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20A is direct violation of sovereignty of people … Suren Fernano tells SC

Suren Fernando

Attorney-at-Law Suren Fernando has pleaded that the 20th Amendment Bill was a direct violation of the sovereignty of the people.

He made this plea appearing before the five-judge bench of the Supreme Court on Tuesday, Septemebt 29 to support the petition by the General Secretary of the main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya.

Suren in his submissions said:

“The proposed bill is a direct challenge to the power of Parliament. It is also a direct violation of the sovereignty of the people.
It also empowers the President to control the Election Commission, which not only deprives the people of free and fair elections, but also affects the universal suffrage.

The provisions of the Bill empower the President to refer a bill rejected by Parliament for a public referendum. This is a direct violation of Article 3 of the Constitution. In addition, the power to nominate the Attorney General as a respondent in a case filed against the President has also been lost.

Furthermore, the time for judicial review of the correctness of a bill has been reduced. It has been reduced from 14 days to 7 days. Due to this the balance of power between the judiciary, the executive and the parliament is lost. We have a very limited period to challenge unconstitutional Bills at present, which is 21 days, but this will be reduced to 14 once the time period for a Bill to be published in the Gazette is reduced to 7 from 14 days. As there is no room for post-enactment legislative review, the citizenry can only speak during this short period, or have to hold their silence forever.

Even more obnoxious is the amendment to reintroduce Urgent Bills, in which case the SC will have only 24 hours to rule on the constitutionality of a Bill, and if the President so decrees, up to 72 hours.

Removal of the Offices of the President and Prime Minister, and companies in which the Government has more than 50 per cent shares, from the oversight of the Auditor General leaves grave room for corruption. Such exclusions would be aggravated by the immunity given to the Executive.

The President also has the power to control the Elections Commission. It will deprive the people of free and fair elections as well as affect the universal suffrage.

The president has the power to appoint people to critical positions such as the Auditor General, the Attorney General and the Inspector General of Police. It will give President a despotic power.

The replacement for the CC under 20A, which has been named the Parliamentary Council, is only tasked with making non-binding observations, while the President can proceed to do as he wishes. Such a Council does not enhance the quality of democracy and is a drain on public finances.

The Executive and the Legislature have been given two separate mandates by the people. Can one mandate can be used to crush the other mandate.”

The Five-judge bench comprised Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, justices Buwaneka Aluvihare, Sisira de Abrew, Priyantha Jayawardena and Vijith Malalgoda.







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