SJB claims 20A will erode judicial independence

Saturday, 26 September 2020 01:22 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Highlights concerns raised by retired judges
  • Demands BASL’s stance on proposed 20A

By Asiri Fernando

Manusha Nanayakkara


The Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) yesterday claimed that the proposed 20th Amendment (20A) to the Constitution will erode the independence of the Judiciary.

Speaking at a press conference, SJB Parliamentarian Manusha Nanayakkara charged that the Government was eroding judicial independence and laying the foundation to navigate around the laws of the land. 

Nanayakkara pointed out that the Retired Judges’ Association (RJA) had expressed concerns about the proposed 20A, particularly in relation to the selection and appointment of judges to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. 

The RJA had written on Justice Minister Ali Sabry last week, expressing their concern about the proposed changes in the 20A. 

An accountable and publicly transparent process of appointment of judges is integral to upholding the Rule of Law. The RJA had also expressed concerns about proposed changes to Article 41A and the status of the Constitutional Council.  

Nanayakkara questioned the stance of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) in relation to the proposed 20A. 

“We know that the Bar Association has put forward an opinion on this. However, we would like to know what the stance of the Bar Association is on the 20th Amendment is, particularly regarding the control of the law, Judiciary and Police being centralised through the amendment. We would like to know if they agree with the 20th Amendment or if they reject it?” he challenged. 

He expressed concern that the proposed 20th amendment could be a foundation for the Government to navigate around the laws of the land. 

“We have clearly seen how the Government behaves in regard to the law and Judiciary, by looking at how they got a convicted politician to take oaths in Parliament and appointed Sivanesathurai Chandrakantha aka Pillayan who is in remand custody to head a committee. We fear that the 20th Amendment may be a stepping stone to navigate around the laws of the country,” Nanayakkara opined. 

The SJB parliamentarian called the introduction of the proposed amendment as a ‘litmus test’ to test the public reaction to centralised control and removal of checks and balances, prior to moving towards a full dictatorship. “The SJB believes that this is a move to bring everything under the control of the president and make the parliament a rubber stamp for his wishes” he stated. 

Nanayakkara questioned if there was a rift between the Prime Minister and the President, citing the proposed changes to power and authority in the 20th amendment. “Those who said that the 19th amendment was bad and that the PM and the President can’t work together are now centralizing power under the executive and making the PM powerless. Why is this? Are there personnel problems between the President and Prime Minister at present?” he questioned, recalling that many in the government today, including the G.L Peiries voted for the 19th Amendment and praised it in 2015.  

The SJB will oppose the 20th amendment in parliament and in courts, Nanayakkara emphasised.