Facilitating the Introduction of Urgent Bills through the 20th Amendment to the Constitution
Posted on September 28th, 2020

Lt Col. Anil Amarasekera (Retd.) Mr. K M B Kotakadeniya (Senior D.I.G. Retd.) Co-Presidents – National Joint Committee

Mr. Kalinga Indratissa PC
The President Bar Association of Sri Lanka,
Hulftsdrop Street,
Colombo 12.

Dear Sir,

Facilitating the Introduction of Urgent Bills through the 20th Amendment to the Constitution

The Government has presented to Parliament an amendment to the Constitution title 20th Amendment” which would allow urgent bills” to be brought circumventing the existing provisions that provides for the challenge of such bill before the Supreme Court. An Urgent Bill can be brought giving the Supreme Court only 24 hours to give its opinion on the constitutionality of such bill. The existing provisions gives a citizen an opportunity of challenging such bill within 7 days of the bill being presented in Parliament.

It was just the other day that the Government resisted an opposition call to reconvene parliament to pass laws that in their opinion would help combat the COVID-19 pandemic. It was the position of the Government before the Supreme Court that no new laws are needed to prevent the spread of the virus. We concluded a 30 year old war without any new law to combat terrorism.

If any existing law is obsolete or a new law is needed in an emergency situation the President has the power to declare emergency overriding, suspending or amending any existing law or to enact any new law pending approval of Parliament. When all these remedies are available one cannot understand the need to amend the existing Constitution to prevent the challenge of a Bill before the Supreme Court.

Although we are confident that His Excellency the President will not abuse such provisions, a future government can utilize these proposed provisions introduced through the 20th Amendment to prevent citizens challenging bills brought against the national interest. Whether this attempt to curtail the existing powers of the Supreme Court (to duly consider bills after giving a hearing to citizens) is an encroachment of the Judicial Power of the people and therefore a violation of the Sovereignty of the people that will attract a referendum may be considered by the Supreme Court and hence we do not wish to express any view.

However we wish to place on record that this attempt is a blow to democracy and a violation of the inherent rights of the people of Sri Lanka when we think of the possibility of a future government bringing legislation to facilitate the MCC agreement to provide the required land to the notorious American project. We also do not consider the proposed changes to give the executive the right to decide on the composition of the Judicial Service Commission, desirable.

In the circumstances we urge the Bar Association of Sri Lanka to intervene and ensure that these draconian provisions are not included in the Constitution through the 20th Amendment.

Lt Col. Anil Amarasekera (Retd.) Mr. K M B Kotakadeniya (Senior D.I.G. Retd.) Co-Presidents National Joint Committee

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