was worshipped by thousands of farmers as a living Deity for the services he rendeted in the sectors of land settlement, irrigation and agriculture. CP’s crowning achievement however was in voting against his own party led Govt and bringing it down. His was a principled act necessitated by the ideal of resisting what he perceived as being the SLFP Govt’s “unadulterated totalitarianism” at that time. The contours of the CP de Silva saga is a fascinating tale worthy of being related on the occasion of his impending death anniversary on Oct 9.
C.P.de.Silva and Mrs. Bandaranaike
The world’s first woman Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike took office after polls in 1960 July. Her party the Sri Lanka Freedom Party(SLFP) had won 75 seats in a Parliament of 157 comprising 151 elected and 6 appointed MP’s. She formed a viable government with the six appointed MPs and the support of a few maverick independents. She herself was not an MP but became a senator in the upper House. As the years progressed the slender SLFP majority in Parliament became quite fragile.
Every now and then, my playlist reminds me of ‘Humne Toh Dil Ko Aapke Qadmon Pe Rakh Diya’, among my favourite Mohammed Rafi-Asha Bhosle duets. I don’t know enough Hindi to fully understand the lyrics, and I need Google to tell me it’s from a 1965 film called Mere Sanam, and that it was composed by O.P. Nayyar, whose name I first heard on TVS Saregama hosted by the mild-mannered Sonu Nigam in the 90s.
Incidentally, of all the video clips that have inundated social media after singer S.P. Balasubrahmanyam passed away last fortnight, it is one from a Nigam show that I have been going back to. On the show, speaking of why “Rafi saab” was the singer who had the “maximum influence” on him, SPB goes on to recall his student days when he would cycle to engineering college at 7.30 a.m. every day, and listen to one particular Rafi song and invariably tear up.
He then breaks into ‘Deewana hua baadal, saawan ki ghataa chaayee, ye dekh ke dil jhooma’ (from Kashmir Ki Kali, 1964). “That ‘ma’ [in jhooma]… can you imagine anybody else singing it with that sort of beautiful expression?” he says. “The man is coming into your ears, caressing, singing with a smile. How can you not fall in love?!”
Sixty-one years ago on September 25th 1959 Solomon West Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike (SWRDB) the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka known as Ceylon then was shot and seriously wounded by a Buddhist monk. Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranaike succumbed to his injuries and passed away the following day. Therefore September 26th 1959 got etched as an important date in the post-independence history annals of Sri Lanka.
The impact of that single assassination was tremendous at that time. The murder of a prime minister was sensationally shocking news. It was the first major political assassination experienced by the Island nation in the post-Independence era. In later years, political assassinations became a regular feature in Sri Lanka.. The death was an event of great historical importance too as it was the first ever assassination of a major political personality in the Island nation at that time. Thereafter September 26, 1959 got etched as an important date in the post-independence annals of Sri Lanka. It is against this backdrop that this column delves into what happened six decades ago relying to a very great extent on earlier writings in this regard. Continue reading ‘Murder Most Foul: Assassination of Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranaike’ »
( The great Tamil film actor Sivaji Ganesan was born on October 1st 1928. This article written in 2014 is re-posted here without any changes to commemorate the “Nadighar Thilagham”s Birth anniversary)
The first Tamil film which impacted on me greatly during childhood was ‘Veera Pandiya Kattabomman’. It was a kind of bio-picture about a ‘Paalayakkaaran’ or Polygar (feudal chieftain) who defied the British during the last decade of the 18th Century and paid the supreme penalty. Kattabomman whose full name was Veera Pandiya Kattabomma Karuthaiyya Nayakkar governed an area known as Paanchaalankurichi which is in the Thoothukkudi District of Tamil Nadu state in India.
Sivaji Ganesan (1 October 1928-21 July 2001) in “Veera Pandiya Kattabomman”
I was five years old when I first saw the film with my parents at Elphinstone Theatre. The upper portions of the theatre were encased in hardboard, resembling the structure of a fortress. There were two cut-outs on either side of two men with upraised swords on horses. In the middle was another cut-out of a man literally taking a bull by its horns. The two horsemen were Kattabomman played by the actor Sivaji Ganesan and his brother Kumaraswamy alias Ommaithurai played by OAK Devar. The man taming the bull was Vellaiyhathevan, the commander of Kattabomman’s forces. The actor was Gemini Ganesan. Continue reading ‘Sivaji Ganesan: Tamil cinema’s versatile actor par excellence’ »
Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith yesterday sought a clarification from the officials on what grounds the brother of Minister Rishad Bathiudeen who was arrested in connection with the Easter Sunday attacks, under the Prevention of Terrorism Act was released suddenly.
Riyaj Bathiudeen was arrested five months ago by a special team of the Criminal Investigations Department officials investigating the series of coordinated terror attacks in April last year where over 250 died while attending the Easter Sunday Holy Mass.
The charges against him were having direct contact with one of the Easter Sunday bombers and being a beneficiary of their funding. The police earlier said a day prior to April 21, Riyaj Bathiudeen had met one of the suicide bombers at a reputed hotel.
The Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith yesterday questioned as to how the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) had released suspects it had earlier claimed were directly linked to the masterminds of the Easter Sunday terror attacks without subjecting them to judicial process.
Addressing a news conference at the Archbishop’s House, Cardinal Ranjith expressed his “sorrow, sadness and complete refusal to accept” the conduct of the CID regarding the investigation into the Easter Sunday attacks.
His comments followed the CID this week releasing Riyad Bathiudeen, brother of former Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, after five months in custody. At the time of his arrest on April 14, the police had claimed Mr. Bathiudeen had direct links to the plotters.
The Government has allowed the ill-fated oil tanker that caught fire off the eastern coast last month to leave the country against the Marine Environmental Protection Authority (MEPA) directives and the Attorney General’s advice.
“The ill-fated crude oil tanker, the MT New Diamond, is being towed away from Sri Lanka against MEPA directives and the Attorney General’s advice regarding the pending marine pollution claim, the AG’s Coordinating Officer Nishara Jayaratne said yesterday.
Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera told the Sunday Times the vessel was allowed to be towed after an assurance that it would pay all dues to Sri Lanka. “The Singaporean salvage company was granted permission to begin towing on Friday night after last minute negotiations between stakeholders and the MEPA on Friday,” he said.
(Gamini Weerakoon is a former editor of The Sunday Island, The Island and consultant editor of the Sunday Leader)
‘So, so, what’s happening’, is the inevitable question Sri Lankan journalists have been confronted with over the years. And it continues still.
This is amazing considering the fact that politics is the sole interest of the majority of the populace. They watch the three daily newscasts of the main TV channels, listen to radio bulletins and in moments of leisure pull out their ‘smart phones’ and keep watching news flashes. And yet they do not seem to know: ‘What’s happening’. Why?
Do they not believe in the news that says everything is hunky dory in Paradise Isle as their news bulletins say and most newspapers say or that there is something hanky-panky about letting the people know?
In a chance conversation off a bylane in Polhena, Matara last Friday, a fresh faced resident with rosily chubby cheeks belying her probably 70-odd years had an astringent question for me; ‘if the President says there is no need for circulars and his word is enough for a public official (‘aanduwe niladhari’) to act on, failing which he or she will be punished, what will that official do if someone goes to court against that?’
I could only quip; ‘well, the President may very well tell the court also that his word is enough.’
The history that the ‘Sun King’ teaches us
But her query raises a serious point in law over and above all the (justifiable) howls of outrage that accompanied this stern directive by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in Haldumulla, Badulla that all his verbal orders must be treated as circulars or consequences will ensue. Notwithstanding those who may applaud this position based on their (also justifiable) criticism of a public service seen as inefficient at best and corrupt at worst, statements such as these will cripple the emasculated remainder of Sri Lanka’s administrative service.
From a firmly logical standpoint, my interlocutor put the matter very well with that question. Indeed, the issue is not merely with what the President may verbally order. As it is practically quite impossible for one individual to be directly communicating with his loyal subjects forming the voter base which electorally genuflected en masse for the Rajapaksas and who may very well be willing to do what he orders, the problem arises also with those who communicate what they will undoubtedly say, is the President’s orders. The nightmarish scenario that this conjures up is immediate.
From chaos of a particular kind that we have habitually experienced as the citizenry in this country, the potential for anarchy to ensue as a result of such statements emanating from the President is not hard to imagine.
The month of September 2020 was a crucial one for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who has been impatiently waiting to gain two-thirds majority support in the parliament in the parliamentary poll, to go ahead with his agenda. Gaining it with the reaffirmation of Sinhala majority has given him confidence to handle the nation, facing unprecedented economic woes due to global Covid pandemic.
In what appeared to be a hasty move, the government presented the 20th Amendment (20A) to the constitution bill to replace the 19th Amendment (19A) brought by the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government, to make the president more accountable to parliament and clipped some of his powers in key appointments of governance.
This move provided a bone to pick for the opposition, demoralised after their dismal performance in the parliamentary election. There were chaotic scenes when the bill was introduced, with the Opposition staging loud protests inside the House, countered by equally loud counter protests by the ruling party members.
The 19A decentralised the appointments to the nine commissions including the Elections Commission, the National Police Commission, the Human Rights Commission, the Finance Commission, the Public Service Commission, among others to a Constitutional Council. It rolled back the 18th Amendment, earlier brought in by the outgoing President Mahinda Rajapaksa that removed the two-term bar on incumbent president from contesting a third time. Under the 19A, the President also lost his power to sack the Prime Minister. It also placed a ceiling on the number of ministers and deputy ministers. Evidently, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa through the 20A has tried to not only undo 19A, but out do even the 18A.
Attorney General (AG) Dappula de Livera yesterday made a case in support of the 20th Amendment (20A) to the Constitution Bill stating its provisions did not contain anything new and most of the clauses can be found in 1978 Constitution and its 17th and 18th Amendments.
These he said were removed with the introduction of the 19th Amendment and are merely being reintroduced by the 20th Amendment.
He was making submissions before the five-member SC Bench headed by Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya PC and comprising Justices Buwaneka Aluwihare PC, Sisira de Abrew, Justice Priyantha Jayawardena PC and Vijith Malalgoda PC considering the petitions filed challenging the Bill as well as those supporting it.
A referendum is becoming the catchword of politics and calls before the Supreme Court on the 20A.
With the new Rajapaksa and Pohottuva craving a return to the JR Jayewardene rule of non-democratic authority, it is good to recall the reality of the first, and so far only, referendum in Sri Lanka, way back in 1982. It was the move by JRJ to extend the life of the parliament elected in 1977 for another six years. To get the people’s vote to keep the people out.
It was the JRJ move to prevent a general election, when several by-elections held showed the government was losing support, and JRJ’s UNP would not get a huge majority in the next parliament. With the main opposition leader Sirimavo Bandaranaike deprived of her civic rights, JRJ wanted to ensure his continuity in power with a parliamentary majority.
The virtual summit between the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa turned out to be somewhat surreal.
