President’s formal approval awaited Sampanthan back in CC

By Shamindra Ferdinando

A recommendation by the Constitutional Council to accommodate Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader Rajavarothiam Sampanthan as a member of the decision making body is subject to formal approval by President Maithripala Sirisena.

The CC, on April 05, at a meeting chaired by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya recommended Sampanthan to fill vacancy created by the resignation of Hambantota District MP Chamal Rajapaksa.

Trincomalee District MP 86-year-old Sampanthan lost his place in the CC as an ex-officio member when Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, MP, recognized Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Opposition Leader subsequent to the UPFA quitting the government in Oct 2018.

Official sources said that the CC was yet to receive approval from the President’s Office. Speaker Karu Jayasuriya’s Office on April 5 announced the decision on Sampanthan.

The CC consists of seven lawmakers and three civil society members. Of the seven lawmakers, three are ex-officio, namely Speaker Jayasuriya, PM Ranil Wickremesinghe and Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Sources said that the remaining four lawmakers were chosen by President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister and Opposition Leader in consultation with each other and political parties other than the ones the PM and the Opposition Leader belonged to.

President Sirisena’s nominee is National List MP Mahinda Samarasinghe whereas the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader jointly nominated Justice Minister Thalatha Atukorale and recently Sampanthan. The other lawmaker in the CC is JVP National List MP Bimal Ratnayake.

Altogether, the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader in consultation with each other appoint five CC members and of them three are civil society activists.

Well informed sources told The Island that Rajapaksa had proposed EPDP leader Douglas Devananda, while Wickremesinghe wanted to accommodate Sampanthan. Subsequently, Devananda withdrew to pave the way for Sampanthan to re-enter the CC.

The parliament established the CC in accordance with the 19th Amendment to the Constitution enacted in early 2015. The CC is constitutionally entrusted with making key appointments in the public sector in addition to various commissions.

The Speaker’s Office said that before the end of this month, the CC would take up the appointments of the new Chief Justice and the Attorney General.

President Sirisena recently strongly criticized the CC both in and out of parliament and also slammed the Human Rights Council of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) on a number of issues. Speaker Jayasuriya and the CC and HRCSL promptly responded to President Sirisena’s criticism leading to sort of a stalemate, sources said.

After having rejected virtually all presidential nominees to top courts, last month the CC accepted the President Sirisena’s recommendation to appoint Senior Additional Solicitor General Yasantha Kodagoda as the President of the Court of Appeal.

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