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Strengthening CC is of utmost importance in the current context: Eran Wickramaratne in the House

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Finance State Minister Eran Wickramaratne has stated that in the light of the political coup on October 26, it is of utmost importance to strengthen the Constitutional Council and for ensuring democracy and rule of law in the island.

He made this observation participating in the adjournment debate on the Constitution Council. During his address, Wickramaratne said: “This debate is somewhat on ruler and the ruled. It will show on which side the participants of the debate are. This debate is also about the separation of powers between the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. If a democracy is to prevail, the separation of powers must be protected.

Before 19th amendment was introduced, the President had sweeping powers in this country. He could arbitrarily appoint and promote important police officers, prosecutors, public servants and judges. The so called Parliamentary Council of the time was actually not that independent. It was more of a rubber stamp. That is why we had a situation in which 17th amendment was emasculated and 18th was brought in, firstly to remove the second term limit on running for Presidency and to have a full time presidency. Secondly, to remove the checks and balances there in Parliamentary democracy that could bring government servants to their knees before the executive powers of the President. This was the reason why amendments were brought to limit presidential powers and to enhance the powers of the Cabinet. Now the Executive Presidency’s actions are up for judiciary review.

We have a history of discrimination. We have a history of appointing wrong people. I recall particularly the situation where Dr. Shirani Bandaranaike was removed by a flawed process. That day Justice Sri Skandharaja presided at the divisional bench with Justice Anil Gunaratne and Justice Salam in impeaching CJ Shirani Bandaranaike. They held that the process was flawed and it was issued. Justice Skandharaja had to pay a heavy price. He was overlooked five times from the appointments he should have received. His blood vessel burst and later he died as a heartbroken man. He was on his deathbed and expected then President to look at his situation but he was not promoted. He died as the President of Court of Appeal, who was then the Justice Minister? Anil Gunawardena was also not promoted either as the President of the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court because he was also in the bench. He was overlooked three times until we corrected the situation in 2015. Discrimination has been a part of the history, and we need to get away more and more from it.

Then we also have the problem of independent persons in the CC. We know that H.A. de Silva, Colvin Gunaratne, these people were appointed not under the UNP government but under a SLFP government. These people acted independently. So it does not matter who appoint them. These people who are appointed need to act independently.

We had a debate recently on CC approving nominees on seniority. Seniority is important but it should not be the only determinant. It should be on meritocracy whether it is on judiciary service or public. It cannot only be done on seniority. Efficiency, good performance, integrity, contribution to jurisprudence should be considered. For such assessment procedure, a CC is necessary. We prefer to have more independent people in the CC.”

 

 

 

 

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