Bills enabling President to appoint superior judges, raising electoral cut-off to 12.5% | Daily News


Draft 21A, 22A bills Gazetted

Bills enabling President to appoint superior judges, raising electoral cut-off to 12.5%

Two draft Bills, the 21st Amendment Draft Bill and the 22nd Amendment Draft Bill, presented to Parliament by MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe as Private Member’s Bills, have been Gazetted by Parliament. The 21st Amendment Draft proposes to change certain provisions of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution while the 22nd Amendment Draft proposes to abolish the 15th Amendment to the Constitution.

The two draft Bills have been presented to Parliament by UNP-MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe as a Private Member’s Bill.

The Bills propose sweeping powers to the President, thus amending some of the clauses introduced through the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. According to the provisions of the 19th Amendment, the Supreme Court and Appeals Court judges should be appointed upon the approval of the Constitutional Council.

Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe told the Daily News that he proposes through the amending Bill to grant power to the President to appoint Supreme Court and Appeals Court judges after ascertaining the views of the Judicial Services Commission. Furthermore, according to Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe’s proposals, the appointments of the Attorney General, IGP, Ombudsman and Parliament Secretary would be removed from the Constitutional Council.

The proposed amendment will empower the President to make these appointments in consultation with the Prime Minister. Rajapakshe argued that as the Constitutional Council is 100% politicized there was no purpose in consulting the Constitutional Council in deciding on these appointments.

According to the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, the number of Deputy Ministers and non-Cabinet Ministers should not exceed 40. But, according to the proposal presented by Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, the number of Deputy and non-Cabinet Ministers should not exceed 30.

In addition, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe proposes through the 21st Amendment to abolish the 15th Amendment and raise the threshold of the total number of valid votes in order to appoint an MP for the relevant electorate from 5% to 12.5% . “According to the 1978 Constitution, the threshold was at 12.5% but in 1988 it was reduced to 5% during President Ranasinghe Premadasa’s tenure on a request made by M.H.M. Ashraff two days prior to the election on December 17. As a result, even a main political party cannot obtain 113 seats to establish power.

“Therefore, they have to depend on the minority parties to make up the 113. This gave the minority parties greater hold and they held the main parties to ransom and in return for their votes they obtained most of the crucial posts.

This situation weakened the main political parties and made them puppets dancing to the tune of the minority parties. Hence, if a government is weak you cannot run a country properly,” he explained. “Rajapakshe said that executive power including the defence of Sri Lanka is vested and reposed in the President, hence it is only the President who can hold the Defence portfolio.

“There cannot be a lack of clarity in a Constitution, which is why I am introducing the amendment as the 19th Amendment has brought about a lot of confusion,” he said. Prior to the enactment of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, the Defence portfolio was held by the President, but this Constitutional enactment prohibits the Executive from holding any ministry. “The President has no right to alienate his powers in terms of defence. He is the Chief of the Armed Forces and therefore, he must hold the post of Defence Minister,” he added.

Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe had presented the two proposed bills on December 27.

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