The summit was the first of its kind Modi has had with any South Asian leader.
The expectations were high. But fault lines have appeared.
On the core issue of the Sri Lankan Tamil problem, the joint statement (external link) issued after the September 26 summit says, ‘Prime Minister Modi called on the Government of Sri Lanka to address the aspirations of the Tamil people for equality, justice, peace and respect within a united Sri Lanka including by carrying forward the process of reconciliation with the implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa expressed the confidence that Sri Lanka will work towards realising the expectations of all ethnic groups including Tamils, by achieving reconciliation nurtured as per the mandate of the people of Sri Lanka and implementation of the Constitutional provisions.’
Clearly, Rajapaksa failed to give any commitment regarding the implementation of the 13th Amendment enacted by the previous government, which came to power in 2015 after his ouster.
By Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne President’s Counsel
Ask Indian lawyers what the worst judgment of the Indian Supreme Court has been and a large majority would surely say ADM Jabalpur (Additional District Magistrate, Jabalpur v S. S. Shukla, also known as the Habeas Corpus Case, reported in AIR 1976 SC 1207). Many of them would also point out that ADM Jabalpur was overruled 42 years later by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, son of Justice Y.V. Chandrachud, who was one of the judges in the 4-1 majority in the 1976 case.
Seen as one of the darkest spots in the history of the Indian Supreme Court, ADM Jabalpur validated the suspension of the writ of Habeas Corpus during the infamous Emergency under Indira Gandhi. Constitutional scholar Granville Austin observed in his book ‘Working a Democratic Constitution: A History of the Indian Experience‘: ‘The Habeas Corpus case captures the Emergency as nothing else’. Today, hardly any one defends ADM Jabalpur.
The case concerned a Presidential Order issued on 27 June 1975 under Emergency provisions suspending the issue of the writ of Habeas Corpus or any other writ or order or direction to quash an order of detention on the ground that the order was illegal or was vitiated by mala fides, factual or legal, or was based on extraneous considerations. The majority of judges held that if extraordinary powers are given, they have been given because the Emergency is extraordinary, and were limited to the period of the Emergency.
During the hearing, Justice Khanna asked Attorney General Niren De, if ‘supposing some policeman, for reasons of enmity not of state, kills someone, would there be a remedy?’ and De replied: ‘My Lord, not so long as the Emergency lasts.’
Former Minister Rishad Bathiudeen’s brother Riyaj Bathiudeen was released as there was insufficient evidence against him for a case to be filed over the Easter Sunday attack, Police Spokesman Jaliya Senaratne said today.
He told a news conference that investigations were carried out by the CID after detaining him in custody for five months and that it had been revealed that there was insufficient evidence against him.
The country has got caught in a whirlwind of anarchy. Although there are dictatorial aspirations and tendencies looming in the air, they are not likely to materialise and secure a firm foothold against the whirlwind of anarchy. The anarchy that sweeps the country will shatter both the limited democracy that prevails as well as the dictatorial aspirations. Yet still all the eyes are fixed on the 20th Amendment.
In regard to the subject of the Constitution particularly the knowledge of philosophical, legal and political concepts related to the Constitution is concerned, Sri Lanka lags far behind. The rulers of the country have often tended to violate the Constitution as if it was an act of heroism. Such actions of rulers do not seem to have provoked strong public protest. Also, instances were not rare when even the judiciary which is bound to defend the sanctity of the Constitution tends to support the rulers when they violated the Constitution, blatantly.
Generally the Constitution of a nation is reckoned to be the most supreme legal document over all the laws of the land that exemplifies the main functions and the structure of the State and their interrelationship, and the principles governing them.
Usually, the Constitution of a nation or a country is enacted for long-term purposes as against short-term objectives. The unwritten Constitution of Great Britain is more than 800 years old. The American Constitution is 230 years old. No matter how old the Constitutions of these two countries were; they haven’t got tired of their constitution.
So far, Sri Lanka has adopted three Constitutions in the last 72 years. The Government is now contemplating on making the fourth Constitution. This reflects that Sri Lanka has yet to acquire the knowledge and discipline needed for autonomous democratic rule despite 72 years having passed since independence.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has enlisted the Viyathmaga (Professionals for a Better Future) to facilitate and fast track various development initiatives assigned to State ministers.
In carrying out this task, the Viyathmaga Secretariat will harness its base of professionals as well experts from outside.
Anura Fernando, who is spearheading this initiative as General Secretary of Viyathmaga, told Daily FT that qualified, competent and passionate professionals who have time in the national interest would be appointed as Team Leaders on a range of socio-economic sectors to facilitate the State ministries.
“If the public do not have access to remedy a grievance against the unlawful exercise of powers by an all-powerful President the only remedy will be to take arms against the State” – Bar Association of Sri Lanka Committee Report on the 20th Amendment (5.1, p3)
A rousing accolade from a great friend blew a hole below the waterline of the case for scrapping the 19th Amendment and implanting the risky 20th Amendment.
The Shanghai-based YICAI Research Institute, part of the YICAI Media Group, China’s largest financial media conglomerate, listed Sri Lanka the second-best performer in the World Survey on Pandemic Control, in a survey of 108 countries. China came in first, while Sri Lanka out-performed South Korea (4th), New Zealand (8th), Vietnam (9th), Japan (18th) and Germany (23rd). (http://www.newswire.lk/2020/09/26/sri-lanka-rank-2nd-china-rank-1st-in-world-survey-on-pandamic-control-conducted-by-chinese-institut/)
Sri Lanka’s performance as the world’s No. 2 corona-beater, just behind China as No. 1, was achieved under the leadership of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa while the 19th Amendment was/is still in place, just as President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s historic victory over the LTTE was achieved with the 17th Amendment in place.
So, what’s the problem with the Presidency under the 19th Amendment that cannot be rectified by careful readjustment? Why run the grave risks of the 20th Amendment?
Attorney General Dappula De Livera yesterday informed the five-member bench of the Supreme Court considering the petitions in relation to the Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution Bill that the Government intends to bring amendments to the Bill at the Committee Stage.
The SC bench, headed by Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya PC, and comprising Justices Buwaneka Aluwihare PC, Sisira de Abrew, Justice Priyantha Jayawardena PC, and Vijith Malalgoda PC, are considering a record 39 petitions challenging the constitutionality of the Bill and several intervenient petitions.
The AG said the determination of the Court would have to be made on or before 13 October, and that the Government intends to move amendments to the Bill at the Committee Stage debate in Parliament.
However, Justice Sisira de Abrew observed that there is no guarantee that the amendments will be moved at the Committee Stage, and the determination of the SC will be on the Bill which was published in the Gazette.
The amendments the Government intends to move to the Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution (20A) Bill at its Committee Stage will include increasing the period that must elapse before the President may use his powers to dissolve Parliament to two-and-a-half years, while in the draft 20A Bill, the President could dissolve Parliament after a year.
Another amendment will be to increase the members of the Election Commission from three to five, and to make one of its members a retired officer of the Department of Elections or Election Commission, who has held office as a Deputy Commissioner of Elections or above.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has amended the Gazette of the Subjects and Functions assigned to Ministers and State Ministers and brought the National Priority Program under the Presidential Secretariat.
In the earlier Gazette issued on 9 August, the National Priority Program was not listed under any particular institute but in a new Gazette dated 25 September on the assignment of Subjects and Functions and Departments, State Corporations and Statutory Institutions to Ministers, this program has been listed under the Secretariat.
Hours after India and Sri Lanka issued a joint statement referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to the Sri Lankan government to address the Tamil minority’s aspirations, with the implementation of the 13th Amendment, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s office released a statement on Saturday, making no mention of Mr. Modi’s call, or the constitutional provision on power devolution.
Mr. Rajapaksa’s statement, following the leaders’ virtual meet on Saturday, focused on Sri Lanka’s response to the coronavirus pandemic that has drawn international praise. While outlining the talking points of their discussion — such as development, geopolitics, economy, defense and tourism —it was silent on justice and post-war reconciliation that remain sensitive issues to some in the southern Sinhala-Buddhist constituency, who fear power devolution might lead to separatism and justice might target the armed forces, who are accused of war crimes.
When former President Mahinda Rajapaksa lost the 2015 election, after his Cabinet colleague Maithripala Sirisena joined hands with rival Ranil Wickremesinghe in an unexpected alliance, his next moves were far from certain. In five years, not only is Mr. Rajapaksa back in power as he vowed, as the country’s Premier, but his new party has bulldozed Sri Lanka’s political terrain almost entirely, decimating the country’s two main national parties — the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) to which Mr. Rajapaksa belonged, and the United National Party (UNP) that dominated the island’s political landscape for seven decades post-Independence.
The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP or People’s Front), in less than four years after it was founded, has firmly established itself as the party of the people, mainly the majority Sinhala-Buddhist community, and its icons — the Rajapaksa brothers — as the country’s leaders.
While the party’s rise has been quick, its making was marked by an early start, consistent organising, and a series of well-calibrated political manoeuvres. For complacent political rivals, the SLPP’s moves may not have appeared drastic, but they proved lethal.
Calling on the newly elected Sri Lankan government to fully implement the 13th Constitutional amendment, Prime Minister Narendra Modi “highlighted” India’s concerns about the rights of the Tamil minorities, during talks with his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa.
During the bilateral talks held on Saturday, New Delhi promised a $15-million grant for the promotion of Buddhist cultural exchanges, but demurred from a decision on Colombo’s twin requests of a deferment of its debt repayment and a currency swap.
“Prime Minister Modi called on the Government of Sri Lanka to address the aspirations of the Tamil people for equality, justice, peace and respect within a united Sri Lanka, including by carrying forward the process of reconciliation with the implementation of the 13Amendment to the Constitution,” said a joint statement released after the meeting, in a clear indication that both sides agreed to the reference.
(The writer is Executive Director of the Law and Society Trust.)
Last week (15 September) International Democracy Day was celebrated and we in Sri Lanka also celebrated it with statements made by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition confirming Sri Lanka’s commitment to democracy. But how deep and how widespread and how true is our commitment to democracy, besides voting periodically at elections?
We are right in the middle of the first of a series of challenges that we will face. The 20th Amendment to the Constitution that is widely discussed does more than repeal the preceding 19th Amendment that the Government criticises for being poorly drafted and replete with inconsistencies. The 20th Amendment takes the country backwards to an era of uncontrolled presidential powers.
It is also a window into the soul of its sponsors and drafters of the amendment. What form and shape will we expect the ‘new constitution’ to take if these are the amendments to be made during the transition?
The majority of the constitutional amendments that were made to the 1978 Constitution were undertaken to suit the party in power. There was an accumulation of powers in the hands of the President. Parliament played the role of a rubberstamp and endorsed all the amendments.
Have we forgotten that every parliamentarian within the ruling party was ‘persuaded’ to give President Jayewardene undated letters of resignation? This effectively served as a gag order on them and they uncritically towed the President’s line.
