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Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Ceylon Chamber suggests amendments to 21A – The Morning

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  • Includes increase in independent members to represent civil society 

The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) proposed few amendments that can be made to make the governance process for consideration by the Cabinet, which includes increasing the number of independent members chosen to represent civil society on the Constitutional Council to five, increasing it from the proposed three members, to achieve a better balance. 

“We recommend that wording on the lines of Article 41B(3) is adopted to ensure that the composition reflects the pluralistic character of society, including gender,” the CCC’s letter stated. 

The CCC pointed out that it should be an obligation of the Constitutional Council to formulate a set of rules to govern their internal workings, as this would lend to a due process being followed and transparency achieved. It is also suggested that where “subject to the approval of the Constitutional Council” appears it should be amended to read as “subject to the prior approval of the Constitutional Council” in order to avoid any doubt.

Article 44(2) of the Constitution, which allows the President to assign any subject or portfolio to himself, should also be removed to ensure that the stability and certainty that Sri Lankans desire is entrenched, the CCC proposed. 

It added that all secretaries to ministries should also be appointed only on the advice of the Prime Minister to minimise conflicts and avoid uncertainty, and that the ambit of the powers of the Constitutional Council should include the Monetary Board and the Right to Information Commission. 

Article 156C(1) should be strengthened to state that the core function of the National Procurement Commission envisages legally binding guidelines on procurement to be published in a timely fashion, they noted as well. 

Accordingly, in a letter addressed to Minister of Justice, Constitutional Affairs, and Prison Reforms Wijedasa Rajapakshe, the CCC proposed these amendments yesterday (24).

 

“We appreciate the efforts taken by you to expedite the process of gaining approval from Cabinet to place before the Parliament, the 21st Amendment, bringing back salient provisions of the since-repealed 19th Amendment to the Constitution,” the CCC’s letter read.

The Chamber said that it has considered the draft that was presented to the Cabinet and believes that the proposed amendments contain many positive features that will help improve the governance framework in the country, meeting the expectations of the public to some extent. 

“However, we feel that it can be strengthened further with a few more amendments necessitated by past learnings and current context to meet the aspirations of the people, including the business community, who are seeking a ‘system change’ to the manner in which this country is governed.”

 The CCC stated that it welcomes, in particular, the proposal to re-establish the Constitutional Council and to re-activate the independent commissions previously introduced through the 19th Amendment. The proposed amendments to curtail the excessive powers granted to the President under the 20th Amendment are also seen as a step in the right direction towards transforming the role of the President to a non-executive position.  

“We endorse, in particular, provisions that have been introduced to ensure that the President acts on the advice of the Prime Minister, not only in the appointments of officers that are contemplated by the amendment, but also in the removal of those officers. We also endorse the importance of having only Sri Lankan citizens (and not dual citizens of Sri Lanka) to sit and vote in Parliament.”

The CCC urged the consideration of this important piece of legislation as the highest priority, in the best interest of the people of this country, and to ensure it is passed within a short period of time, subject to the inclusion of the above enhancements, meeting the aspirations of the public.

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