Seventeenth amendment proving difficult
[TamilNet, Monday, 17 September 2001, 19:15 GMT]
The first meeting of Sri Lanka's newly sworn in Cabinet, described in political circles as crucial in the context of the proposed 17th amendment to the constitution, is scheduled for Tuesday. The urgency has been attributed to the disagreement brewing between the ruling People's Alliance and main opposition United National Party over the proposed amendment.
According to the 17th amendment, a constitutional council would be empowered to nominate members to the independent commissions for election, judiciary, police and public services.
During several rounds of talks held earlier between the PA and JVP, a suggestion was made that the Prime Minister and Leader of Opposition should nominate three members each to the six-member Constitutional Council. The government suggested that a President's nominee should also be appointed to the council, making it a seven member-body.
The UNP has declared that it would oppose the inclusion of a Presidential nominee in the Council. "The inclusion of President's nominee in the Constitutional Council would certainly tilt the balance of the council in favour of the government thus removing the independence of independent commissions", said Mr.Tyronne Fernando, UNP Parliamentarian.
Mr.V.Anandasangaree, Senior Vice President of the Tamil United Liberation Front said his party's central working committee would meet and take a decision in this regard whether to support the 17th amendment or not.
Justice Minister Mr.Batty Weerakoon has categorically stated: "The implementation of the 17th amendment to the constitution solely depends on the determination of the Supreme Court whether it should be passed with a two-third majority or approved at a referendum. Therefore the government has decided to submit the 17th amendment before the Supreme Court as an urgent bill."
Mr.Weerakoon further stated that "the Executive President of the country was elected by popular vote. Hence the right to nominate members of the constitutional council completely lies in the hands of the President"
The Marxist Janata Vimukthi Peramuna is of the view that no referendum is needed for the implementation of the 17th amendment.
"Some elements in the government are now trying to take up this matter to the Supreme Court to get a ruling to hold a referendum in this regard. If the government insists on referendum to implement the 17th amendment, then the government should take the responsibility for the collapse of the Memorandum Of Understanding between us," said Nandana Gunatillake, JVP Parliamentarian.
Meanwhile, leaders of the PA and JVP met Monday night at the President's House to sort out differences left out in the earlier talks in a bid to finalize the 17th amendment ready for tabling in parliament on September 24. The PA government has now decided to submit the draft bill of the 17th amendment before the cabinet of ministers Tuesday to take a final decision.