(Gamini Weerakoon is a former editor of The Sunday Island, The Island and Consulting Editor of the Sunday Leader)
The intense gobbledygook that has been parroted on constitutional law, particularly on ‘20A’ in English and Sinhala in the media has left this columnist somewhat groggy.
It made us wonder whether the man on the street or the farmer toiling in his field did think about the implications of ‘20A’ or the 19th Amendment and JR’s Executive Presidency when he voted for Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s mandate or simply voted for ‘Appe Man’.
A term tossed about by constitutional pundits and media persons has been: ‘Democratic Dictatorship’ and variants of it as ‘Strongman Democracy’ and ‘Benevolent Democracy’. To the old school types of older generations, ‘Democratic Dictator’ is an oxymoron — a term with two contradictory meanings. ‘Democracy’, they learnt at school, was a ‘Government of the people, by the people for the people’. A ‘dictatorship’ broadly implied a form of government by a single individual or a group of leaders that do not tolerate opposing views, political pluralism or media independence. Democracy and dictatorship are like fire and water; fire and dynamite.
Yet in this Democratic Socialist Republic, there have been people who long for a strong ruler — a dictator. We recall a few years ago a report about a monk at an almsgiving calling upon Gotabaya to ‘become even a Hitler to save Sinhala-Buddhism from destruction by the Yahapalanaya government. There are many who long for the ‘glorious days of Sinhala monarchs’, most of whom were absolute despots ruling over a feudal society.
Modern-day advocates of despotism , those longing for a return to the days of Dutu Gemunu, Parakrama Bahu, Vijaya Bahu and the like, believe in political reincarnations like the Rajapaksas who could take Lanka back to those ‘glorious days ’.
Given highly misleading justifications of the draft 20th Amendment advanced by Government Ministers, including those who profess to have someh knowledge of the law and the Constitution, the record must be set straight even if that is the very least that is done.
Allegedly ‘undemocratic’ nature of the CC
The claim made by Education Minister GL Peiris to the media this week that transferring the President’s powers to make key appointments to an ‘unelected Constitutional Council (CC) is undemocratic’, falls squarely into this category of patently false explanations.
This is not a new argument. On the contrary, this claim has been regularly trotted out by politicians whenever the Constitution is captured by political majorities that use the electoral mandate to whitewash naked grabs for absolute power.
In law, the Supreme Court went into this question very well when it considered both the 17th (2001) and 19th (2015) Amendments to the Constitution. Very evidently, it rejected the claim of ‘transferral of powers’ from the President to the CC. That reasoning, it is of note, impacts not only on the constitutional nature of that objection but also on the allegedly ‘undemocratic’ nature of the CC that is being repeatedly drummed into our incredulous ears by spokespersons of the ruling party.
In sum, the argument presented by lawyers while objecting to the mechanism of a CC was that it impinges on the ‘sovereign power’ of the people and thereby fetters the executive power of the President. The Court disagreed. It was pointed out that the CC was a representative body, reflecting views of the diverse groups in Parliament and that its non ex-officio members were (meant to be) apolitical persons of eminence and integrity.
Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya PC will head the five-member Bench named to consider the petitions filed challenging the constitutionality of the 20th Amendment (20A) to the Constitution Bill.
The Chief Justice named Justices Buwaneka Aluwihare PC, Sisira J. de Abrew, Justice Priyantha Jayawardena PC and Vijith Kumara Malalgoda PC as the other members of the Bench. The petitions will be considered on 29 September.
The call by the government’s backbench MP Mr. Dilan Perera to be made the Rilav/Vanduru Amathi, or the Minister for Monkeys, in the Pohottuva Realm, certainly leads to plenty of interest.
This must do with the various divisions and breakup tasks that have been given to both Cabinet and State Ministers, in the current play of governance, by the Gotabaya strategies.
The call for a Rilav Ministry may have come after the Minister for Coconuts, Arundika Fernando, tried to climb a coconut palm, in his estate, at Dankotuwa, and hold a press conference to tell the people about the shortage of coconuts and the cause of the high price of this essential food item. One was surprised that he did not blame the coconut price hike on the 19A to the Constitution, and give any assurance that the coming 20A will bring the nut prices to within the people’s reach. Such nutty thinking is possible from politicos today.
What was also interesting is how he did this climb, halfway to coconut heights, with some modern climbing gear, having nothing to do with the traditional coconut tree climbers, who used their feet and hands to move much higher, and also walk on ropes from tree to tree for coconut plucking and toddy tapping. He must be following the new thinking of the Rajavasala on Digital Development to raise this country to new heights of Rajapaksa Success.
The Leader of the opposition is a vital link in democracy and, as the name implies, is expected to give leadership. Unfortunately, the behaviour of Sajith Premadasa is casting doubts as to whether he is giving that leadership.
Even when he challenged Ranil for the leadership of the UNP, he was happy to put up a fight for some time and then give up. His disappearance into the wilderness after losing the presidential election and issuing a statement that he would devote the rest of his life to looking after leopards, perplexed many.
Egged on by a coterie of Ranil-haters, he split the UNP but still wanted to grab the HQ of the party, an aspiration he quickly gave up after the last general election, probably because the UNP did unexpectedly bad.
Sripathi Panditaradhyula Balasubrahmanyam (4 June 1946 – 25 September 2020), also referred to as S. P. Balu or SPB, was an Indian musician, playback singer, music director, actor, dubbing artist and film producer who worked predominantly in Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Hindi and Malayalam.
Affectionately called as ‘Balu’ in his friends’ circle, SPB made his singing debut in 1966 with the Telugu movie Sri Sri Sri Maryada Ramanna, and went on to sing over 40,000 songs in as many as 16 languages including Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, and Hindi.
He also won the Guinness World Record for recording the highest number of songs by a singer.
He bagged six National Film Awards for Best Male Playback Singer for his songs in four different languages (Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, and Hindi), as well as 25 Andhra Pradesh state Nandi Awards for his work in Telugu cinema, apart from numerous other state awards from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
As the pallavi (first paragraph) of MSV’s Sippi irukkudu muthum irukkudu ends, giving way to a delightful instrumental interlude, I find myself getting alert every single time. I know precisely what I am waiting for and don’t want to miss, while getting predictably carried away in that simple yet attractive tune.
It is to hear SPB say “C’mon, say it once again”, with much fondness and camaraderie. Sridevi throws a meter-and-tune challenge at Kamal Haasan, asking him to respond with poetry. At the end of the exchange (captured memorably in conversation and music by SPB-Janaki in Kannadasan’s words), they acknowledge their love for each other. And I affirm mine for SPB. His speaking voice interspersing lines of a song invariably makes me grin. Just the way that flirty chuckle of his, in konjam maranju paakkava, illa mudugu thekkava (Pothi vecha malliga mottu), does.
It seems an irony to be reminded of the speaking voice of one of the finest playback singers ever, arguably the best in India – whether you take benchmarks in quantity or quality. If a song were just about music, then, the performer’s singing [or playing] technique and the skill to accurately execute a musical idea is all it will take. But when a song is an experience for an artiste, like it was for SPB in each of those 40,000-odd numbers, technique or skill alone won’t do. You need the voice to create a vibe, build an ambience and tell a story. In SPB’s case, he was at once the singer, the lover, the actor.
Legendary playback singer S.P. Balasubrahmanyam passed away at a private hospital in Chennai on Friday. He was 74.
Balasubrahmanyam was hospitalised in August at MGM Healthcare after testing positive for COVID-19, and while he reportedly did well initially, he took a turn for the worse, and was put on a ventilator and ECMO support.
On September 4, he tested negative for COVID-19 but continued to be on the ventilator and ECMO even as he participated in passive physiotherapy.
“In a further setback this morning, despite maximal life support measures and the best efforts of the clinical team, his condition deterioted further and he suffered a cardio-respiratory arrest. With profound grief, we regret to inform that he has passed away on September 25th at 13.04 hours,” MGM Healthcare said in a media release.
Popularly known as SPB, Balasubrahmanyam made his singing debut in 1966 with Telugu movie Sri Sri Sri Maryada Ramanna. He has sung over 40,000 songs in as many as 16 languages including Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, and Hindi.
Balasubrahmanyam was also a voice-over artist. He was the voice-over artist for actor Kamal Hassan, whenever the latter’s Tamil movies were dubbed in Telugu. Balasubrahmanyam also acted in a few movies.
I am proud that the Editors’ Guild of Sri Lanka, of which my father was the Founder-President, was one of nine media industry bodies/organisations to express “deep concern” over aspects of the 20th Amendment and their potential to “negatively impact Sri Lanka’s democratic institutions”.
Mervyn de Silva would have endorsed the statement, had he lived. He founded the Lanka Guardian magazine in May 1978 as a critical civic alternative at the moment of ‘High Authoritarianism’.
The monopolisation of power through the 20th Amendment turns the Presidency into a monarchy by another name – which the Founding Fathers of the USA, having fought a revolution and liberated themselves from monarchy (‘Mad King George’), explicitly wished to avoid when they created the Presidency. With the militarisation of civil administration running parallel, the 20th Amendment arguably turns that elected monarchy into a military-backed dictatorship.
Once upon a time, a mighty government with a two-thirds majority in Parliament engaged in political opportunism, and radically changed the Constitution of Sri Lanka. It ignored more than a decade of public demands for reducing the powers of the executive president and proceeded to strengthen that office. It presumed that its great popularity, which swept it to power after it ended a 30-year war, would last forever.
The year was 2010, and that Government made a fatal mistake in overestimating its popular mandate. Just five years later it was rudely ousted – incidentally by a political opposition that promised to reduce the powers of the executive president.
The story then took a predictable turn. The new Government that replaced the old also overestimated its mandate. It embarked on an ambitious reform project to overhaul the constitution, and replace it with a brand new basic law. The project, while admirable in some respects, became mired by disagreement, and sapped the scarce time and energy of legislators and experts.
In hindsight, the opportunity cost was unmistakable. The time and energy expended on grand constitutional plans would have been better spent on running an efficient economy, ensuring accountability for crimes, brokering better coordination between president and prime minister, and delivering on human developmental goals.
The Criminal Investigations Department (CID) yesterday informed the Fort Magistrate Court that Save the Pearls organisation had received funding from the “Qatar Charity” amounting to 13 million rupees.
Save the Pearls is an organisation in which Hizbullah functioned as President.
Deepani Menike, appearing on behalf of the CID, informed the Fort Magistrate that “Qatar Charity” is a terrorist funding entity and had been listed as a terror network. Accordingly she said that offences related to receiving funding from terror organisations and the Money Laundering Act are being investigated.
She also said that investigations by the CID had concluded and the Terrorist Investigations Department (TID) are in the process of investigating the matter. She said the file regarding the investigation into Hizbullah was sent to the Attorney General for advice.
By Austin Fernando (Former Secretary to the President)
Twentieth Amendment (20A) is reviewed by commentators from political, legal, journalistic, and religious angles. Not belonging to any such group, I do not venture to cover the multitude of discussions on 20A. My focus is to view 20A to understand how it affects governance and causes political contradictions.
