Sri Lanka’s Constitutional Council, Once Hailed, Leading To Power Tussles – Analysis

By South Asia Monitor

By Sugeeswara Senadhira*

Sri Lanka’s Constitutional Council and it’s independent commissions face serious issues due to the postponement of the general elections. When the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was passed in April 2015, it was hailed as the biggest achievement of the then government. Under 19A the Constitutional Council (CC) was reinvigorated, empowering independent democratic institutions. 

Today, there is a marked division of power centres and the common belief is they do not reflect the majority will of the people of the country. Although it was established with good intention, the CC ran into problems within a short time leading to serious differences between the Executive and the CC on issues pertaining to certain appointments to the top post in the judiciary and public institutions. It was later revealed that one of the issues was the rejection of the name sent by the then President Maithripala Sirisena for appointment to the Appeal Court. The name proposed by the president was that of the second seniormost judge of Sri Lanka, but it was rejected by the CC. The rejection has created a controversy on the appointment or rejection criterion adopted by the CC.

Some of the appointments to independent Commissions were also controversial. It was revealed last week that there are serious differences between the members of the Elections Commission too. One member, Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole, publicly objected to a proposal to conduct the delayed parliamentary election. He alleged that Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya takes arbitrary decisions, without the consent of the other two members. However, chairperson as well as the other member, Nalin Abeysekera dismissed the allegation.

While the differences between the President and Prime Minister over the CC decisions continued throughout the last government, the representation of the CC as well as in some of the Independent Commissions became a major issue after the presidential elections of November 2019. 

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