President raps CC again | Sunday Observer

President raps CC again

President Maithripala Sirisena again took to task the Constitutional Council last week, when joining in the adjournment debate in Parliament on Thursday (21), and attempted to clarify various interpretations and criticisms of his statement on the Constitutional Council and Independent Commissions, made during the previous week.

He said the Speaker had publicly made a response a day after his statement, and many comments were made at conferences and various ceremonies, giving different interpretations of his statement by government as well as opposition MPs’. “Their comments completely misinterpreted my stance on this issue,” he said.

“I understood that the statements by the Prime Minister and some other government and opposition members, tried to show that I opposed the appointments made to the Supreme Court. I must clearly state that I have nothing against the judges appointed to the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeal. Their intention was to project a completely wrong image about me to the judiciary and the people of this country,” President Sirisena said.

“The 19th Amendment was voted on by 215 MPs. Even those in the Opposition today, voted in favour of the 19th Amendment.”

“I spent two days in the parliamentary complex. It was for no other reason but as rightly mentioned by Minister Mangala Samaraweera, the 19th Amendment was my child. I gave birth to a legitimate child.”

There were serious discussion about the Constitutional Council, its composition, on the number of representatives from Parliament, civil society and professionals both during and after the passing of this amendment.

“Although it was meant to be a legitimate child that encapsulated noble principles of good governance, (as journalist Kusal Perera had written in the Lankadeepa newspaper today), the 19th Amendment has been a disabled or deformed child at birth.”

“Kusal Perera has clearly shown how the increase in the number of politicians in the Constitutional Council has completely failed its purpose by shutting the door on civil society representatives, professionals, and the learned, because politicians outnumber them.“

“In this context, the 19A has curtailed the unlimited powers of the Executive Presidency and transferred them to the Parliament, the Constitutional Council and from it to the Independent Commissions.”

“I helped in the formation of the Constitutional Council and Independent Commissions with utmost good faith. 19A has elaborated on the functions, responsibilities and guidelines for those institutes. But so far nothing has been achieved under the 19A”. The President said he was not against the Speaker, the Prime Minister or those who criticised him in Parliament at the debate of the CC. “If the vehicle we are driving goes off the road, we must immediately put it back on track before it hits a telephone or an electricity post, or falls into a drain.”

“A Minister and an Opposition member had severely criticised me over the new appointments to the superior courts. As I said earlier, my issue is not with those who have been appointed already. I am disheartened about the nominations that have been rejected by the Constitutional Council. The Constitutional Council has rejected 14 names of judges so far, and they say it is an injustice.”

If I quote from your speech at the debate on the 19A, on April 27, 2015, as the then Minister of Public Administration, Democratic Governance, and Buddha Sasana, you (the Speaker of the House) said -

“We need decent people in society to build a depoliticised public service, depoliticised police and to clean the judiciary. If, by any chance, we expect to sideline respected people from that (process) and appoint mere politicians to Commissions, there is no point in talking about this legislation anymore.”

“Hon. Speaker, these are your words. Just as you had mentioned that the judiciary, public service and society were politicised, there is an allegation by judges, intellectuals and those holding independent opinion that the Constitutional Council is also politicised.”

The President said that it was an indisputable fact that during the period of the past four years he had not acted unconstitutionally to interfere with functions of the Council.

“However, in the present context, a circumstance has arisen that it is not possible to maintain this silence any more. There is a severe doubt in society as to whether the Constitutional Council fulfills its functions constitutionally, and whether it exceeds the powers of the Executive.”

“Hence, the responsibilities and tasks vested in me under the Constitution, in particular under Article 33(1) (d), I have a moral obligation, not only a legal obligation, to look into the affairs of the Constitutional Council.”

“When the Constitutional Council fulfills its responsibilities, it should not go against the powers of the Executive President. The reason for this is that the Executive power of the people shall be exercised by the President of the country elected by the people, according to the third and the fourth Articles of the Constitution.”

“It is apparent that the Constitutional Council has hijacked the three organs of the government - the legislature, the executive and the judiciary.”

“According to my point of view not only the appointment of these judges, but also when appointing the Attorney General and the IGP, the process followed by the Constitutional Council is not ethical. When making appointments for those positions, most of the persons of civil society were not present.”

“I have made recommendations to the Constitutional Council to consider the seniority of judges of superior courts when giving promotions to them. But, the Constitutional Council has continuously rejected these recommendations without giving any reason.”

“I have been informed by reliable sources that the Chief Justice has not shown any objections to the recommendations made by me regarding the appointment of judges of the Superior Courts.”

“Through these acts by the Constitutional Council it demonstrates that the Council fulfills its duties in an arbitrary manner. Not only that, it also shows that the Constitutional Council has no respect for the concept of separation of powers, and it also works in a manner which will harm the independence of the judiciary. In my opinion, this is a violation of the Constitution.”

He said the Constitutional Council had failed to adopt the rules and methodology relating to the performance of its duties in the past four years, as per Article 41 (c) 04 and 41 (g) 03 of the Constitution.

“Acting contrary to that, results in the loss of dignity of the Constitutional Council. It becomes politicised. It becomes authoritarian.”