Observations by Sri Lanka on the US State Department Press Release
Ministry of External Affairs, Colombo
13th September 2010
The attention of the Ministry of External Affairs has been drawn to the Press Release issued by the US Department of State under the caption “The September Passage of Sri Lanka’s 18th Amendment”.
The Ministry wishes to observe in this regard, that the passage of the Amendment is an entirely internal matter that moreover took place in full accord with the provisions of the Constitution and in total compliance with a unanimous decision of the Supreme Court, with an overwhelming majority of 161 Members of Parliament of a total of 225, voting in favour.
It would be pertinent also to note in this regard that the Amendment was presented after careful consideration. A situation had arisen of attempts covering successive administrations and spanning a period of several years, to operationalize under the provisions of the 17th Amendment several key institutions of governance, having palpably failed. There were additionally well founded apprehensions that the provisions of the 17th Amendment whatever the intent behind their introduction, could lead to the practical situation of depriving the executive arm of government of the authority and disciplinary control, essential to meet the constitutional obligation of managing the machinery of state.
The 18th Amendment resolves this situation, by introducing the necessary constitutional clarity. It revives the functioning of the Commissions sought to be covered by the 17th Amendment through a Parliamentary Council which importantly provides by the inclusion of Members of Parliament, for the salutary principle of accountability to the people.
The removal of term limits by the 18th Amendment will serve to prevent any potential for the political authority of the Head of State and Government being eroded during the course of a second term, due to an arbitrarily imposed time limitation of service to the nation. In fact the 18th Amendment re-establishes the will of the people as the sole factor, which should correctly determine the continuity of tenure.
The Government and people of Sri Lanka value their longstanding relationship with the United States. The Ministry of External Affairs therefore regrets that the US State Department comment has not been able to do justice to the true intent and circumstances behind the enactment of the 18th Amendment.
Full Text of US State Dept. statement on the 18th Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka:
The September 8 Passage of Sri Lanka's 18th Amendment
Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs, Washington, DC
September 11, 2010
The United States has closely followed the progress and the passage of the 18th Amendment in Sri Lanka. The amendment eliminates term limits for the president and expands the power of the president over independent institutions, including the elections, police, and human rights commissions, as well as the judiciary.
The United States is concerned that this constitutional amendment weakens checks and balances and thus undermines the principles of constitutional democracy.
The United States calls on the Government of Sri Lanka to promote the principles of good governance, democracy, and independent State institutions. The United States looks to the government to take measures that will strengthen democracy including appointing appropriately qualified officials to bolster independent institutions, increase transparency, enhance power sharing and dialogue, and promote national reconciliation.