In democratic good governance, there are essential elements, such as the rule of law, transparency, responsiveness, consensual oriented action, equity and inclusivity, accountability, and participation. Irrespectively, it is surprising to observe public administrators/their associations (except Auditors) in stoic silence on the 20A, though they will implement and experience fallouts of the 20A.
Ministerial Review Committee
The 20A created contradictory opinions even among the government ranks. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed a Committee of Ministers to review 20A. When this Committee Report was handed over, the public expected a review by the Cabinet. But it did not happen. Responsiveness, inclusivity, and participation have been lost even before 20A is passed, with a presidential directive to discuss the revisions of the Ministerial Committee at the Committee Stage. Such directives are common in Executive Presidency though one may question the applicability of Article 42(2) – “collective responsibility.” Anyway, the revisions will hence lack prior legal or public scrutiny.
Strident calls were repeatedly made from many quarters for the 19th Amendment to the Constitution to be repealed. Some argued that it should be repealed in its entirety, while others pleaded for the retention of some of its provisions.
What has been overlooked is that there is no 19th Amendment capable of being amended or repealed. It does not exist. It has not existed since 15 May 2015 when the 19th Amendment Bill, having been debated and passed in Parliament, was certified by the Speaker.
Indeed, none of the previous 18 Amendments to the Constitution exist today. Therefore, the 19th Amendment cannot be repealed, whether in its entirety or partially. What we do have is the Constitution of 1978 which has been amended 19 times.
A diminutive, shy person with head bowed down walked into the room. She walked slowly but with a purposive step. When she began the class her voice was just above a whisper and her words were accompanied by long pauses as we strained to listen. This was 1976 and I was enrolled in the class of Professor Ruth Bader Ginsburg as she began her pioneering course on sex-based discrimination and the law.
As a South Asian I was used to vibrant and colourful women leaders. Ginsburg was anything but. With a cold, piercing, powerful, intellect, she showed us how to dissect arguments, plan a cohesive strategy and win the battle. She was all about the analysis, the details and the hard work. Her main area of interest in the law was Civil Procedure, the rules and processes of the legal system. I usually fell asleep during those classes but it was Ginsburg who convinced me that if you are going to be a human rights lawyer, first master the procedure. Your passion will guide the substance.
There are three main eras to Ginsburg’s legal career. The first that began in the sixties and went through the 1970s was to try and radically transform the law through persuasion, especially persuasion of the US Supreme Court. The second phase involved her engaging in the “art of the possible,” working with judges across the spectrum to get moderate, consensual judgments. Her last and most iconic era was the “I dissent” phase where Republican appointments to the Supreme Court threatened her values and all that she stood for.
A day after the Sri Lankan government tabled the contentious 20th Amendment Bill, Opposition parties, including the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB, or United People’s Front) and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), moved the Supreme Court challenging it.
At least six petitions, including those of the SJB and the TNA, were filed on Wednesday, following the Opposition’s protest in the legislature against the move.
At least 10 cases are expected to the filed in the Supreme Court seeking a referendum on the proposed 20thConstitutional Amendment (20A), according to reliable sources in the Sri Lankan opposition.
As soon as the government placed the 20thAmendment bill on the table of the House on Tuesday (22), a lawyer filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging it and seeking a referendum on it on the grounds that the bill seeks to change the fundamental features of the Sri Lankan Constitution.
Any bill which alters a fundamental feature of the Constitution has to be ratified by the people at large in a referendum, apart from a two-thirds majority in Parliament.
“At least ten petitions seeking a referendum are expected to be filed in the seven-day period given to file petitions against the bill,” senior counsel and MP, M.A. Sumanthiran said.
Justice Minister Ali Sabry presented the 20th Amendment to Parliament yesterday amidst strong protests by Opposition MPs.
The Bill was presented to the House by Minister Sabry, whose voice was drowned by the din of shouts from MPs of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) whose voice rose in a chorus to the words “apita vissa epa” (“we don’t want 20”) and carried placards, wore black armbands and ‘No to 20’ badges as Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa described it as a “dark day for democracy”.
National Congress Digamadulla District MP A.L.M. Athaullah had to leave the Parliamentary Chamber yesterday owing to protests by Opposition MPs over his choice of attire to the House.
Athaullah deviated from the dress code for male MPs which is either national dress, full suit or tunic, long-sleeved shirts and trousers by wearing a sherwani with a waistcoat which prompted SJB MP Nalin Bandara to raise objection.
Several other SJB MPs including Harin Fernando and Dilip Wedaarachchi also objected with Bandara attempting to unbutton his shirt in protest and Wedaaracchi raising his sarong up to his knee.
In November 1936, during the Battle for Madrid in the Spanish Civil War, Dolores Ibarruri or La Pasionaria as she came to be known, the impassionate Left orator and freedom fighter, issued the famous slogan ‘No Pasaran – They Will Not Pass’. Can similar sentiments be aroused about amendments to or repeal of a constitutional amendment aimed at strengthening parliamentary democracy through instituting checks and balances on the exercise of executive power and authority? After all, that no one arm of government should be so strong as to be able to lay down the law to the others, is a basic tenet of democratic governance.
Should the 19th Amendment to the 1978 Constitution be tampered with?
Basically the provisions of the amendment instituted checks and balances on the exercise of executive power and authority through reintroducing term limits on the presidency, declaring dual nationals ineligible for elected office, established the right to information as a fundamental right along with the Constitutional Council for major appointments to positions of the state and independent commissions for human rights, the police, public service and judiciary.
Most importantly it set limits on the power of the president to dissolve parliament, removed his/her legal immunity and required that he consult with the prime minister before acting in a number of instances as well as that the President’s Office and that of the Prime Minister be audited by the Office of the Auditor General.
Consultation with the Prime Minister and the removal of legal immunity ensures accountability as the President could be brought to Court and the Prime Minister was accountable to Parliament on a daily basis. What could possibly be the reticence for removing the President and Prime Minister’s office from the scrutiny of the Office of the Auditor General, particularly when the arguments about lack of accountability are trumpeted in respect of non-governmental organisations who are subject both to the NGO Secretariat – once again under the Ministry of Defence and for those so registered – the Registrar of Companies.
By D.B.S. Jeyaraj (This article was first published six years ago to commemorate the 25th death anniversary of Dr.Rajini.It is re-posted here without any changes to denote her 31st death anniversary)
It was 25 years ago on September 21st 1989 that Dr. Rajini Thiranagama nee Rajasingham was killed in Jaffna. She was 35 years old at the time of her death.The 25th anniversary of her death is to be commemorated through a series of events next week in the northern capital. This is the first time that such a commemoration of Rajini’s memorable legacy is to be held in Jaffna, since the one held in 1989, a month after her death.
Dr. Rajini Rajasingham Thiranagama (February 23, 1954 – September 21, 1989)
A Commemoration Meeting is to be held at the Medical Faculty, University of Jaffna on September 20th at 9.30 a.m. On the same day at 2 p.m a procession for peace, democracy and social justice will start at the Medical Faculty, University of Jaffna and end at the Veerasingham Hall with a short meeting.On September 21st a seminar will be held at 9 am on the theme “A more just and democratic society”.The venue is the Kailasapathy Hall, University of Jaffna.
Rajini was a contemporary of mine at Jaffna Collge,Vaddukkoddai where I completed my GCE- Advanced Level. Her father Mr.A. Rajasingham was the vice –principal during my time. Rajini born on February 23rd 1954 studied at Jaffna College(JC) from grade one till entering varsity except for a short period at Chundikkuli Girls College in Jaffna town. All of her sisters Nirmala,Sumathy and Vasuki were at JC too. In school she was known as Rajini but later on her name was spelled as Rajani .Yet we the old students of JC continue to refer to her as Rajini and I too am doing so while writing this article.
St. James Church graveyard, Nallur-in January, 2012-pic by Saba Thambi
It is hard to believe that twenty-five years have passed since Rajini was brutally gunned down at Thirunelvely, Jaffna on September 21st 1989 while cycling back home from the Jaffna University. She was Professor of Anatomy at the Jaffna Varsity medical faculty. The 35 year old mother of two daughters –Narmada and Sharika- was also a human rights activist, feminist, critic of narrow nationalism and opponent of irresponsible militarism.
The Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption (CIABOC) yesterday filed six indictments against former Minister Ravi Karunanayake and Perpetual Treasuries Ltd. owner Arjun Aloysius at the Colombo High Court.
Both individuals have been charged under Section 19C of the Bribery Act, which concerns bribery in respect of Government business.
Today (16 September) is the 20th death anniversary of Mohammad Hussein Muhammad Ashraff, the legendary leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC). He was the Cabinet Minister in charge of Shipping, Ports, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation in the Government of President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga at the time of his death. He, along with 14 others, was killed in an air crash on 16 September 2000.
M.H.M. Ashraff had on that fateful morning boarded a Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) Mi-17 helicopter at the Police grounds in Bambalapitiya at about 9:30 am. Nine SLMC party officials and three bodyguards accompanied Ashraff. There were also two crew members from the SLAF. The flight destination was Ampara/Amparai.
Forty-five minutes later Air Traffic controllers lost radio contact with the helicopter being flown by squadron leader Shiran Perera. It was later discovered that the chopper had crashed over the Urakanda mountain range in the Aranayaka area in Kegalle District of Sabaragamuwa Province. Fifteen charred bodies were recovered from the burning wreckage. Ashraff’s funeral was held late night on the same day at Colombo’s Jawatte Muslim burial ground. He had earlier told family members that he should be buried within hours of his death. Continue reading ‘Legendary Muslim Congress “Thalaiver” MHM Ashraff and the Tamils of Sri Lanka’ »
Former Chief Justice Mohan Peiris has been picked to head the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations (UN) in New York, while senior journalist C.A. Chandraprema will go as Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, the Daily FT learns.
Peiris will replace Kshenuka Senewiratne, a career diplomat who headed the New York Mission since last August. She was recalled earlier this month.
The top spot at the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Office at Geneva has been vacant since last December, with Dayani Mendis as its Acting Permanent Representative. Chandraprema has been picked to fill this vacancy.
Their names have been set to the High Post Committee (HPC) of Parliament for confirmation, official sources said. Meanwhile the HPC is expected to consider six other nominees of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa named to head Sri Lanka overseas missions this week.
The government has announced that the draft 20th Amendment bill will be presented to parliament on Tuesday. It will be the same version that caught the country by surprise when it first made its appearance to the public on September 3. The extreme nature of the proposed amendment, which has been the cause of much disquiet, is epitomized by the power it seeks to give the President to sack the Prime Minister and ministers at his discretion and to dissolve parliament after a year of its election. Undoubtedly it was concerns within the ranks of those elected to parliament from within the government side itself that prompted Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to appoint a committee consisting of parliamentarians of stature to give their opinion on the proposed 20th Amendment and to suggest further amendments to it.
