The grouping known as DecentLanka 2015 has written to President Maithripala Sirisena over the issue of lack of transparency in the establishment of Independent Commissions. Following are excerpts of the letter written by the group comprising Attorney-at-Law Neville Ananda, Attorney-at-Law Sujeewa Dahanayake, social activist Muditha Karunamuni, journalist Kusal Perera, trade union leader Anton Marcus and Attorney-at-Law Srinath Perera
HE the President
Copies to –
Hon. Prime Minster
Hon. Speaker of Parliament
Hon. Leader of the Opposition
Undue long delay and lack of transparency in establishing Independent Commissions
We firmly believe the social demand to have independent commissions through a Constitutional Council with the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was one major demand that decided your candidature at the January 2015 presidential polls. We therefore wish to state it is now your responsibility along with this Government to establish independent commissions with “persons of eminence and integrity who have distinguished themselves in public or professional life and who are not members of any political party”.
To begin with we were not satisfied in the way you and the Prime Minister intervened in pushing through the 19th Amendment in a hurry. While it was important to have a Constitutional Council free of political authority, it took over a month to complete appointments to the Constitutional Council including civil society representation that is now loaded with ministers. The whole process was not one that makes us happy.
Media reported that on 5 October, the Constitutional Council had sent in nominations to four out of the nine independent commissions listed in the “Schedule”. They were, as reported, the Police, Public Service, Human Rights and the Bribery Commission. From that date onwards for the past two weeks there has been no official public announcement made on the appointment of these independent commissions either by your Secretariat or by the Cabinet Spokesperson.
We are therefore ignorant about those named for the commissions, while media reported that one person named for the Police Commission has serious allegations that do not in any way make him qualified to be even named. It is therefore quite in order we say, for the people to have reservations over other persons named too.
It was the pledge to have a government that would be transparent and accountable that made the people elect you as President in January and this present Government in August. This pledge made the promised ‘Right to Information Bill’ that was included in your election manifesto ‘Compassionate Rule’ an important promise, though the draft is yet to be made public.
It is with much regret that we note here, the whole process of establishing the very important independent commissions lacks any transparency. We in our public statement made on 16 October therefore stressed on the importance of making the proposed names and details of proposers public.
One reason why holding nominated names in secrecy is a serious problem is because Chapter VIIA of the Constitution titled ‘The Constitutional Council’ in 41.a(6) says, if you do not appoint the nominees to independent commissions duly sent to you in writing within 14 days, they will be deemed to have been appointed under the Constitution.
In such context where no official statement had been made public on the four commissions reported in media, the 14-day period allowed for appointments to the commissions lapsed on 19 October. Yet appointments were made by you at the time we signed this letter to the police and bribery commissions after 20 October. This leaves much doubt if society would accept these persons as “persons of eminence and integrity who have distinguished themselves in public or professional life and who are not members of any political party.” Thus from today, at least the 04 commissions including that of the police commission will have persons not known to the people sitting as members.
This is a serious issue to all citizens and not just for those who voted for ‘good governance’ at two consecutive elections. This silent approach in appointing independent commissions seems to replicate the Rajapaksa method that politicised the whole State machinery. As that needs to be avoided, we request you to immediately make public:
1. All names of persons nominated so far to independent commissions along with details about their proposers and the dates the nominations were received
2. Steps so far taken by you on nominations received
3. If no steps have been taken, if those commissions are deemed to have been established as per provisions in the Constitution
4. Names and details of nominations for remaining commissions if any
5. Allow seven days for public scrutiny before appointment
We would also stress the need to have all commissions duly established within three weeks as the whole process of establishing commissions have been made unnecessarily long and delayed.
Attorney-at-Law Neville Ananda
Attorney-at-Law Sujeewa Dahanayake
Social activist Muditha Karunamuni
Journalist Kusal Perera
Trade union leader Anton Marcus
Attorney-at-Law Srinath Perera
cc. All members of the Constitutional Council