Some Independent Commissions not answerable to Parliament


By Shamindra Ferdinando

The government yesterday declared that the proposed independent Election Commission (EC) and Judicial Service Commission (JSC) wouldn’t be answerable even to parliament, though the President was now accountable to the legislature in accordance with the 19 Amendment to the Constitution.

Government spokesperson and Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne said that the 19 Amendment to the Constitution had given special status to EC and the JSC. The EC and JSC would be among 10 Independent Commissions to be set up under the 19 Amendment, the minister said.

Senaratne and Media Secretary Karunaratne Paranavithana, addressed the media at the Information Department.

The House on Tuesday night ratified the 19 Amendment to the Constitution with a majority of 212 votes.

Minister Senaratne said: "Setting up of a 10-member Constitutional Council will be a top priority. Once the CC is in place, it’ll go ahead with appointing members to independent commissions."

Admitting that the composition of the CC had to be changed due to the intervention by the Opposition, Minister Senaratne said that in accordance with the original plan the body was to comprise three politicians and seven outsiders. However, the government had finally accepted the Opposition proposal on the composition, the minister said. "Now, CC will consist of seven politicians and three outsiders. It will not cause trouble."

Having enacted the 19 Amendment to the Constitution, the government would now go flat out to reach consensus on electoral reforms to enable the passage of the 20 Amendment ahead of the next parliamentary election, Dr Senaratne said. The government spokesperson was responding to a query from The Island. The minister emphasized that political parties hadn’t reached an agreement on electoral reforms, though there was an understanding among them as regards the required changes. The minister revealed that political parties represented in parliament were in the process of examining two formulas which could facilitate the on-going process to reach agreement on electoral reforms.

Dr. Senaratne urged the media not to misinterpret his statement on sensitive political matters. Alleging that recent coverage on the electoral reforms had caused problems, Dr Senaratne told media to be mindful in reporting on going deliberations.

He emphasized that the electoral system would be changed prior to the dissolution of present parliament. The minister asserted that the finalization of 20 Amendment could take place in a couple of months regardless of the difficulties in re-drawing electorates. The government was also aware of the need to ensure that interests of minorities weren’t undermined; therefore those involved in the process had to move forward with extreme caution.

Minister Senaratne said that when the Supreme Court ruled that two clauses of the Bill titled 19th Amendment to the Constitution needed the approval of the people at a referendum; the government dropped them to ensure the passage of the Amendment. The minister asserted that referendum wouldn’t have been feasible during President Maithripala Sirisena’s 100-day project.

Dr Senaratne said that there would be further dilution of executive powers at the conclusion of incumbent president’s term in office.

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