The Sunday Leader

We Completely Reject 18th Amendment – Eran Wickramaratne

The UNP speculates that the President seeking Supreme Court validation to contest for the third term is an attempt to legitimize his action to contest the next presidential election.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader Eran Wickramaratne said that the UNP rejects the 18thAmendment which has altered the basic structure of the constitution.

Excerpts of the interview:

By Waruni Karunarathne

Q: Was there a need for the President to actually go through the Supreme Court to seek a determination to contest for a third term?

A: The Constitution barred a President who had two terms seeking any further office. In all democratic countries an executive president has normally a two term limit of 4 – 5 years.  In Sri Lanka it is 6 years. The 18th Amendment was intended to remove the term limit. The 18th Amendment was ‘passed’ using the urgent bill provisions in Parliament.

It was a travesty of justice to change the basic law of the country in a few hours. We saw the amendment to the Constitution in the morning and we were asked to vote on it by evening on the same day. We completely reject the 18th Amendment. It changed the basic structure of the Constitution.  Therefore the question as to whether the incumbent President could run for office again does not arise. The Supreme Court should have thrown out the 18th Amendment as it was altering the basic structure, and it was adopted as an emergency measure.

Q: Considering the fact that Chief Justice is appointed by the president, is there a concern that whatever the outcome of the Supreme Court determination, it may not be seen as fair?

A: The whole world knows that Sri Lanka impeached her Chief Justice in a highly unjust manner. Charges brought by Parliamentarians were entertained, and the trial was conducted by Parliamentarians. Most of us have no training to make a judgement based on legal principles. The man on the street is afforded the opportunity of resting his case through a judicial process but not the Chief Justice of the Country. A former Speaker urged parliament to adopt a process for the trial of the judges of the Supreme Courts. But no process has been instituted. As a result justice is served on a majoritarian principle rather than the principles of justice.

In those circumstances, when a CJ is removed and another installed, it is natural for the public to lose confidence in the judicial system. The public will entertain doubts about any outcome. It will take a considerable period of time for public confidence to be reinstated in the Justice system.  The Justice system has to be independent from the Executive President.  The selection and nomination of judges must be subject to a rigorous Parliamentary process, before the appointment is made by the President. In the legal sphere the seniority principle is upheld with good reason.

The remuneration of judges must be determined by Parliament and not the Government. Judges must be remunerated well. There is no independence without financial independence. There is much to be rebuilt before public confidence is restored.

 

Q: The government seems to be already preparing for the election by opening several operation centres around the country. Does it mean that the government has already decided who the candidate is and when the election will take place even though the president is seeking the Supreme Court determination?

A: The Government has decided that the candidate will be the incumbent President.  When UNP MPs made a sudden visit to an SLPA owned yard in Slave Island a few days ago, they discovered that government property and government employees were assembling stages, media vehicles with the images of President Rajapaksa. It is self evident that he is the candidate from the government.

There has been much speculation as to the date of the election.  The astrologer appears to trump the Election Commissioner.  Does the Election Commissioner actually set the date of the election or just legitimises the decision of the President’s astrologer?  The President may only make a proclamation of the election after he has completed four years, after which the nomination date and the date of the election is determined by the Election Commissioner.

The nomination can be called for between 16 – 21 days later. The election campaign could be 4 to 6 weeks hence.  So there is some flexibility for the Election Commissioner to fix the nomination date and the date of the election.

So if he coincides his date with that of the astrologer, his independence is gravely in doubt.  Some say he has no option.  Everyone has an option.  You can resign or be fired.

 

Q: How will your party prepare to face the election once it is officially announced?

A: Our party has now been preparing for many months.We have appointed new organizers for electorates. We had appointed polling booth organizers convention at Hyde Park a few days ago with thousands attending.

After the UVA election success the Party is galvanized to work towards a change.

In opposition, the obstacles are many and resources are scarce.  There is still much to be done.

1 Comment for “We Completely Reject 18th Amendment – Eran Wickramaratne”

  1. Concerned Citizen

    At this critical period in the economic development and maintaining peace, stability and security for the benefit of all Sri Lankans, the current President need to continue in office at least for two more terms, along with the current coalition government, without of course those who habitually violate law and order in the country and resort to thuggery.
    As a past UNP supporter, I urge the UNP leaders and members to support the re-election of President Rajapakse and refrain from joining the unethical tactics of the EU, UK and the LTTE diaspora. Reports say that today the EU courts and Government have threatened to ban fish imports from Sri Lanka as well as simultaneously lifting the ban on the dreaded LTTE terrorists front organisations. We remember that, before the last Presidential election the EU withdrew the GSP+ facility enjoyed by the textile exporters. Therefore, can we blame the Sri Lankans who are convinced that the EU courts and politicians are playing politics with no regard for justice they claim to uphold?

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