Statement of the National Joint Committee on the Proposed 20th Amendment and the Urgent Need to Repeal the 13th and 16th Amendments
Posted on September 9th, 2020

Lt Col. Anil Amarasekera (Retd.)Mr. K. M. B. Kotakadeniya (Retd. Senior DIG) Co-Presidents National Joint Commission

The National Joint Committee wish to salute the principled stand taken by Honourable Sarath Weerasekera Minister of Provincial Councils and Local Authorities, that he is against the Provincial Council system and would endeavor its abolition. We hail the Honourable Prime Minister’s bold decision to advise the President under the existing provisions of the Constitution to appoint Honorable Sarath Weerasekera for this office, when it was public knowledge that Mr. Weerasekera was always against the thirteenth amendment and the Provincial Council system introduced by this amendment. We believe that entrusting both Provincial Councils and Local Authorities in one ministry is not an accident but a step that can facilitate to restructure the Provincial Council System and empower the Local Authorities.

We have always opposed the thirteenth amendment and call for its abolition even now, however if that is not favored at this moment, the existing Provincial Council system should be at least restructured. Thus, it is the duty of the Minister of Provincial Councils and Local Governments to dismantle the existing Provincial Council system and empower the Local Authorities so that the Provincial Councils if at all could consist of representatives from the Local Authorities. The Minister should ensure that elections for Provincial Councils are done away with completely. It would be a tremendous waste of public resources to conduct elections and spend large sums of money to pay for salaries and grant benefits to members of the Provincial Councils.

Provincial Councils have been an utter waste of resources of the state with nine boards of Ministers entrusted with executive power in addition to the Cabinet of Ministers at the center. We see no justifiable reason to have ten Ministers of health, one in the center and nine in the provinces. The same applies in the field of education with ten Ministers of education. Provincial Councils have been used by politicians of both sides of the political divide to nurture their sons and daughters, nieces and nephews and to be a practicing ground for them to enter Parliament, and take their place when their parents, uncles and aunts retire from politics. It is repulsive that a section of the Government have orchestrated a campaign against Honourable Weerasekera to achieve their petty personal desires. It is unfortunate, that a spouse of a Cabinet Minister too has joined this selfish campaign.

The abolition of the Provincial Council system presently existing would be in line with the President’s policy; One County-One Law. The existing system with legislative power vested in the Provincial Councils would run counter to this very policy of the President. Under the thirteenth amendment, not only that, Provincial Council could enact legislation that would be effective over Central Government legislation, but the Parliament would not be in a position to amend or repeal Provincial Council legislation without two third support in Parliament. It is necessary that we restore supremacy of Parliament. Even if a Provincial Council is vested with such legislative power, the Parliament should be in a position to amend or repeal such legislation with a simple majority. Vesting Provincial Councils with police and land powers is a threat to national security and the very existence of the structure of the state. Even to date the provisions pertaining to the amalgamation of provinces exist. The National Joint Committee strongly urge the Government to rectify these misplaced clauses in the Constitution when enacting the proposed twentieth amendment, without waiting till a new Constitution is drafted.

If it is the view of the Government that the abolition of the nineteenth amendment is so urgent we see no justifiable reason why it should not forthwith repeal the thirteenth and the sixteenth amendments and the proportional representation system of elections presently existing, in as much as the Government came into power with a mandate to rectify these errors. The National Joint Committee is astonished at the decision of the Government to amend Article 53 of the Constitution which mandatorily requires Ministers to take the oath against supporting and promoting a separate state,     (i.e the 7th Schedule introduced by the sixth amendment) and by restricting it to the original oath prescribed in the fourth schedule. Article 61D of the proposed amendment too require the public officers to take the fourth schedule oath that existed in the original Constitution and not the oath prescribed in the seventh schedule introduced by the sixth amendment.

We are not in favor of repealing the provisions which bar dual citizens from being Members of Parliament and the removal of the ceiling placed on the number of Ministers. We see that there is an attempt to accommodate extremists who are citizens of other countries in Parliament and in the Cabinet without taking the required oath under the sixth amendment. We do not expect a Government that came into power with the nationalist vote just a few weeks ago to act in this manner. We are also against the abolition of the National Procurement Commission which can lead to corruption. We are supportive of the abolition of objectionable provisions in the nineteenth amendment but regret that provisions of the eighteenth amendment and certain provisions that existed prior to the nineteenth amendment are being reintroduced to the Constitution by the twentieth amendment.

We consider that the introduction of the provisions relating to enactment of urgent bills within 24 hours which was misused by all previous governments should not be incorporated in the twentieth amendment. The structure introduced by both the eighteenth amendment and the proposed twentieth amendment without the safeguards of checks and balances is an unwise move. Whilst we have the utmost confidence in the President and would not doubt for a moment that he would abuse power, our experiences with the past compel us to urge the Government to have sufficient checks and balances whilst empowering the President to manage his administration. We favour the restoration of the powers of the President including his right to select his Ministers and administrators including Members of these numerous Commissions established by law. However it is our considered view that all appointments should be approved by Parliament. We see no danger in such an exercise as no President can function without the support of Parliament. Although we were against the dubious constitutional council, it does not mean that we support the elimination of checks and balances from the Constitution.

We also note with regret that the government intends to appoint an Ambassador to the Republic of India with cabinet status. We do not consider this as a prudent move especially in view of the conduct of the proposed appointee in the past. Placing Sri Lanka’s Ambassadors on par with a Cabinet Minister will undermine the authority of the foreign minister and other officials that would represent Sri Lanka overseas. Adopting a policy to favour India in preference to other states is totally unacceptable. Therefore we urge the government to reconsider the twentieth amendment and these misplaced decisions relating to external affairs of Sri Lanka.

Lt Col. Anil Amarasekera (Retd.)Mr. K. M. B. Kotakadeniya (Retd. Senior DIG) Co-Presidents National Joint Commission

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