A country governed by a flawed Constitution for 46 years? (1978-2024)
Posted on February 19th, 2024

Dr Sudath Gunasekara.  Former Secretary to Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranayaka and President Mahanuwara Sinhala Baudhdha Jeista Purawesiyange SanviDhaanaya.

The 1978 one-man Constitution of the Republic of Sri Lanka was promulgated on 7th September 1978 and it abolished the Republican Constitution framed on a popular mandate from the general public in 1972. Since then, 21 Amendments have been made to it by now. (Compare it with Thirty-three amendments to the Constitution of the United States since the Constitution was put into operation on March 4, 1789 (235 years) Generally, the accepted requirement for the Amendment of the Constitution in this country as laid down is 2/3 majority in parliament and a referendum. There can be exceptions among these 21 that do not require both these conditions. But the 13th A imposed on our heads by India, that turned the 1978 Constitution upside down and the 14th Amendment that introduced the concept of the National list that increased the number of seats in Parliament from 196 to 225, both of which impact on article 3,definitely needs a referendum. But it was never held and its implementation goes on up to date, in spite of the fact the Provincial Councils were made politically nonfunctional as there had been no elections, almost for the past 6 or 7 years, except the post of Governor who is in charge of the Councils and the staff, just to mess up the District Administration after reducing the powers of Government Agents by Act no 58 of 1992, thereby killing the spirit of the 400+-year-old District Administration in this country, that has its roots even in the Pandukabhaya administration in the 4th century B.C.

Article 3 of the Constitution says, Sovereignty is in the people and is inalienable. Article 4 (a) says the legislative power of the people shall be exercised by Parliament, consisting of elected representatives of the People and by the People at a Referendum. The first serious flaw here is that all the members of the present Parliament are not elected as we have 29 selected members under the so-called national list introduced under the 14th A, increasing the196 elected to 225.

This raises a pertinent question of the legality of these two Amendments particularly, and all legislations passed by this Parliament in terms of the implied meaning of 4 (a) I think, therefore, it makes all legislations passed by this Parliament since 14th May 1988 the 14th amendment came in to effect up to date, are all illegal and unconstitutional as it violates the provisions of 4 (a). Additionally, since the 13th Amendment which has a direct impact on article 3 was also though passed in Parliament with 2/3 was not approved by a referendum. Therefore, this is a serious matter on governance that should be gone into fully by constitutional experts, before it further complicates the legitimacy of the entire process of Governance in this country. Further, as for me, I do not know what the Attorney General was doing when all these constitutional rubbish wares were passed in Parliament without adhering to the Constitution, that is considered as the supreme law of the country.

 Everyone knows how and why the National list members was introduced. The whole country knows how they are selected as well. They are not elected by the Constitution as Article 4 (a) stipulates. But are selected by the party leaders very often even outside the list submitted to the Election Commissioner along with the nominations. Take for example Dhammika Perera. What is more serious is that some of them are appointed to top Cabinet posts. Since they are not elected by the people, they are not answerable to people. They are only answerable to their leaders on whose pleasure their fate depends. Is this democracy? I ask the government and the relevant authorities to explain.

This is why I often say that this model of Sri Lankan democracy is ‘Government by the politicians, of the politicians and for the politicians” and therefore, in this country, it has ceased to be Government by the people, for the people and of the people” long time ago, as the classical definition of Democracy by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, in his famous Gettysburg Address, November 19,1863 said. I am sure, he may rise from the grave and run away to another world in shame, if he comes to know how it has been reversed completely by our Sri Lanka politicians in the 21st century.

Today in Sri Lanka, we have neither the Western Democracy nor the traditional ‘Mahaasammatha model” of people’s governance that was there in this country from 543 BC up to 1815 AD. To me, it looks naked dictatorship by a band of followers of Western Roman Catholic Greek Democracy, who have no idea of what this country was, and what its history and the pattern and ethos of state craft practiced by 291 Sinhala Kings on this Island nation.

I wonder whether any one of those politicians in the game, including the 225 in Parliament is aware that this Island nation from Vijaya’s arrival in 6th century BC, down to Sri Wickrama Rajasingha, 295 kings reigned over the whole or parts of Sri Lanka and it also had been a Sinhala Buddhist Kingdom from 307 B.C up to date, even in spite of direct foreign rule from 1815 to1948.

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