Sri Lanka has no Constitutional Council (CC), no independent Election Commission and is possibly facing another major election without a National Police or Public Service Commission, legal sources said yesterday.
The terms of both the National Police and Public Service Commissions are due to expire in early November. Election Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake has already announced that he will only hold the poll after Ramazan ends in the first week of November.
`It is distressing that we may have no functioning Police Commission during the election,` commented one senior lawyer. `The independence of the police is especially vital at this time.`
Meanwhile, the Election Commission has been pending since 2003, when President Chandrika Kumaratunga rejected the CC`s nomination of Retired Supreme Court Judge Ranjit Dheeraratne as chairman. The Human Rights Commission expires next year. The appointment of the new CC is itself stalled because Muslim parties have failed to agree on a representative from their community.
The CC is responsible for recommending all appointments to and filling vacancies in the Election, Public Service, National Police, Human Rights, Bribery or Corruption, the Finance and the Delimitation Commissions.
The council must also approve the appointments of the chief justice and judges of the Supreme Court; the president and judges of the Court of Appeal; and the members of the Judicial Service Commission other than the chairman.
The first Constitutional Council expired in 2004. Several discussions were recently held between the Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse and Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to choose five new members to the CC. Three of these must be from the minority community.
After consultations with the political parties and independent groups represented in parliament ' as required by the constitution ' Rajapakse and Wickremesinghe were able to finalise the nominations of Kumar Nadesan and Justice C V Vigneswaran.
From the Muslim community, Javed Yusuf and former South East University Vice Chancellor M L A Cader were suggested but there`s no agreement by Muslim members of parliament.
`The 17th Amendment to the Constitution holds that the prime minister and leader of the opposition shall consult leaders of political parties and independent groups represented in parliament when making their nominations,` the lawyer said. `Consequently, the two leaders summoned the MPs and explored the possibility of getting them to agree on one individual.`
`There was no problem with the Tamil nominees,` he elaborated. `But they are unable to finalise the nomination from the Muslim community because of a lack of consensus.`
This difficulty forced the CC office to seek an opinion from the attorney general. `Since the problem concerned just one member, the CC wanted to know whether they can go ahead with the other four,` a government source said. `The AG said the other four members may be appointed but that the Constitutional Council cannot function till all five members are in place.`
No other Muslim name has been put forward despite several rounds of talks with Muslim parliamentarians. Another legal source suggested that the prime minister and opposition leader go ahead with appointing a Muslim member of their choice. He opined that the constitution does not require them to seek consensus, only to consult the parties. However, there was no indication of this happening.
The process is further delayed because meetings in this regard only take place during parliamentary sitting days. The next session is only in the second week of September.
`We must move ahead with this process,` this source emphasised. `Everything is held up at a most important time in Sri Lankan politics.`
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