South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

By Kelum Bandara

The Government has decided to activate the Independent Elections Commission along with the others by amending the ‘17th Amendment  to the Constitution’ within the next few months, authoritative sources said yesterday.

The introduction of constitutional amendments has been placed atop the Government’s agenda, to be carried out  within a short span of time. According to sources, the Government is initially intending to appoint a three-member Elections Commission on the lines of the Indian model. It is reported that Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake has been requested to hold office till the appointment of the new commission. Sources said that the next local government election would also be conducted under a new electoral system after the activation of the Elections Commission.

For this purpose, the Government will iron out shortcomings in the 17th Amendment. The recommendations of the Parliamentary Select Committee headed by Minister D. E. W. Gunasekara will be taken into consideration to incorporate constitutional changes to the 17th Amendment.

The Constitutional Council (CC), established under the 17th Amendment appoints members to the independent commissions of elections, public service, police, bribery and human rights.

However, the re-constitution of the CC was delayed due to wrangling among the minority parties on their nominee to it. The Speaker is the head of the CC by virtue of his office. The Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader are the other ex- officio members. Five members are appointed to the CC in agreement between the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader. The President nominates the ninth member to the CC and the minority parties in Parliament the tenth member.

In 2006, the Government appointed a Select Committee to make recommendations to sort out such constitutional lapses in the 17th Amendment. The Committee compiled its interim report a few months later. Nevertheless, the Government did not incorporate these recommendations in the 17th Amendment during the last Parliament.

Asked about the present situation, a senior Cabinet Minister who wished to remain anonymous said that it would be easy for the Government to reactivate the independent commissions now based on recommendations by this Select Committee.

“We have everything at hand now. We can implement them. Our priority is to bring necessary constitutional amendments within the next few months,” he said.

Source: Daily Mirror – 29.04.2010

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