There are disturbing features about the draft 20th Amendment. The most significant is the overwhelming power it seeks to give the institution of the presidency by transferring the powers currently vested in other institutions to it. The proposed amendment immediately evoked protests from the opposition political parties and civil society and was soon followed by more subdued expressions of dissent from within the government itself. Government members have not openly criticized the erosion of parliamentary powers but instead appear to have chosen the option of stating their objections to less significant clauses in the proposed 20th Amendment. One of these is the removal of the ban on dual citizens from contesting for political office and the removal of the oath against promoting separatism in the country.
Former President Maithripala Sirisena had placed ex-Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando’s life at risk by issuing a media statement that the evidence given by the latter before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) investigating the Easter Sunday attacks was “malicious and fictitious”, Attorney-at-Law Dilshan Jayasuriya appearing for Fernando said yesterday.
Jayasuriya told the PCoI that by issuing that statement Sirisena had also undermined the PCoI.
Sirisena, on Sunday, issued a press release claiming that the testimony given by Fernando at the PCoI about his behavior was completely false.
Only the President had the power to give directions at the National Security Council (NSC) and former President Maithripala Sirisena never instructed those who attended its meetings to arrest NTJ leader Zahran Hashim during his tenure as Defence Secretary between November 2018 and April 2019, Hemasiri Fernando, yesterday, told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) investigating the Easter Sunday attacks.
Fernando added that he had taken over as the Defence Secretary in November 2018 and no one had any idea where Zahran was hiding. If they could have arrested Zahran in 2018, the attack could have been prevented.
The Retired Judges’ Association (RJA) says it is “gravely perturbed” by the potential impact of the draft 20th Amendment on the constitutional separation of powers, particularly in relation to the selection and appointment of judges to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
In a letter to Justice Minister Ali Sabry, the association notes that as emphasised in the Commonwealth (Latimer House) principles on the three branches of government, an accountable and publicly transparent process of appointment of judges is integral to upholding the Rule of Law, engendering public confidence and dispensing justice.
Professional media industry bodies have raised concerns over certain clauses of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, saying it would have a detrimental impact on freedom of speech, expression and information in Sri Lanka.
The statement has been issued by the Sri Lanka Press Institute, the Newspaper Society of Sri Lanka, The Editors’ Guild of Sri Lanka, the Free Media Movement of Sri Lanka, the Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association, the Federation of Media Employees’ Trade Unions, the Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum, the Tamil Media Alliance and the South Asia Free Media Association.
Constitutions of democratic Republics should not be tailor made for individuals. Yet, Sri Lanka’s constitutional practice has been stubbornly reflective of this pattern, inclusive of the 19th Amendment and the proposed 20th Amendment alike.
Hypocritical homage to constitutional ideals
Veneration of the 19th Amendment by its proponents must give way to an understanding that playing to power politics of the day in sanctimoniously hypocritical homage to constitutional ideals while discarding these precepts in practice during 2015-2019 set the stage for the greatest threat that Sri Lanka faces to constitutional governance today.
That threat comes in the form of the draft 20th Amendment. What that teaches us is different to classical Aristotelian drama which turns on a fatal error of judgment of a single individual, bringing doom not only on that person but everyone else.
Here the error was not singular nor was it confined to the two comedic leading personalities forming the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe ill-fated coalition or their motley followers. Instead, the fault was collective. Supposedly impartial citizens’ groups did not speak out enough, did not criticise enough when democracy pledges of the ‘good governance’ coalition began unraveling, very early on with the first Central Bank bond scam followed by the second and then resulting in multiple failures of governance culminating in the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks. That failure to maintain a steadfast focus on institutionally cementing the Rule of Law and bring a critical focus to counterbalance Colombo’s elite power games has cost us dearly. That much must be clearly acknowledged.
Former President Maithripala Sirisena, on April 24, 2019, had told former IGP Pujith Jayasundara that if the latter took the blame for the Easter Sunday bombings he would be given his pension and posted to any country of his choice as an ambassador, former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando yesterday told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) investigating the Easter Sunday attacks.
Fernando said that Jayasundara had come to him for advice on the matter soon after Sirisena had made the offer. Fernando refused to advise him, given the sensitive nature of the proposal. “I told him that he should talk to his family members,” Fernando said.
Sri Lanka’s Tamil National Alliance (TNA), that chiefly represented the Tamils living in the north and east in the post-war decade, suffered a huge setback in the August general elections, losing six seats in Parliament. With the Alliance’s presence in the legislature having weakened and the Rajapaksas back in power at the Centre, that too with a thumping two-thirds, what are the prospects for TNA’s long-standing demand for a political solution? Alliance spokesman and Jaffna MP M.A. Sumanthiran weighs in…
The TNA has suffered a huge setback in the August parliamentary elections, and has ceded ground to both, hard-line Tamil nationalists and allies of the Rajapaksa government. What are the Alliance’s reflections?
It is a very serious setback. We have been reduced from 16 to 10 seats in parliament. This is not very different to the local authority election results of February 2018.
One of the primary reasons is that we supported the [Sirisena-Wickremesinghe] government in office from 2015 to 2019. The expectations of the people were very high then. They hoped that all their problems will be fully resolved during that period. Although there was substantial progress in most matters, all the issues [pending since the war ended] were not fully resolved. I think there was a lot of disappointment over that fact.
Even the political solution, which is a historic demand of the Tamil people, did not materialise by way of a new constitution that was promised. We made great progress on that front too, but finally the question is whether it was achieved or not. When it was not achieved, it was counted as a failure. In regard to the release of military-held lands, there were considerable gains. But overall, since the expectations were not met, we also suffered an anti-incumbency sentiment, although we sat in opposition right through that time.
Secondly, our party has been mainly, or one could say solely, looking for a political solution. We have been disregarding a lot of economic issues faced by our people. In that last five years we did try to address some of those economic issues, because the government in office was favourable to us, yet the people did not actually see the benefits realised. With the political solution also evading us, people who hoped that at least their economic lot would be made better were disappointed. There may be other reasons also, but I think primarily these are the two reasons that explain why we ceded ground on both sides – the hard-line Tamil nationalist side, who are looking for a final solution to the Tamil national question, and to government allies, who appealed to some of the people looking for better economic prospects.
All this unwanted fuss about the author or drafter of the 20A has led to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa making it clear he is the leader of the Government and the Pohottuva. Let’s have no doubts about it anymore. Let’s stop asking about any role that the Justice Minister Ali Sabry or Law Pundit and Education Minister G. L. Peiris had in this.
The five-member Cabinet Committee appointed by PM Mahinda Rajapaksa has also been pushed aside. This clearly shows the declining power-position of Rajavasala Mahinda himself. We are in the reality of a rising authoritarian rule, with a path to what the Pohottuva champions consider to be a “Democratic Dictatorship”.
It has all to do with the two-thirds majority in parliament. We are moving to the total sovereignty of the people-elected President … the stuff of a monarchy of the past that is being revived more than 70 years after independence from British colonial rule.
The assurance of Democracy in the role of the 20A comes from our acting Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Dayani Mendis, who told the 45th Session of the Human Rights Council that 20A would be discussed and debated in Parliament, following a complete democratic process, where all the stakeholders would have the opportunity to present their views.
What she did not say was that the final decision lay with the ruling majority of the Rajavasala Power Holders. She also said that the UN Human Rights High Commissioner’s comments on the 20A were unwarranted and pre-judgmental, based on presumption. What a wonderful diplomatic analysis of a rising threat to Democracy in this island.
The President’s gear-shift on 20A, which showed flexibility, followed by his shift-back to the original hawkish position and a posture of rigidity, made nonsense of some basic assumptions of the Opposition, and pointed to the imperative of correcting these dangerously flawed notions. What are the lessons of the recent dramatic turnaround?
It disproved the nonsensical assumption that the GR regime is a replay of the post-18th amendment MR regime and/or the post-1978 JR regime.
It was in the MR second term that he weathered a storm at the longest Cabinet meeting in post-independent Sri Lankan history, and pushed through the decision to hold elections to the Northern Provincial Council, while knowing the government would lose. Can anyone imagine GR doing that?
JR see-sawed from 1984 to 1987 on devolution because of crosscurrents in his Cabinet. Can anyone imagine GR doing likewise?
The GR regime is of a very different type. The Opposition must avoid the fatal error of those who regarded Germany in the 1930s as yet another rightwing, reactionary, conservative regime or the not-so-fatal error (unless you are a black youngster) of those who thought that Donald Trump’s administration was yet another Republican one, unaware that the far-Right or the Alt-Right is not just another conservative Right.
“When it is laid down as a maxim, that a king can do no wrong, it places him in a state of similar security with that of idiots and persons insane, and responsibility is out of the question with respect to himself” – Thomas Paine, ‘Rights of Man’
It is what it is. The 20th Amendment is a bill tailor-made for the Rajapaksa family.
Like the brand new Weeraketiya exit on the Southern Highway.
The Weeraketiya exit was not in the Southern Highway’s original plan or blueprint. It was constructed, reportedly at a ‘risky bent’, in three days, with no environmental impact assessment (The Morning – 20.3.2020). That exit has only one reason to exist, to make it easier and faster for the Rajapaksa family to get to their ancestral pile in Medamulana.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa promised to turn Sri Lanka into a country that works. The conditionality in small print said a country that works for the Rajapaksas. That promise is being kept. From the Weeraketiya exit to the proposed 20th Amendment, Sri Lanka is now a country working overtime for the benefit of the Rajapaksas family.
If passed in its current form, the 20th Amendment will enable the Rajapaksas to gather into their collective fists every tendril of power, and to bequeath that power seamlessly from brother to brother and uncle to nephew. The 20th Amendment not only renders President Gotabaya omnipotent; it also opens the door to a President Basil and a President Namal who will be equally omnipotent.
What is really surprising about the 20th Amendment is that anyone is surprised by it. Given what the Rajapaksas are, given their commitment to familial rule and dynastic succession, what other kind of amendment could they have created?
20th Amendment will return Sri Lanka to where she was constitutionally after the passage of the 18th Amendment.
The ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna’s (SLPP) decision to revisit the draft 20th Amendment (20A) to the Constitution follows multiple dissensions over it both within the party and its alliance. Although the draft 20A was cleared by the Cabinet without objections and was even published in the gazette, the moment it came to the public domain, it ran into very rough weather inside the SLPP, the SLPP-lead alliance, the Opposition and the media.
This resulted in Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa appointing a committee to go into the controversial issues and submit a report to him by September 15.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa would have been surprised when the Sinhala nationalist theoretician and Mahinda Rajapaksa acolyte, Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekere, and a Sinhala nationalist lawyer, Manohara de Silva, protested against some of the provisions of the draft 20A. Left with no option, Gotabaya was compelled to tell them he would issue an alternative draft.
