20A hearings in Supreme Court : People have voted time and again to abolish executive presidency – Sumanthiran | Sunday Observer

20A hearings in Supreme Court : People have voted time and again to abolish executive presidency – Sumanthiran

16 September, 2018

The people of Sri Lanka have proved time and again that they favour the abolition of the executive presidency, since they have supported every presidential candidate who has promised to scrap the office since 1994, said Counsel for petitioners intervening in support of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution in the Supreme Court on Friday (14).

President’s Counsel M.A. Sumanthiran, who serves as Counsel for the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) and Dr.Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, are intervening in the fundamental rights application filed by UPFA MP and Joint Opposition frontliner Udaya Gammanpila, who is challenging 20A on the basis that it seeks to reduce the powers of the presidency by a two thirds majority in Parliament alone.

Gammanpila is seeking clarification on whether the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, submitted as a private members’ bill in Parliament and seeking to abolish the executive presidency, needs a referendum of the people in order to be enacted. This in turn depends on whether or not the bill seeks to amend entrenched clauses set out in the Constitution.

When the case was taken up last Friday, Sumanthiran PC and Attorney-at-Law Suren Fernando made submissions on behalf of the CPA and Dr. Saravanamuttu.

Article 3 of the Sri Lankan Constitution vests sovereignty in the people, while Article 4 of the Constitution lists the instruments through which the peoples’ sovereignty will be exercised – namely, the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. The 20th Amendment to the Constitution as presented by the JVP seeks to make alterations to one of these instruments, which the petitioner Gammanpila says would be unconstitutional and requires a referendum. However Sumanthiran PC argued that sovereignty is with the people and will continue to be with the people even under the proposed amendment, adding that there was no prejudicial impact to the sovereignty of the people by the 20A bill as it only changes the instruments through which sovereignty is exercised.

Sumanthiran PC further argued that the present constitution was a bundle of contradictions and that the people of Sri Lanka have time and time again voted for candidates promising abolition or reform of the executive presidency. He added that the present Government had also given a commitment to abolish the executive presidency when elected. He also highlighted the Interim Report of the Steering Committee of the Constitutional Assembly, tabled in the Parliament on September 21, 2017, which contains a general consensus that the executive presidency in the current form should be abolished.

The petition filed against the 20 Amendment will be taken up again tomorrow (17) before the Supreme Court for deliberation. The case is being heard before a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising Acting Chief Justice Sisira de Abrew and Justices Prasanna Jayawardena and Murdu Fernando. The intervenient petitioners CPA and Dr. Saravanamuttu were represented by M. A. Sumanthiran PC, Viran Corea, Bhavani Fonseka, Shushmitha Thayanandan, Khyati Wickramanayake and Inshira Faliq.

Twelve petitions have been filed against the 20th Amendment in the Supreme Court. Among the petitioners are Gammanpila and the Ravana Balakaya.