Tamil Diplomat

SLFP presents reforms

Sri Lanka Freedom Party has made public the party’s proposals for constitutional changes. The proposed changes are:

INTERFACE BETWEEN EXECUTIVE PRESIDENCY AND ELECTORAL REFORM:

It is the firm position of the SLFP that reform of the Executive Presidency and replacement of the current electoral system should be undertaken as a single exercise, to be formulated and carried through at the same time rather than piecemeal.

We are convinced that a high degree of instability will be the inevitable result of reducing significantly the range and content of Executive Presidential powers, while leaving intact the existing proportional representation system.

PREVENTION OF CROSSOVERS:

It is vitally important that effective constitutional provisions to prevent crossovers, with the sanction of loss of one’s seat in Parliament, should form an integral element of the reform initiative.

OUR APPROACH TO REFORM OF THE PRESIDENCY:

The SLFP believes that the overarching Executive Presidential system, embedded in the present Constitution, has a chilling effect on other democratic institutions because of the excessive powers vested in the Presidency. Some of these powers, therefore, need to be removed, but we are of opinion that there are other powers and responsibilities conferred on the Presidency, which ought to be retained in the national interest.

MODE OF ELECTION OF THE PRESIDENT:

The President should be elected by the people directly, and the whole country will constitute the electorate.

CURTAILMENT OF PRESIDENTIAL AUTHORITY BY ESTABLISHMENT OF INDEPENDENT COMMISSIONS:

i. We support the abolition of the 18th Amendment and the re-enactment of the 17th Amendment, with the modifications proposed by us, through a new 19th Amendment. The proposed modifications which apply to the Elections Commission, the Public Service Commission and the Police Commission, are embodied in an annexure.

ii. These changes will greatly strengthen the independence of the Judiciary. In particular, Article 33 (d), which governs appointment of the higher Judiciary, should be made subject to the provisions of the 17th Amendment.

Article 111 D (1) should be amended to bring about a change with regard to the composition of the Judicial Service Commission. Apart from the Chief Justice, seniority should be the criterion for appointment of the other two Judges, subject to the requirement that one of them should have experience in the original courts.

PRESIDENTIAL POWERS AND IMMUNITIES TO BE REMOVED:

The far reaching Presidential power to dissolve Parliament after one year conferred by Article 70 (1) should be removed.

Article 35 (1) should be amended to restrict immunity in respect of official acts, but challenges should be confined to alleged violation of fundamental rights.

Article 52 (1) should be amended to transfer the power of appointment of Secretaries to Ministries from the President to the Cabinet.

PRESIDENTIAL POWERS TO BE RETAINED:

We consider it a matter of critical national importance that some substantive powers should be retained by the President.

These consist of:

(i) The power under Article 33 (d) in respect of alienation of State land (principle set out in Article 1:3 of Appendix II of the 13th Amendment)

(ii) The Presidential power (in Chapter XVIII) in respect of public security, subject to Parliamentary scrutiny provided for in Article 155;

(iii) The power of appointment of Governors in Article 154 (B) (2) of the 13th Amendment.

(iv) Powers to deal with extraordinary situations relating to the administration of Provinces set out in Articles 154K and 154L of the 13th Amendment.

PRESIDENTIAL POWERS TO BE EXERCISED ON ADVICE:

We are of opinion that several Presidential powers should be exercised on advice. These are the following;

Article 34 should be amended to require the Presidential power to grant pardon, respite or remission to be exercised on the advice of the Minister of Justice.

Article 44 (1) should be amended to require that the appointment of Ministers, and assignment of subjects and functions, should be done on the advice of the Prime Minister.

Article 154 N (1) should be amended to introduce the requirement that the power to make a Proclamation regarding financial stability or credit should be exercised on the advice of the Minister of Finance.

CONSTITUTIONAL ENTRENCHMENT OF INDEPENDENT COMMISSIONS: IMPROVEMENT OF THE 17TH AMENDMENT:

Need to clarify (Article 41 A) that validity of decisions and determination of quorum for meetings will apply, notwithstanding incomplete membership of the Constitutional Council. This can be achieved by inclusion of the new provision which reads “The Speaker shall ensure continuity and effective functioning of the Council by appropriate action.”

Add to provision that enables Speaker 41A (8) to “take necessary steps to ensure that vacancies are filled in accordance with the Constitution the following: Audit Commission, National Procurement Commission, Official Languages Commission and the University Grants Commission.

Make it a duty of every person (Article 104 B (4) (b) ) or officer having custody of, or control over, property in respect of which the Elections Commission or the Commissioner-General of elections has made a direction, to be fortified by the creation of an offence for non-compliance, together with imposition of an appropriate penalty.

Duty of compliance (Article 104B (5) ) with guidelines issued by the Elections Commission not to be confined to the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation and the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation but to extend to all media institutions owned or controlled by the State.

In the event of contravention of guidelines (Article 104B (5) (c) ) issued by the Elections Commission, the sanction by way of appointment of a Competent Authority not to be confined to the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation and the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation, but to extend to all media institutions owned or controlled by the State.

Consider whether (Article 104 (E) (8) (a) ) a simple majority of the total membership of Parliament is sufficient to carry a motion of no confidence against the Commissioner General of Elections.

The Inspector General of Police or his representative shall be entitled to participate in all meetings of the Police Commission without voting rights. One member of the Police Commission shall be a retired police officer above the rank of Deputy Inspector General of Police.