BASL to meet party reps

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The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) will meet political party representatives, including the Opposition next week to submit a 13-point proposal to restore political and economic stability, with the primary focus on the need to form an Interim Government of National Unity.

In the proposal that was also submitted to the Malwatta and Asgiriya Chapters early this week BASL said, the Interim Government of National Unity should consist of 15 Cabinet Ministers and for the Prime Minister to be a Member of Parliament who is able to establish a consensus among all political parties recognised by the Speaker in Parliament on the national economy and to enact necessary reforms.

“The Government of National Unity will be for a maximum period of 18 months and a further 6 weeks as a Caretaker Government to oversee elections. At the conclusion of 18 months, Parliament will be dissolved and a General Election will be held at the expiry of six weeks. The Government of National Unity will cease to exist at the conclusion of the General Election,” BASL proposed.

Further, according to the proposal, the President should not hold any portfolio as stipulated by the 19th Amendment.

BASL also proposed to repeal the 21st Amendment and to abolish the Executive Presidency within six months, while stating that the amendment to the effect of abolishing Executive Presidency should be passed in Parliament no later than 30 November 2022 and that the Executive Presidency should be replaced by a Parliamentary form of government, where the Prime Minister is the head of the Government and Cabinet is accountable to Parliament.“The Government must immediately introduce the 21st Amendment by repealing the provisions of the 20th Amendment and restoring the 19th Amendment. In doing so, the present number of Court of Appeal and Supreme Court Judges should remain intact. The introduction of the provisions of the 19th Amendment should result in the re-establishment of the Constitutional Council, the Independent Commissions which existed under the 19th Amendment while enhancing their financial independence, transparency and accountability,” they said.

They further said in addition to the 19th Amendment provisions, the 21st Amendment should also provide for the appointment of the Governor of the Central Bank and the Monetary Board to be carried out with the approval of the Constitutional Council, for the appointments of the Secretaries to the Ministries, Governors, Ambassadors and Heads of Missions to be done on the advice of the Prime Minister in consultation with Cabinet.

Further, the amendment should focus on the need for Presidential Pardon to be granted according to the recommendation by a body established by law, appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Constitutional Council and that upon enactment of the 21st Amendment all Secretaries to Ministries be appointed and all independent Commissions other than the Judicial Service Commission be reconstituted.

BASL also called for an independent Advisory Council consisting of 15 qualified professionals from disciplines corresponding to the 15 Ministries or relevant to the national economy and that all major policy decisions of the Government to be taken in consultation with the Advisory Council in a transparent manner.

“Rescind the Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry appointed by Gazette (Extraordinary) No. 2212/53 of 29 January 2021 to implement the recommendations and decisions made by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) appointed to Investigate Allegations of Political Victimisation during the period commencing 8 January 2015 and ending 16 November 2019 appointed by Gazette (Extraordinary) No. 2157/44 of 9 January 2020,” BASL noted in the proposal, while calling to refrain from implementing the recommendations of the PCoI.

They also said the Cabinet of National Unity should prepare a Common Minimum Programme (CMP) in consultation with the Advisory Council. The CMP will be tabled in Parliament for its approval and implementation of the CMP will be the responsibility of the Cabinet of National Unity.

The CMP would focus on debt restructuring, negotiating an IMF programme and obtaining of bridging finance from bilateral partners pending the IMF Programme, to provide immediate resolution of the shortages of essential goods and services, divesture and privatisation of State assets and awarding tenders including ongoing procurements to be conducted in a transparent manner, to uphold the rule of law and in particular ensure that State actors uphold the rights and freedoms of the people and advance Sri Lanka’s human rights situation and to adopt a foreign policy which supports the national interests.

Further BASL said the CMP should focus on enacting legislation on proceeds of crime, recovery of State assets, composite law on anti-corruption, regulation of political parties and campaign finance, and necessary amendments to the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Law to enable the publication of the declarations of Assets and Liabilities of elected officials.

“The CMP should also enact necessary amendments to the Monetary Law or promulgate new legislation to strengthen the independence of the Central Bank and enact with bipartisan support and input by professional organisations and trade associations necessary legislation to develop the national economy and attract investments,” BASL said.

BASL further emphasised that CMP should also enact with bipartisan support and input by professional organisations and trade associations necessary legislation to develop the national economy and attract investments, complete all necessary reforms relating to the conduct of elections expeditiously (especially those which have been delayed), devise methods to conduct such elections in a cost-effective manner (that is, on the same day), and set a time frame for conducting elections other than a Presidential or Parliamentary election, consider the proposals submitted by the BASL on the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) submitted to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and amend the same while taking steps to improve the ease of doing business, BASL said.

According to the proposals, the CMP shall include the abolition of the Executive Presidency, while the Budget presented by the Interim Government will be based on the CMP.

BASL said in implementing the proposals, actions must be consistent with the Constitution and the relevant legal instruments and transparency. BASL also intends to obtain the support of several institutions to call on the Government to implement the proposals.

By Faadhila Thassim