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ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s newly proposed 22nd Amendment to the constitution, while based on the 19th Amendment, will transcend the latter’s democratic features while retaining the more progressive aspects of the 20th Amendment, Justice Minister Wijeyadasa has said Rajapakshe.

During a press briefing held on Wednesday, August 10, Rajapakshe summarized some key features of the proposed amendment.

Constitutional Assembly

“The basic features of the 19th Amendment are all there. Primarily, re-establishing the Constitutional Assembly which has the power to approve appointments of High Court judges and senior government officials, and to appoint members of commissions,” he said.

Unlike the 19th Amendment, he said, the three members of the Constitutional Assembly drawn from parliament would not be chosen by the prime minister and the leader of the opposition.

Instead, one member will be nominated by and from the ruling party, one by and from the main opposition, and one majority member nominated by and from the other parties.

The three civilian members of the Constitutional Council will be appointed by the President with the approval of Parliament without the intervention of the Prime Minister or the leader of the opposition.

“As in the 19th Amendment, the police commission, the civil service commission, the electoral commission and the anti-corruption commission will be independent institutions,” he said.

The Public Procurement Board and the Auditing Services Board, which were dissolved by the 20th Amendment, will be re-established by the 22nd Amendment.

“These commissions were created because most instances of corruption in the governance process occur during audits and procurement processes,” Rajapakshe said.

Appointment of the Governor of the Central Bank

The Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) is to be appointed by the President with the approval of the Constitutional Council.

“There was justified talk around the appointment of the Central Bank Governor,” Rajapakshe said.

“[Previous Governors] Arjuna Mahendran and Ajith Nivaard Cabraal worked arbitrarily to destroy the economy of the country, and because the impact on the economy is so great, action had to be taken [regarding the appointment of CBSL governors],” he claimed.

Ministerial positions of the President

The 22nd Amendment seeks to restrict the President’s ministerial portfolios to just the Ministry of Defense via interim arrangements, while the 19th Amendment also grants them authority over the Ministries of Environment and Mahaweli.

Rajapakshe said the Ministry of Defense must stay with the President as the security of the country is his responsibility according to previous Supreme Court rulings.

“Under the 22nd Amendment, until a minister is appointed, the president shall assume responsibility for the respective ministry. Additionally, in an emergency, the president may take over a ministry on the advice of the Prime minister,” he said.

Opportunity for the public to engage in the legislative process

Bills proposed to Parliament can be challenged in the Supreme Court, and this can be done within 14 days of the bill being introduced.

“The public has the right to challenge whether a bill proposed to Parliament is constitutional or not. To enact these rights, the public must do so within seven days of the introduction of the bill. We have increased this to 14 days, to give people more opportunities to participate in the legislative process,” Rajapakshe said.

Action against bribery and corruption

Under the 22nd Amendment, Sri Lanka will establish laws to implement the provisions of the United Nations Convention against Corruption and other international conventions regarding bribery and corruption.

“Even though there was [a similar provision] in the 19th Amendment, no law was created. The anti-corruption bill has already been created, it will be studied further in the coming weeks,” Rajapakshe said.

The Bribery and Bribery Act and the Assets and Liabilities Declaration Act will also be updated, he said.

Ministry secretary positions

Under the 22nd Amendment, departmental secretaries will retain their positions even after the cabinet is dissolved.

These seven characteristics are special because they go beyond 19A.

It was added that dual citizens are not qualified for ministerial positions.

According to Rajapakshe, the 22nd Amendment, if passed, will be named the 21st Constitutional Amendment.

He said the moniker for the 22nd Amendment, “19+” did not do justice to the scope of the incremental changes that needed to be made.

“You cannot give a narrow definition to this amendment. It’s not more or less anything. We’ve included some advanced democratic features in this one that weren’t in the 19th Amendment. (Colombo/August 10, 2022)

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