Today marks the 20th death anniversary of M.H.M. Ashraff, the Founder Leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC). He died on 16 September 2000, when the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) helicopter he was travelling in crashed in the Aranayaka area in Kegalle District, leaving a void in the political sphere of the country, in which he was a rising star. In an exclusive interview with the Daily FT, Aman Ashraff, the son of the late SLMC Leader, spoke on a wide range of issues and gave his views on his father’s death, over which many questions remain unanswered. He also spoke on the challenges the community faces in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday attacks and the need for all to work towards building a Sri Lankan identity.
Here are excerpts of the interview:
Q: The official versions of the helicopter crash that caused your father’s death say it was accidental. Twenty years later how do you see the tragedy?
After 20 years, having observed the dynamics since his demise, I find it hard to accept that it was an accident. There may have been a lot more to it than that. Of course, I have no evidence or anything substantial to hold onto and say, ‘This is there, so how do you say that?’ I do not intend to accuse anybody, but as an individual, not so much as his son, I feel there was more than meets the eye.
Q: If so, who do you think would want him out of the way or who do you perceive as his enemies?
He was certainly on the LTTE hit list. I would not go so far as to say he had enemies, but he had become the first ethnic politician to embrace national politics. And the speed at which his journey in national politics was taking off, he seemed to be garnering a significant amount of support from the populace and I suppose that may have been a threat to others, whosoever they may have been.
He was a very charismatic individual. He was capable of communicating in all three languages. His versatility was not just in politics but also his knowledge in law, being a President’s Counsel, which was significant. In a branding sense, it was a very appealing package to look up to and even accept as a leader. This could have ruffled feathers, but again, who is to say without evidence in hand?
Any collective, especially a minority community, is in the most serious kind of political trouble when its smartest representatives say things that are the exact opposite of smart—and that’s a polite euphemism—at exactly the wrong time.
Take MP M.A. Sumanthiran, quoted by Meera Srinivasan of The Hindu as follows:
‘… “While it is true that the draft 20th Amendment seeks to enhance executive powers, just as the 18th Amendment did, we should not lose sight of the need to abolish the extremely problematic Executive Presidency system itself. The Opposition to the draft Amendment should be centred on this,” Sumanthiran said, adding: “By focusing on the technicalities of the 19th Amendment, the Rajapaksas are trying to quietly erase the historic pledge from public discourse.” …’
Writing in The Indian Express, Sumanthiran says: “The Tamil people opposed the Executive Presidency both for its centralisation of power and also for its corrupting influence on democracy.”
The record shows that every single piece of discriminatory legislation, and every single discriminatory policy measure, from Sinhala Only to Standardisation, took place under the Westminster model, and none occurred under the Executive Presidency, while the 13th Amendment was passed under the Presidential system. And yet, “the Tamil people” or the TNA, or simply Sumanthiran, opposed the Executive Presidency and still do/does.
The 13th Amendment, the Indo-Lanka Accord and the very principle of provincial devolution stand in jeopardy. The electoral system will almost certainly be changed so that the system of proportional representation is replaced by a loaded dice. Any such constitutional change introduced by the regime, will win a huge majority at a referendum. The Tamils are cornered in a political dead-end.
Nearly 120 State-owned companies including the debt-ridden SriLankan Airlines will be exempt from Government audit under the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution.
Among scores of other business entities to be excluded are Lanka Electricity Company (LECO), Sri Lanka Insurance, Lanka Hospitals PLC, Litro Gas Lanka Ltd, Lanka Sathosa, multiple plantation and electricity companies and Lanka Coal Company Ltd.
The draft proposal this week drew strong protest from the Sri Lanka Audit Service Association (SLASA). When State-owned companies, in which the Government is majority shareholder, are audited by private entities, the reports are not required to be submitted to Parliament, the union said. This would undermine Parliamentary financial oversight.
Five United Nations Special Rapporteurs have written to the Government of Sri Lanka, raising serious concerns that journalist Dharisha Bastians is being targeted for her writing and especially for her work to defend human rights, saying the continued harassment could deter other journalists from reporting on issues of public interest and human rights.
The UN Special Rapporteurs holding mandates for freedom of expression, privacy, human rights defenders, extra judicial, summary or arbitrary executions and peaceful assembly and association told the Government of Sri Lanka they were seriously concerned that the seizure of personal and professional equipment and the exposure of Bastians’ call data records, could adversely affect her work and seriously endanger and compromise her sources.
“The reported acts of harassment and violation of the right to privacy against Ms. Bastians may deter other journalists from reporting on issues of public interest, and human rights, which are particularly pertinent at this time of global pandemic,” the joint letter to the Government noted.
Newly-appointed United National Party (UNP) Deputy Leader Ruwan Wijewardene yesterday assured that he was ready to take up the challenge of rebuilding the party.
Speaking to the press following a religious function at Gangaramaya Temple yesterday morning, Wijewardene called on all those who once supported the party to rally around the green banner, and restore the UNP.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us; it is a challenge and I am ready to face it. We need to rebuild this great party. We have to restore confidence in our party members and give hope to the public. We have to rally all who support us under the UNP banner again,” Wijewardene said.
Former State Minister of Defense Ruwan Wijewardene was elected Deputy Leader at a secret ballot today.
UNP Legal Secretary Nissanka Nanayakkara told journalists that a secret ballot was conducted when both Mr. Wijewardene and Assistant Leader Ravi Karunanayake informed the working committee that they would contest for the post.
Mr. Wijewardene was apparently elected as the Deputy Leader with a majority of 18 votes. Accordingly, Mr. Wijewardene polled 28 votes while Mr. Karunanayake polled 10 votes.
It was reported that Former Ministers Navin Dissanayake and Vajira Abeywardene did not contest for the Deputy Leader’s post.
(The writer is President’s Counsel Member of Parliament for Jaffna and spokesman for Tamil National Alliance)
The Basic Structure Doctrine as developed by the Indian Supreme Court has not found favour in Sri Lankan constitutional law. However, the Sri Lankan Constitution (2nd Republican Constitution of 1978) provides a clear procedure on how the provisions of the Constitution can be changed.
The Constitution essentially recognises two categories of articles/provisions — those which can be amended by a two-thirds majority of members of Parliament and those which can only be amended if approved by the people at a referendum in addition to being approved by a two-thirds majority in Parliament. The latter are often referred to as “entrenched provisions of the Constitution.”
These entrenched provisions often gain increased importance when a constitutional amendment is proposed. This is because the interpretation provided by the Supreme Court on the scope and meaning of these entrenched provisions, determines the fate of a constitutional amendment.
In the 42 years the Constitution has been in operation, not a single constitutional amendment or act of Parliament, for which the Supreme Court has mandated a referendum, has been submitted to the people for approval.
Instead, governments have preferred to shelve the proposed amendment or law or make changes to the draft law to bring it in compliance with the Supreme Court’s determination.
அமிர் அல்லது அமுதர் என்று வாஞ்சையுடன் அழைக்கப்பட்ட நன்கு பிரபல்யம் வாய்ந்த இலங்கை தமிழ் அரசியல் தலைவர் அப்பாப்பிள்ளை அமிர்தலிங்கத்தின் 93ஆவது பிறந்த தினம் அண்மையில் (ஆகஸ்ட் 26) வந்துபோனது.
அப்பாப்பிள்ளை அமிர்தலிங்கம் (26 ஆகஸ்ட் 1927 – 13 ஜூலை 1989)
நான்கு தசாப்த காலம் நீடித்த சிறப்பு மிகு அரசியல் வாழ்வில் அமிர்தலிங்கம் 20வருடங்கள் பாராளுமன்ற உறுப்பினராக பணியாற்றினார். சமஷ்டி கட்சி என்று அறியப்பட்ட இலங்கை தமிழரசுக் கட்சியினதும் தமிழ் ஐக்கிய விடுதலை கூட்டணியினதும் முக்கியமான தலைவர் அவர். 1956 – 1970வரை வட்டுக்கோட்டை தொகுதியில் தமிழரசுக் கட்சி பாராளுமன்ற உறுப்பினராகவும் 1977 – 1983 வரை காங்கேசன்துறை தொகுதியின் தமிழர் ஐக்கிய விடுதலை கூட்டணியின் பாராளுமன்ற உறுப்பினராகவும் அவர் இருந்தார். 1977 – 1983 வரை இலங்கை பாராளுமன்றத்தில் எதிர்க்கட்சித் தலைவராக பதவிவகித்த அமிர்தலிங்கம் 1989 ஜுலை 13 விடுதலைப் புலிகள் இயக்கத்தினரால் கொடூரமான முறையில் கொலை செய்யப்பட்டபோது அவர் தமிழர் ஐக்கிய விடுதலை முன்னணியின் தேசியப் பட்டியல் உறுப்பினராக பாராளுமன்றத்தில் அங்கம் வகித்தார்.
அமிர்தலிங்கமும் அவரது துணைவியார் மங்கையர்க்கரசியும் தனிப்பட்ட வாழ்விலும் பொது வாழ்விலும் பிரிக்க முடியாத இணையராக விளங்கினர். மங்கையர்க்கரசியின் வாழ்வு அவரது கணவரின் அரசியல் வாழ்வுடன் என்றுமே விடுவிக்க முடியாத பிணைப்பாக இருந்தது. அவரை பற்றிக் குறிப்பிடாமல் அமிர்தலிங்கத்தை பற்றி எழுத முடியாது. சிவபெருமானும் பார்வதியும்போல அமிர்தலிங்கம் சிவமாகவும் மங்கையர்க்கரசி சக்தியாகவும் வாழ்ந்தனர். Continue reading ‘ஆற்றல் மிகு தமிழ்த் தலைவர் அப்பாப்பிள்ளை அமிர்தலிங்கத்தின் வாழ்வும் காலமும்’ »
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has assured civil society groups, the National Joint Committee (NJC) and Yuthukama that the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution would be rescinded to pave the way for a new draft.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa gave this assurance at a meeting with Manohara de Silva, PC and lawmaker Gevindu Cumaratunga last Friday (11) evening at the Presidential Secretariat. Manohara de Silva is also a member of a special committee headed by Romesh de Silva, PC, to formulate a new Constitution.
The meeting took place close on the heels of Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera, on behalf of the Federation of National Organizations (FNO) urging President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to alter the 20th Amendment.
Earlier, the SLPP said that changes, if necessary, could be made at the Committee Stage in Parliament.
The SLPP also dismissed the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) threat to move the Supreme Court against the 20th Amendment on the basis the Attorney General cleared the 20th Amendment draft.
In 2005, when Gotabaya Rajapaksa took over as Sri Lanka’s Defense Secretary at the request of the newly elected President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the country’s armed forces were in a depleted, ill-equipped and dispirited state. They were being outwitted and outmaneuvered by the intrepid and innovative LTTE.
The Lankan Army, Navy and the Air force were short of manpower and suitable equipment. Their strategies and tactics were ill-suited to the new challenges posed by the LTTE, which kept coming up with innovations in asymmetric warfare to the discomfiture of the Lankan tri-forces.
