Civil Society and Human Rights groups are appalled by the proposed 18th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution which will remove the restriction on the two terms a person can serve as President, repeal the Constitutional Council, and give the President more power over commissions, including the National Police Commission.
You can view the main points of the proposed 18th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution here
The Asian Human Rights Commission suggests that the proposed amendments would abolish constitutionalism altogether:
What this implies for the people of Sri Lanka in the future is hard to imagine or to describe. However, that the future holds possibilities of enormous disasters and catastrophes due to these amendments is not difficult to predict.
Despite Sri Lanka being a signatory to the UN conventions all the basic principles on which those conventions have been founded are being abandoned through these amendments. Sri Lanka’s obligations and these amendments are completely incompatible.
In an exclusive video interview for Groundviews, Rohan Edrisinha, who lectures at the Law Faculty, University of Colombo and is also a Director at the Centre for Policy Alternatives flags serious concerns over the 18th Amendment and highlights various irregularities regarding the process in which the Amendment was introduced. He claims that few outside government even had access to the proposed Amendment before it was sent to the Supreme Court. Even a number of moderate Sri Lankans, who have learned over the decades to keep silent when it comes to criticising the Government, are up in arms.
The Right Reverend Duleep de Chickera, the Bishop of Colombo, has issued A Plea to Withdraw the Eighteenth Amendment claiming that it will lead to the destructive erosion of democracy. In his statement the Bishop noted:
Many sections of the population are deeply alarmed at the possible repercussions the proposed 18th Amendment to the Constitution will have on our system of democratic governance. The nature of partisan politics is such that this will no doubt be a step backwards. It will inevitably lead to a further, dangerous politicisation of our national institutions and a speedier, destructive erosion of our already fragile democratic culture. It is therefore imperative that Parliament rejects this Bill, and that all who value democratic freedom in the country voice their objection to it.
NfR, the Exile Network for Media and Human Rights in Sri Lanka condemned the proposed amendments in the strongest terms and point out that the amendments are incompatible with Sri Lanka’s obligations to international human rights standards as stipulated by UN charter and conventions. They have called for the proposed Constitutional Amendment to be placed before a referendum and [that] the consent of the people be obtained before the provisions of the proposed Amendment become law. Sri Lankans have a choice. To allow their country to descend into an elected dynasty or, worse, a dictatorship or they can call upon members of Parliament to exercise their right to vote against the Bill.
The Civil Rights Movement & The Friday Forum have issued an appeal:
We have witnessed thirty years of armed conflict and the erosion of democratic values entrenched in the first post-independence Constitution. The end of the armed conflict brought with it high expectations of a just peace, strengthened democracy and development. The proposed changes to the Constitution do not merely disappoint these expectations, but in themselves give rise to grave apprehensions. Click here to read the appeal