Sept 30, Colombo: The 20th Amendment to the Constitution violates the sovereignty of the people and concentrates all powers on the President, weakening the powers of the judiciary and the legislature, Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court was told when petitions filed against and in support of the proposed bill were taken up for consideration for a second day today (30).
The petitions were heard by a five-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, justices Buwaneka Aluvihare, Sisira de Abrew, Priyantha Jayawardena and Vijith Malalgoda.
Addressing a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court, Attorney-at-Law Iraj de Silva, appearing for the United National party (UNP) Deputy Leader Ruwan Wijewardene, said that the concept of sovereignty of the people and the primacy of Buddhism in the country could not be harmed by anyone and that it could not be changed by any amendment to the Constitution.
"No one can harm the concept of sovereignty of the people. No one can harm it. It cannot be changed by holding a referendum. Same predominance is given for Buddhism in this country. It dates back to the history of this country. We fought for the primacy of Buddhism. It has been confirmed by all the laws and ordinances. It has been in existence during Colebrook and Donoughmore Commission regimes. Buddhism prevailed in the country. This cannot be changed in any way.”
“Articles from clause 3 to 57 of this Bill are completely unconstitutional. In this situation the sovereignty of the people is being violated. This Bill is completely contrary to the basic framework of the Constitution. The provisions of the Bill will consolidate the full powers of the President. The provisions of the Bill also upset the balance of the three main branches of law, accountability and governance. It also contradicts the principle of devolution. It is also a violation of the principle of public trust. Also, the power to govern will be transferred to a dual citizen through this amendment bill.”
President's Counsel Roland Perera appearing for UNP General Secretary Akila Viraj Kariyawasam said the provisions of this Bill are a violation of the judicial power of the people as enshrined in Articles 3 and 4 of the Constitution, as well as a violation of the executive power of the people. In addition, it is a violation of the fundamental rights of the people and the universal suffrage.
Attorney-at-Law Shiral Lakthilaka appearing for the petitioners said the amalgamation of all powers into the President has prevented the balance of powers between the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary.
“As a result of these amendments the financial sovereignty of the Parliament will be lost. Moreover, the independence of the judiciary and the legislature will be lost and the institutions will fall under the power of the President. With the 20th Amendment the basic framework of the Constitution is being broken. There is also a breakdown in the financial sovereignty of the legislature and the sovereignty of judiciary. This creates a situation where there is no democracy and no rule of law and leads to a situation where our country has no future.”
Attorney-at-Law Viran Corea, appearing for the petitioners, said the 20th Amendment directly damages the sovereignty of the people as enshrined in Article 3 of the Constitution. “The provisions of this Bill allow a dual citizen to rule the country, thereby directly affecting the independence of Sri Lanka.”
President's Counsel Krishmal Warnasuriya appearing for four petitioners including Dr. Ajantha Perera said the “Article 5 of the Bill violates the rule of law and the balance of powers between the executive legislature and judiciary will be lost.
Attorney-at-Law M. Goonetileke, who appeared for Rasika Jayakody, a member of the Samagi Youth Force, made a similar statement in court.
Thirty-nine parties, including various politicians, lawyers, and representatives of various civil society organizations, filed the petitions, stating that the 20th Amendment to the Constitution is unconstitutional and, therefore, requesting the court to issue ruling that the Amendment needs to be passed by a referendum and by a special majority in the parliament.
Attorney-at-Law Indika Gallage, General Secretary of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya Party Ranjith Madduma Bandara, Leader of the Tamil National Alliance R. Sampanthan, Center for Policy Alternatives and its Executive Director Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Citizen Anil Kariyawasam, Transparency International Sri Lanka, Former Governor of the Uva and Central Provinces Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon, human rights activist Shri Abdul Sanun, a resident of Jaffna SCC Illangovan, members of the Samagi Youth Force Lihini Fernando and Rasika Lakmal Jayakody, Member of the Election Commission, Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole, Chairman and Member of Parliament for Samagi Youth Force Mayantha Dissanayake, UNP General Secretary Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, UNP Deputy Leader Ruwan Wijewardene, Attorney-at-Law P. Liyanaarachchi on behalf of the Siri Laka People's Front, 20 lawyers including Attorneys at Law Namal Rajapaksa and Achala Seneviratne, Sri Lanka Press Institute, Eric Senadhiratne Balasuriya, and Arif Shamsuddin Ibrahim Lebbe Hajjiar filed the petitions.
The Attorney General has been named as the respondent in all these petitions.
By the end of today, consideration of 32 out of 39 petitions has been completed.
The five-judge bench appointed to consider the petitions has decided to adjourn the hearing of the remaining petitions till next Friday (Oct 02).