JHU wants to amend the 19th amendment; breakaway PHU mulls court action

Mar 19, 2015 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s government ally Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) on Thursday said they have put forward an observation paper to address the issues in the draft 19th amendment.

JHU spokesperson and western provincial councilor Nishantha Sri Warnasinghe told LBO that the draft amendment has breached the consensus they arrived.

“This gazette has violated the consensus arrived after the party leader’s meeting and the cabinet meeting held 15th Sunday,”

“I don’t know, whether this change has happened intentionally or unintentionally.” Warnasinghe said.

According to the article 42 (3) of the gazette notification published on 16th March 2015 to amend the constitution, the prime minister shall be the head of the cabinet.

However the said notification also says the President is the head of the executive and government; which is contrary to the aforesaid article.

“Even though the prime minster is the head of the cabinet, President should head the cabinet when he attends a cabinet meeting; because he can’t sit under Prime Minister.” Warnasinghe said.

If the President is regarded as the head of the executive; theoretically he should head the cabinet; since the President, the cabinet of ministers and the public service are considered as the three branches of the executive.

However article 42 (3) sets an explicit exception for that assumption by introducing prime minister as the head of the cabinet.

“There are several articles in the draft amendment which we think requires a referendum to change. Reducing the term of presidency from 6 years to 5 years is one such thing.” Warnasinghe stressed.

The JHU has also requested the cabinet to include a clause where it requires opinion from certain entity when appointing secretaries to the ministries though it has not been included.

“We also disagree to the provision which requires the views of justice minister and Bar association when appointing judges to superior courts.” Warnasinghe said.

Court Action

Meanwhile, Udaya Gammanpila; leader of the JHU breakaway ‘Pivithuru Hela Urumaya’ (PHU) told LBO that they are preparing to file a fundamental rights petition in the Supreme Court challenging the 19th amendment.

“Soon after the draft 19th amendment included in the order paper in the Parliament, we are going to courts challenging it,”

“As per the current constitution; this new amendment should be approved by the people in a referendum because it seeks to reduce the powers of the President.” Gammanpila emphasized.

The Cabinet at an emergency meeting convened Sunday by President Maithripala Sirisena approved the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

The main constitutional proposals of the amendment include the transformation of the Presidential form of government to a Presidential-Parliamentary system of government and the restoration of the 17th amendment to the constitution.