The 20th Amendment to the Constitution will give the President the power to subjugate the legislature and the judiciary, and act on his own will, Ven. Bengamuwe Nalaka Muruththettuwe Ananda Thero & Ven. Elle Gunawansa Thero warns.
In a letter addressed to the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the priests added that this will weaken the cabinet and even the power and stability of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa who has ‘won the love of the people’.
They added that the 20A gives the President the power to change the ministers and ministerial powers at any time at his will, and that there may be underlying motives to remove the restriction on the number of ministers which was limited to 30.
The priests further said that many of the responsibilities assigned to the President by the Constitution have been removed and that the people have been deprived of the right to challenge the unconstitutional actions of the President in court.
The amendment, the added, could lead to an unstable state mechanism without an order of law.
The 20A was drafted in complete disregard of the national forces and the aspirations of the people behind the President’s victory, and that the draft, which showed the authorship of someone who had not even the slightest knowledge of the drafting of the Constitution, was already unpopular and was the beginning of a political and social crisis, they pointed out adding that, it also raises suspicions as to whether there is an invisible hand behind the conspiracy to betray the country and the nation with the cunning intention of undermining public confidence in the President and the government.
The letter states as follows,
Introduction of provisions for the introduction of emergency bills
Many bills that destroy the country and the nation were brought up during the period of ‘Yahapalana government’ and were defeated because they were challenged in the Supreme Court by patriotic citizens including monks. It is a right of the people. People lose that right in the process of bringing in emergency bills. It is anti-democratic. Just as the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was enacted in 1987 against the will of the people, in the future, laws that betray the country, such as the MCC, could be enacted as emergency legislation. It was never expected from this Government or from you to allow such a thing to happen.
With these amendments comes a direct threat to national security and the unitary state, including the removal of the oath that should be delivered by the Cabinet, Deputy Ministers and Non-Cabinet Ministers and their Secretaries from the Article 53 of the Constitution, promising not to create a separate state in the territory referred to in Schedule 7 to the Constitution. We strongly condemn the attempts made by the subject minister to suppress public protests.
It is also dangerous to say that in the end it was just a mistake. This is because it confirms how carelessly this constitution draft has been drafted.
Removal of the barrier to dual citizenship imposed on appointment as a Member of Parliament
Dual citizens are always loyal to two countries. Our experience during the period of Yahapalana government is that a number of attempts have been made by international giants to plunder the land and resources of Sri Lanka and to weaken national security.
Among those tactics, attempts to make legislations in their favor was also highlighted.
That is the danger of making our legislators those who are loyal to powerful foreign countries and who have children and family citizenship in foreign countries. We cannot guarantee that they will be loyal and have allegiance to our country. Therefore, dual citizens should be barred from holding any high ranks in the government, not just a parliamentary seat. Lifting of the ban on dual citizens holding seats is a threat to national security and the sovereignty of the people.
Removal of the Presidential Secretariat, the Secretariat of Ministers and the companies in which the government holds 50% of the shares from the scope of the Auditor General.
There are over a hundred government-owned companies, such as Sri Lanka Telecom and SriLankan Airlines. Many of these can have a direct impact on the use of the country’s resources.
Public money is invested in those companies. The direct result of removing these institutions from the supervision of the Auditor General is an incitement to corruption. That is paving the way for the misuse of people’s money. The removal of the Secretariats of the President and the Prime Minister from the purview of the Auditor General and the removal of the Commission to Investigate Bribery or Corruption, the National Procurement Commission and the Audit Services Commission from the Constitution are also conducive to corruption.
What we wanted from you was to block the possibility of corruption, not to allow more of it.
Giving the President the discretionary power to appoint judges of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal and members of the Judicial Service Commission.
Such unlimited powers seriously jeopardize the independence of the judiciary. In any democratic system of government, such powers under the President should be subject to the approval of Parliament or Parliamentary Council. All such restraints and balancing mechanisms must be in place within the state procedures.
Eliminating the possibility of taking legal action against those who violate the provisions of the Election Commission and the law
The direct result of the removal of the law enforcement clause against those who act contrary to the provisions of the Election Commission and the law is to give election violators the opportunity to do so. This is an amendment that supports a corrupt electoral system. We strongly condemn such amendments.
Removal of clauses restricting the number of ministers to 30
A clause restricting the number of ministers to 30 and the number of non-cabinet ministers and deputy ministers to 40 has been imposed as a result of years of intense pressure from the people over the years. Taking advantage of the opportunity to appoint an unlimited number of ministers, minority extremist parties have the opportunity to negotiate with governments elected by the majority of the people.
The unfortunate consequence is that extremist parties acquiring the right to run the government is suppressing the will of the majority. It is doubtful whether extremists such as former Minister Rishad Bathiudeen have already begun to work closely with the government with the ulterior motive of taking advantage of such amendments in the future. Also, people are well aware that having an unlimited number of ministers is not just a waste of money but a factor that confuses the executive mechanism.
The promise made to the people during the election of this government was a new constitution. That was the expectation of the people. The people have experienced the consequences of informal amendments to the Constitution. Whatever the constitutional amendment, steps must be taken to address the real crisis that the country currently facing.
We emphasize that the clauses that guarantee the signing of international conventions and agreements subject to the approval of Parliament, as well as clauses that specifically mandate the formulation and enactment of national policies and legislation, and the clauses that remove the existing provisions introduced by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which facilitates the unification of the North and the East and the impediment of legislation to the whole country, clauses prohibiting the sale of local resources and land to foreigners should also be included in the new constitution.
The passage of the 20th Amendment, which has already caused controversy in the country, needs to be reconsidered. However, on behalf of the patriotic people, including monks who worked hard to bring you to power, we kindly request you to at least make the amendments mentioned here if the amendment is to be passed.