We will oppose any move to repeal 19 A – LFP
BY Ruwan Laknath Jayakody
The newly-established Lawyers Forum for the People (LFP) organisation whilst calling on the rulers to further strengthen the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, informed they would intervene to take all measures to oppose any move to repeal it.
These sentiments were expressed by the LFP’s Convening Board Members and Attorneys-at-Law Senaka Perera, Namal Rajapaksha, Achala Seneviratne and Upali Ratnayake while addressing the LFP’s maiden Media briefing held yesterday (17) in Colombo.
Perera observed that the 19th Amendment contained salient provisions which safeguarded the rule of law, the independence of the Judiciary and provided some measure of relief and equality to the people in terms of their rights, through a mechanism and process of meting out justice, via independent Commissions.
Whilst criticising the immunity afforded to the President under Article 35(1) of the Constitution, Rajapaksha claimed that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had violated the Constitution by taking over the Defence Ministerial portfolio. He warned against moves that were underfoot to attribute all ills and failures of the rule of the previous United National Front led regime, especially that of its lack of leadership, to the 19th Amendment to the Constitution which contained progressive independent Commissions. The need to resolve the national ethnic question before the country and aspects pertaining to reconciliation too was highlighted by Rajapaksha. He also urged the empowerment of the Judiciary under a new Constitution through the establishment of the post-enactment judicial review of legislation.
Elsewhere, Seneviratne noted the absence of a Cabinet Ministry for the protection of children and women, vulnerable groups whom she observed were always facing the threat of sexual violence. She also noted the need for lawyers to see themselves as judicial officers as opposed to simply representing clients. Further, she called on all to be vigilant with regard to the direction that would be taken by the Government which has a two -thirds majority.
On the other hand, Ratnayake urged the relevant political authorities to repeal Article 29 which held that the Directive Principles of State Policy (Article 27) and fundamental duties (Article 28) were non-justiciable, as it, according to Ratnayake, prevented the people’s right to life for being provided for under Articles 27 and 28. He pointed out that the enactment of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution had been viewed favourably by the international community and international organisations and had in turn resulted in Sri Lanka gaining benefits of an economic nature.
Responding to a question on the legal intervention required to resolve the national ethnic question and reconciliation, Rajapaksha was of the view that this could only be achieved through a constitutional amendment which would empower the 13th Amendment to the Constitution through a process of the devolution of power to the Provincial Councils. In addition, he lamented the absence of even an office pertaining to the subject of reconciliation and the rights of minorities.