People’s sovereignty diminished by 19A restored with 20A

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Oct 22 2020

Local Government and Provincial Council Minister, Rear Admiral (Retired) Sarath Weerasekera told Parliament yesterday (21) that the 20th Amendment to the Constitution Bill would restore the people’s sovereignty after it had been diminished by the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

Participating in the second round debate on the 20th Amendment, he said as per the Constitutional provisions, the sovereignty is with the people and is inalienable. Sovereignty includes the powers of Government, fundamental rights and the franchise. 

“Within the powers of the Government comes the Executive power of the people. That Executive power of the people is exercised through the President. The 19th Amendment reduced the powers of the Executive and thereby diminishing the people’s sovereignty. The 20th Amendment would rectify this and restore the people’s sovereignty by unshackling the Executive.” 

“The 19th Amendment weakened the Executive power. For example, 6.9 million people voted for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Now nearly one year has passed but he still could not appoint an Inspector General of Police he thinks fit for the job because of the 19th Amendment. Earlier the 19th Amendment, appointments to all the key positions including the Chief Justice, the Attorney General and IGP, among others, were made by the President who had been elected by a majority of the people. The 19th Amendment vested that power in a Constitutional Council (CC) which had nine persons. 

Of those nine votes, seven were in the hands of persons appointed by the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader. That means that two MPs elected from two Districts exercise the Executive power of an entire population. What happened in practice? The Opposition Leader was R. Sampanthan, a proxy of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The Premier was Ranil Wickremesinghe and we all know his attitudes. 

It was those two who made all important appointments. In other words, Sampanthan from the Trincomalee District and Wickremesinghe from the Colombo District exercised the sovereign powers of an entire nation. Is it justifiable?” the Minister queried.

“The CC had three civil society members who were not responsible to the Parliament or to the people. They were representatives of non-Governmental organisations. Is it justifiable?”

He said as the one and only Parliamentarian who had opposed the 19th Amendment in Parliament,, he was happy to see that the day has come to replace it with the 20th Amendment. (GW & MD)

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Oct 22 2020

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