Under the 17th Amendment to the Constitution the President appointed the Constitutional Council (CC) on 25 March 2002 followed by the setting up of several independent commissions.
In March 2005, six positions of the Constitutional Council fell vacant due to the expiry of their terms. Although five members were named, the sixth (to be chosen by the minority parties in Parliament) was not named due to their inability to agree on a person. Nevertheless the President continues to make appointments in violation of the 17th Amendment. This has become one of the most critical unresolved constitutional & governance issues in the country at present.
On 18 July 2006 the government moved to form a Parliamentary Committee headed by Constitutional Affairs Minister D.E.W. Gunasekera to review the 17th Amendment. Even though the Select Committee submitted an interim report after nine meetings, on 6 May 2008 the President prorogued Parliament.
The non-implementation of the 17th Amendment can have dire political and economic consequences. Economists commented that unhealthy practices signify political instability in the country, which creates economic instability. This, in turn, adversely affects the confidence of the local and foreign investor. This slows growth forcing the Government to raise revenue by direct or indirect means. Sri Lanka’s international image has been adversely affected as evidence from various international reports.
The divisions in political parties, media and civil society organizations have created a weak voice and destroyed the checks that have been in place to counter the power of the Executive branch of the State.
The conduct of the Government and the President has raised critically important questions, particularly with respect to the electoral process, deterioration of the integrity of the Police and the continuous politicization of the public service and in particular for the Rule of Law.
While recognizing the need to further improve the 17th Amendment, TISL firmly believes that the President has an uncompromising constitutional duty to make appointments to the Constitutional Council forthwith, making way for the return of the constitutional governance of the country.