Successive Governments contributed to the mess by their lackadaisical policies on war and peace, and by being subservient to external powers that poked their noses with their own ends in view. Adding insult to injury, a Sri Lanka which was battling for survival was being hammered internationally for denying minority and human rights.
But come Gotabaya Rajapaksa to the helm as Defense Secretary, a sea change occurred in strategy, tactics, manpower, leadership, training and equipment. With the full backing of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Treasury Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundera, Lanka’s demoralised armed forces were energised to the optimum. Continuous battlefield successes boosted troop morale and helped increase recruitment.
Gotabaya’s strategy of shelving the defensive approach and replacing it by an uninterrupted and multi-pronged assault on the enemy sealed the fate of the LTTE in less than three years.
As public concern over Sri Lanka’s draft 20th Amendment to the Constitution increases exponentially since this amendment was gazetted on 2nd September 2020, so do the sheer absurdity of the justifications thereto. Cunning and deplorably simplistic explanations are put forward by some in Government ranks.
The President as a ‘super-constitutional’ creature
It is bad enough that the Justice Minister asks as to what is the point of constitutional commissions when the narcotic trade cannot be eliminated in Sri Lanka? He needs to be reminded that the Constitution does not set up oversight agencies to curb the underworld. For that, he must look to the police who are hand in glove with politicians in profiting off these atrocities.
He also questions as to the point of having commission reports if these are not implemented? If so, the fault therein lies with the implementers; ie; the political authority. Commissions, constitutional or otherwise, can only act within their mandated parameters.
Less than a month into its five-year term, the Ninth Parliament of Sri Lanka achieved world-wide notoriety this week when a murder convict on death row was sworn in as a member of the august assembly, amid jeers and a walkout from Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MPs.
The swearing-in of Ratnapura district Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) MP-elect Premalal Jayasekara was the first item on the agenda when sittings began on Tuesday (8). He was sentenced to death by the Ratnapura High Court on July 31 for the 2015 murder of an opposition activist, but was elected to Parliament at the August 5 election.
May I begin by expressing my appreciation to the Kandy Professionals Association for embarking on this very timely initiative of meeting every month, on a Sunday, to discuss in depth the issues involving constitutional reform, and the way forward in our country. I consider this an exercise of immediate relevance and value.
The decision by the Government to present to the Cabinet of Ministers the text of the 20th Amendment to modify significantly the contents of the 19th Amendment and, after obtaining the approval of the Cabinet, to move the Amendment in Parliament, has attracted considerable public interest and discussion. As a preliminary to this, I think it is important to explain to the country the need for this. The public should have a clear understanding of the rationale underpinning this reform. This is all the more necessary because of the elaborate myths which have been assiduously cultivated, skilfully spread, by vested interests throughout the spectrum of our society.
The core of their argument is that the retention of the 19th Amendment is essential to preserve seminal values which we all believe in – the Rule of Law, independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers. They contend that removal or reform of the 19th Amendment is an act of treachery and that all must stand firm against it. If this is allowed to happen, so they contend, the result will be a mortal blow struck against human rights, democracy and seminal institutions including Parliament. The argument, set forth in the most emotional terms, needs to be assessed in the light of cold reason. What is the truth of this? Nothing is more crucial at this point than to inform the public mind about the reality of the current situation.
It is strenuously contended by interested parties that the 19th Amendment brought immense benefits in its wake, and that it has to be protected at any cost. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is for the entrenchment of narrow vested interests that this intricately orchestrated campaign, fortified by abundant resources and closely knit organization, has been launched. Why is 20A necessary? For a variety of reasons, no doubt. But chief among them, indisputably, is the maintenance of law and order – essential as it is for the protection of life and limb. This takes precedence over all other obligations – development in the economic, social and cultural fields.
This, then, is the principal and indispensable obligation of the State. If this duty is not fulfilled, all else become illusory.
Early this month, the Sri Lankan cabinet approved a draft 20th amendment to the constitution, which would give sweeping dictatorial powers to the executive president if approved by the parliament. President Gotabhaya Rajapakse’s Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) government is planning to ram the bill through parliament in October.
Sri Lanka’s attorney general has given legal approval to the amendment and ruled that it can be imposed without a referendum, as constitutionally required, if enacted by a two-thirds majority of MPs.
The SLPP won about 145 seats in the 225-member parliament at the August 5 election, and is expected to secure, via backroom wheeling and dealing, the support of enough parliamentarians for a two-thirds majority.
Rajapakse and his SLPP campaigned during the presidential and general elections for repealing the 19th amendment of the constitution, which restricted certain presidential powers. This was necessary, they claimed, in order to establish “strong and stable” government to “develop” the country.
This is a lie. President Rajapakse, who came to power by hypocritically exploiting popular opposition to the previous regime of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, wants dictatorial powers in order to take on the working class. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the country’s economic, social and political crisis. Anger is rising amongst workers and the poor against escalating government and employer attacks on jobs, wages and living conditions.
When the Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa got the unanimous approval of his parliamentary group for legislation to ban cow slaughter, it was not the first attempt to have the practice banned. Despite toying with the idea of banning cow slaughter from time to time, no government has thought it fit to legislate on it.
This is probably because cow slaughter is entangled with larger issues, which have been religious, social, economic and political. Of these, the most important one has been Buddhist-Muslim relations. The cow slaughter issue has tended to come up when these relations are strained, and brushed under the carpet when they are fine.
There is a clear duality in the prime minister’s decision on a ban on cattle slaughter. The cattle are slaughtered for the purpose of beef consumption. But the new slaughter ban will support beefeaters with imports of beef from abroad.
This duality may be part of the Lotus Bud or Podujana Peramuna political thinking, such as its desire for dual citizens to be able to contest parliamentary elections.
We are now told that the cattle slaughter ban move is not a government decision, but only of the parliamentary group, and further discussions are necessary. Will these discussions be to stop or slow down the ban, or get the best and most profitable decisions on the import of beef? Just keep guessing.
In an interview held in one of the TV channels on 07.09.2020 ending at midnight, Justice Minister Ali Sabry said that the National Procurement Commission (NPC), established among the several independent commissions under the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, has not served any useful purpose during the 5 years of its existence and is a redundant organization. Perhaps during his short tenure as the Justice Minister, he appears to have not grasped the importance of the NPC and hence this write up.
NEED FOR PROCUREMENT GUIDELINES
Sri Lanka’s budget for 2019 has been LKR 2,365 Billion for capital and LKR 2,178 Billion for recurrent expenditure according to Central Bank of Sri Lanka Annual Report for 2018 (Table 100). Other than the payments on salaries and interest & capital repayment on loans, the rest will have to be spent on procuring goods and services both by the government institutions and semi-government institutions. Hence, it is important that there are norms and guidelines in place for incurring such expenditure to ensure that public funds are not siphoned out either by officials or by suppliers.
Originally, the Department of Public Finance (DPF) functioning under the Treasury played the role of managing the expenditure in public sector organizations and had the responsibility for a sound public finance regulatory framework which improves transparency, accountability and service delivery in the public sector. The DPF has issued several guidelines for the benefit of public sector organizations outlining procedures and methodologies for the procurement of goods and services.
However, media reports reveal that more often than not, public sector organizations act in violation of these guidelines causing millions of rupee losses to the government. One reason may be that DPF lacks a mechanism to monitor whether these organizations strictly follow these guidelines or not. Any shortfalls generally come to light only when their finances are audited when it is too late to take any corrective measures.
Military occupied lands in the North and East, which have tactical importance will not be given back to the people in view of national security as it is directly related to national economy, State Minister Sarath Weerasekara said today.
He told Parliament that 90 per cent of the military occupied lands have already been handed over to the people and that grounds of tactical importance would never be given back to the people as long as people with separatist agendas like C.V. Wigneswaran were there.
A Sri Lankan politician sentenced to death on murder charges was sworn in as a member of the country’s Parliament on Tuesday, escorted out of prison to take his oath amid jeers from opposition legislators.
The lawmaker, Premalal Jayasekara, was convicted in late July of opening fire on an election rally in 2015, killing an opposition activist. But the conviction and death sentence were handed down just days after Mr. Jayasekara had filed papers to run for re-election. Then his party swept to victory.
The decision to allow Mr. Jayasekara to conduct his parliamentary duties as a member of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna party is the latest episode to unnerve opposition politicians and activists since Gotabaya Rajapaksa won the presidential election last November.
A Sri Lankan politician sentenced to death for murder has been escorted from prison to parliament to become the first convict to be sworn in as an MP, amid heckles from the opposition.
Premalal Jayasekara, 45, from the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna party (SLPP), was convicted in August of murdering an opposition activist after opening fire at a 2015 election rally. As his conviction and sentence came after nominations for the 5 August poll, he was able to contest the election and take up his seat.
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has proposed banning the slaughter of cattle for beef, according to the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP, or People’s Front).
Addressing the party’s parliamentary group at a meeting on Tuesday, Mr. Rajapaksa — while discussing the agenda for the week — made the proposal, Cabinet spokesman and Minister of Mass Media Keheliya Rambukwella said. Asked what the MPs said in response, Mr. Rambukwella told The Hindu: “They applauded. They appeared to welcome such a move.”
However, there is no policy decision on the proposal yet, he added. “The PM was just seeking the party legislators’ views on a possible ban.”
Apparently for the first time since the presidential election on November 16, 2019, dissension has emerged among the members or the groups of the Government. That is on the content of the bill titled ‘20th Amendment to the Constitution’ which primarily seeks to roll back the 19th Amendment.
The ruling party initiated action in this respect at its very first Cabinet meeting after the victory at the August 5 general elections. The Cabinet endorsed a concept paper in this regard immediately, and it approved the relevant draft legislation on September 2. It has to be presented to Parliament after two weeks upon announcement in the gazette.
Fundamentally, the ruling party has intended to undo the provisions in the 19th Amendment, bar four areas. If it is passed in Parliament and signed into law by the Speaker, the president would get back the sole authority to appoint the Cabinet, a task that should currently be done in consultation with the prime minister. Also, the present ceiling on the size of the Cabinet is sought to be done away with, enabling the president to determine it depending on the requirement.
The Government parliamentary group which met yesterday decided to appoint a seven-member committee to study the 20th Amendment to the Constitution after constituent parties expressed reservations over some contents in the draft Bill.
“If we are to advance as a united and prosperous Sri Lanka, political parties based on race and religion should be banned.” This was the rallying cry of the very pragmatic religious leader Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith. However, we should remind ourselves that this ideal was achieved, not by law but by consensus, 74 years ago when the United National Party was formed under the leadership of Don Stephen Senanayake on 6th September 1946. The original partnership of the Ceylon National Congress, Sinhala Maha Sabha and All Ceylon Muslim League was joined later by the All Ceylon Tamil Congress. Unfortunately, that ideal was disregarded over time and the great institution that offered shelter to all Sri Lankans, irrespective of the differing identities imparted by an accident of birth, has hit rock-bottom shortly before it reached its 75th year of existence.
