The Catholic Bishops Conference in Sri Lanka today rejected the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution.
Issuing a statement, the Catholic Bishops Conference in Sri Lanka said the 20th Amendment should not be proceeded with, in its entirety, and instead a new Constitution needs to be the national priority at present
The Catholic Bishops Conference in Sri Lanka also called for an Independent Constitutional Council to be appointed to draft the new Constitution.
In the wake of the change of Government following the Parliamentary elections, the Catholic Bishops Conference in Sri Lanka is constrained to share its grave concern to protect the sacredness of the State that transcends the mutable political and governing bodies.
The statement further read that the 1978 Constitution changed primarily the Westminster type Cabinet Democracy to an Executive Presidency. Since then 19th Amendments have been made citing various reasons. However, one cannot deny that the main reasons have been to ensure economic growth, national security, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the island nation. Apparently, the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution under consideration, does not seem to put forward any other rationale for the move.
“Whether it is an amendment or the drafting of a new Constitution the sovereignty of the people should always be safeguarded and protected. In all probability the contents of the 20th Amendment will find its way into the envisioned new Constitution. It is imperative then to closely examine the proposed 20th Amendment before it is voted upon in the Parliament,” the Catholic Bishops Conference in Sri Lanka said.
The statement went on to say that the Executive Presidency has been the bone of contention since it was created in 1978. All elected Presidents since 1994 vowed to abolish the executive Presidency with powers vested in it by the 1978 Constitution and transfer power to the democratically elected Parliament, but none had the political will to do so for reasons unknown to the people.
the Catholic Bishops Conference in Sri Lanka emphasized that concentration of power in an individual without checks and balances does not augur well for a Democratic Socialist Republic.
“A two-thirds majority of the members in Parliament based on political parties does not necessarily manifest the true conscience of the people. Therefore, let the entire membership of the Parliament appoint an independent Constitutional Council comprising a majority of men and women of proven integrity from the society who will take care of drafting a new Constitution which ensures transparent democracy, the rule of law, and the equality of all citizens,’ it said.
The Catholic Bishops Conference in Sri Lanka further said that it is of the view that rules need not be changed due to the vagaries and inconsistencies of individual players, but to identify and elect or appoint suitable persons who will abide by the rules to safeguard truth, justice, and the well–being of the country. It is the bounden duty of the democratically elected Parliament to create wholesome governing structures capable of moving this country forward.
“The drafters must beware to plug the loopholes that lead to multiple interpretations. Greater clarity is needed if the Constitution is to serve the citizenry.” it added. (Colombo Gazette)