FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION SRI LANKA

For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya

NfR condemns proposed 18th amendment to the constitution

02. Sep. 2010

NfR, the Exile Network for Media and Human Rights in Sri Lanka joins democratic forces in Sri Lanka in opposing the proposed 18th amendment to the constitution of Sri Lanka.  Condemning  this amendment as the final step in establishing a constitutional dictatorship in Sri Lanka NfR urge  international democratic forces to voice their opposition in strongest terms in solidarity with democratic aspirations of the Sri Lankan people.

President Mahinda Rajapakse was elected  by the people on the basis of the pledges given by him to the electorate  that he would abolish the Presidency  as the Constitution of 1978 gave the holder of that post too much power.  Now that he is in power he  has proposed the 18th Amendment to the Constitution which provides  more power to the President. It enables the President to contest for the Presidency as many times as he wishes and has also removed the restrictions on the powers of the President placed by the 17th Amendment which created a Constitutional Council.  This Council is now to be replaced by  another body which negates the whole purpose for which the 17th Amendment was passed.  Henceforth the President will be able to appoint his henchman to any and every key position in the administration of the country.  Consequently there has arisen a situation which could lead to disastrous consequences  to  good governance in the country.

In fact while the 1978 Constitution was condemned for placing the President of the country beyond the reach of the law,  the proposed amendment has gone beyond that and  has made him an absolute despot.  The citizens of the country would in future have no protection from the framework of the laws of the land.

Now that the government has the support of two thirds of the members of the Parliament, it could jolly well have used this support to solve the causes that led to the ethnic conflict  in the country and put an end to the problems of the Tamils once and for all.    This opportunity has now been squandered  and the support it has is being used to ensure that the President gets absolute control  of the of the country suppressing all the cherished democratic freedoms.

The supremacy of the law, the concept of checks and balances,  separations of power, etc.  are all going to be  things of the past. Sri Lanka’s obligations to international human rights standards as stipulated by UN charter and conventions   and the provisions of the proposed constitutional amendment are going to be completely incompatible.

NfR  condemns the provisions of the proposed amendments to the Constitution in strongest terms  and  hopes the Courts will come to the rescue of the people and declare that the proposed Constitutional Amendment should be placed before a referendum and the consent of the people obtained before the provisions of the proposed Amendment become law.

Steering Committee:

Iqbal MCM ( The Netherlands), Lionel Bopage ( Australia), Nadarasa Sarawanan (Norway), Nadarajah Kuruparan(UK) Padmi Liyanage (Germany), Raveendran Pradeepan (France), Rudhramoorthy Cheran (Canada), Saman Wagaarachchi ( USA), Sunanda Deshapriya ( Switzerland)

Networking for Rights  – Sri Lanka,

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September 2010
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