Should the UNP be resurrected, could it be done and, if so, who could lead that revival” These are the questions people ask themselves. Although some commentators are already writing the UNP off, mostly because of the pathetic way in which the present leadership responded to the unexpectedly humiliating defeat, I would argue that the UNP should be resurrected and it could be done with proper leadership.
The UNP has risen from the ashes not once but twice before thans to its former leaders. On the two previous occasions the UNP faced the voter as a united party, but last month it had to compete with its off-shoot and the die-hard UNP voters were confused. They responded in different ways; some abstained from voting, some others spoilt their votes in sheer frustration while most others voted for the SJB. Will they stand by the UNP clone? Or, will they revert to the UNP? That will depend on the performance of the two parties, both not doing too well at present.
Governance-wise, the 20th Amendment can be described as a regressive step. In my opinion, with the enactment of the 20th Amendment, one era of Sri Lanka will come to an end.
The era that ends with the introduction of the 20th Amendment cannot be considered as an era of democracy. Similarly, the new era that begins with the 20th Amendment too, cannot expect to be an era in which the system of democracy will thrive in its true spirit except that it would herald a period in which a system of dictatorship will have more weight.
There cannot be a qualitative difference except a quantitative difference between the period ending with the 19th Amendment and the one that begins with the 20th Amendment. Since independence, Sri Lanka has generally been regarded as a country which has held elections continuously. That is why many consider Sri Lanka to be a democratic country.
Although the rulers who have come to power from time to time have been elected by popular vote, it cannot be said that much of the country’s affairs since independence have been carried out in a democratic milieu.
Minister of State for Fisheries Kanchana Wijesekera told Parliament yesterday (09) that the Security Council and the Navy had been informed of an increase in the number of Indian fishing vessels in Sri Lankan territorial waters during the past few days, and measures would be taken to beef up security in the Mannar sea area and arrest the Indian poachers encroaching on Sri Lankan territorial waters.
Former chairman of Arachchikattuwa Pradeshiya Sabha Jagath Samantha has been found to be the person behind the recent environmental disaster in the Anavilundawa sanctuary.
The panel of specialists appointed to probe into the incident by Wildlife and Forest Conservation Minister C.B. Rathnayake, has revealed this.
Jagath Samantha is also the brother of State minister r of Rural and Divisional Drinking Water Supply Projects Development Sanath Nishantha, who had ironically stated to journalists that he was not connected to the incident.
The committee report was tabled in Parliament yesterday (09) and concluded that the shrimp cultivation centre was contracted for reconstruction through Poruwathotage Sujith Nishantha Fernando the backhoe driver by Warnakulasuriya Nishantha Fernando, adding that the project was undertaken on the request by former chairman of Arachchikattuwa Pradeshiya Sabha Jagath Samantha.
The main problem with the 19th Amendment was not sourced in the legislation but in the illegitimacy of the political context: The Leader of the Opposition (from 2015 until 2019) was the TNA Leader who commanded only a minority of seats in the Opposition benches. Everything that was born in that Parliament was of questionable legitimacy as far as the Sinhala majority was concerned.
There were problems intrinsic to 19A too. They could easily have been rectified by ‘keyhole’ laser surgery. Power pivoted too far from the elected President towards the PM elected on a more parochial basis. That could have been corrected. Even the inclusion of unaccountable ‘civil society’, discredited in the eyes of the people, could have been excised from the Constitutional Council. The Ministry of Defence could have been vested once again in the President. The power of the President to dissolve Parliament could have been restored to a point between the original one year and the amended four years.
There was dysfunctionality on the national security front indirectly due to 19A, but it is a lie that the Independent Commissions as such, including the Constitutional Council, were an impediment to national security. If they were, how did President Mahinda Rajapaksa win the war with the 17th Amendment in place, when earlier Presidents could not, even when untrammelled by the 17th Amendment?
The Audit Service Commission and the Procurement Commission have been deleted by the draft 20th Amendment. Doubtless a purely technocratic streamlining of administration, making for greater efficiency and cleaner government.
Instead of a rebalance through re-set, the 19th amendment has been decapitated and disposed of. The 20th Amendment is indicative of the “spirit of the laws”, the logic of the coming Constitution.
(this Article was first Posted on 22 January 2016.It is being re-posted in view of its topical importance in the present context)
Imagine a scenario where no one in the country would be allowed to slaughter a cow. With religious fervour firing the imagination of many to call for such a ban, this could very likely be the scenario in the near future.
The issue here however is not religious and more to do with basic economics. With government announcing its vision to be self sufficient in milk production by 2016, the local dairy industry is geared up for major expansion which also means there would be many more cows in its future. A possible ban could not only leave us with a lot of old cows to deal with, but it could also be detrimental to the economics of all farmers, be they small or large.
Furthermore, letting cattle simply roam free as a solution for the farmer not having to look after the cows, when they are not profitable, could create serious damage to local flora and fauna as competition for food resources increase between cattle and wildlife. Unrestricted grazing is also known to cause serious damage to the environment. Then, there is also the question of public nuisance. Are we to become like India, where local cows compete with traffic on main roads?
All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC) Jaffna District MP Gajen Ponnambalam told Parliament yesterday that people in the North and East are overburdened by loans and are caught up, not in a debt trap but a ‘death trap”, and called on the government to implement progressive policies to protect the economies of the war battered population in these districts.
“People affected by war for over 30 years were asked to compete with the rest of the country with absolutely no effort to try and create a level playing field. What was needed was to create a situation where you can have some progressive policies to declare the North East as “war affected areas” to protect the people’s economies and allow those economies to grow to some point where they can compete with the rest of the country but none of that was done,” Ponnambalam said.
The Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) yesterday severely criticised Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena for allowing Parliamentarian Premalal Jayasekara, who was convicted of murder ahead of last month’s Parliamentary Election, to take oaths despite strong objections by Opposition members.
Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Ratnapura District MP Premalal Jayasekara, alias ‘Choka Malli’, and two others were found guilty of shooting one person to death and critically injuring two others during the 2015 Presidential Election campaign. They were sentenced to death by the Ratnapura High Court in the lead-up to the August General Election. Opposition members objected to the move, and wore black scarves or “sataka” to show their displeasure. The Opposition members also staged a walk-out in protest after Jayasekara took oaths.
“Today was a most unfortunate day for parliamentary democracy in Sri Lanka. The Speaker, in spite of strong objections by us, allowed a convicted murderer to take oaths as a Member of Parliament,” Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella said at a press conference held last evening. He was joined by SJB Parliamentarian Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka.
There are legal grounds to seek a referendum on the proposed 20 th. Amendment to the Sri Lankan constitution, says M.A.Sumanthiran, spokesman of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and a leading Supreme Court lawyer.
According to Sumanthiran, the 20A seeks to change the basic principles embedded in the constitution. It gives all powers to the Executive President without any checks and balances. This is tantamount to changing the basic structure of the constitution. And if the basic features are to be changed, the amendment bill will have to be submitted to a referendum, Sumanthiran said.
A murder convict, elected from Sri Lanka’s southern Ratnapura district, was escorted from prison to Parliament on Tuesday as he took the oath as MP amid opposition protests.
Days before the August 5 general election, Premalal Jayasekara, a member of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Party (SLPP of People’s Front), was sentenced to death for murdering an opposition activist at a 2015 election rally.
Unable to attend the inaugural session of the legislature following the elections — since prison authorities refused him permission — Mr. Jayasekara petitioned the Court of Appeal that on Monday issued an interim order allowing him to attend parliamentary sessions. He has also appealed against the conviction and the death sentence.
Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader R. Sampanthan has written to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa alleging that a Buddhist monk, who is a member of the Presidential Task Force for Archaeological Heritage Management in the Eastern Province, had threatened a group of farmers in the Thiriyai area in the Kuchchaveli Divisional Secretary’s Division in the Trincomalee District.
Sampanthan said that the reverend monk, residing in the Arisimalai Buddhist temple, has threatened a group of farmers and prohibited them from farming on their private lands and other lands, for which they hold a Government permit.
When the Sri Lankan government recently gazetted the draft 20th Amendment (20 A) to the Constitution, it was merely keeping an election promise — to repeal the 19th Amendment of 2015 that clipped the Executive President’s unfettered powers, in turn empowering Parliament. With the necessary two-third majority on their side, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government is now closer to enacting it.
However, Opposition parties are strongly opposing the move that, they fear, will take the country back by a decade, to the days of the 18th Amendment.
Brought in by former President and current Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2010, it added wide-ranging powers and sweeping immunity to the President’s office, while removing its term limit. Among the very few key features that the 20th Amendment Bill retains from the 19th Amendment are the five-year terms for the President and Parliament, and the two-term limit to presidency.
By Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne, President’s Counsel
The Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution Bill (20A) is in the public domain. If I were to describe it in one sentence — 20A seeks to take the country backwards to the 2010-2015 period. The only features introduced by 19A that would survive if 20A is passed in its present form would be the five-year terms of the President and Parliament, the Presidential term-limit and the fundamental right to access of information (RTI.
Several summaries of 20A have been published and I do not intend providing another. Instead, I will highlight its adverse impact on democratic governance and its prejudicial effects on the sovereignty of the People and argue that 20A needs the approval of the People at a referendum.
Dr. Colvin R. De Silva described the system of government under the 1978 Constitution as a constitutional presidential dictatorship dressed in the raiment of a parliamentary democracy. With 18A, the executive presidency in Sri Lanka became one of the strongest and vilest, if not the strongest and vilest, presidential systems in the ‘democratic’ world. Now, 20A seeks to reverse the gains of 19A and take the country backwards.
19A has its shortcomings, mainly due to the decision taken by the Yahapalanaya government not to completely abolish the presidential system of government, the dilution of the draft that went to Cabinet due to pressure from parties within the Government (read Sirisena-led SLFP and JHU) and concessions made to the Opposition in return for its support to obtain the required two-thirds majority. The experiences under 19A clearly show the need to completely abolish the Presidential form of government and move towards a Parliamentary form, not to go backwards.
Controversial and provocative statements made by the Tamil Makkal Thesiya Koottani (TMTK) MP and former Northern Province Chief Minister C.V.Wigneswaran are likely to result in a hardening of the majority Sinhala community’s stand on the contentious 13 th.Amendment of the Sri Lankan constitution.
The 13 A, enacted in 1987 at India’s insistence, gives Sri Lanka’s provinces a modicum of autonomy through devolution of power. However, the dominant view among the Sinhalas has always been that the 13A was an imposition by India and that it should be cast away at the earliest. But the Tamils, who bitterly opposed the 13A from 1987 to 2009 (in that period they were hooked on the dream of securing a fully independent Tamil Eelam) are now wanting it desperately.
The Tamils are now seized by the fear that the current Gotabaya Rajapaksa government is capable of jettisoning the 13A lock, stock and barrel, depriving the Tamils of what little autonomy they have under 13A.