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Constitutional Assembly proposes increase in civil society representatives

The Interim Report on Constitutional Reforms submitted to the Constitutional Assembly (CA) by the Steering Committee last month has proposed to change the composition of Constitutional Council to increase civil society representatives.

The ten-member Constitutional Council (CC), is an apex decision making body that makes recommendations with regard to the appointment of high ranking public and judicial officials such as the IGP, Attorney General, Auditor General, Secretary General of Parliament, Chief Justice and Judges of superior courts and members and chairmen of the independent commissions.

The Interim Report has suggested the CC should be constituted of three ex-officio MPs and seven non-MPs. The CC is now comprised of seven Members of Parliament and three civil society representatives.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya (Chairman), Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe and Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan are ex-officio members in it while Dr. A.T. Aryaratne, Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy and Shibly Aziz are serving as civil society representatives.

Minister John Seneviratne, JVP MP Vijitha Herath (minor party representative), Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka (President’s representative) and former Minister Dr. Wijayedasa Rajapakshe (PM’s representative) are the other members in it.

When the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was presented to Parliament in April 2015, the Government’s original proposal was to make the CC a non-political body, but it had to accommodate an eleventh hour Amendment to include more political representatives giving way to the pressure of the UPFA members in the Opposition in order to win the two thirds.

However, concerns were raised on the independence of the CC when its majority is constituted by political members.

Deviating from their previous position, the SLFP and Joint Opposition in their separate observations given in the report have accepted the need to change the composition of the CC in order to make it a non-political independent decision making body.