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BASL: Ensure integrity of nominations to Constitutional Council

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The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) has called on all parties concerned to ensure the integrity of nominations to the Constitutional Council under Sri Lanka’s recently enacted 21st amendment to the constitution.Citing weak checks and balances on the powers of the executive president, the BASL on Thursday (27) called on the president, prime minister, the speaker of parliament, the opposition leader and all political parties represented in parliament to ensure that nominations to Constitutional Council are devoid of partisanship and are made in a way that will inspire public confidence.

In a statement, the BASL said on the 21st of October 2022, Parliament approved the enactment of the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution, which has now been renamed as the 21st Amendment to the Constitution.

The 21st Amendment to the Constitution regrettably does not completely restore the status quo ante which prevailed prior to the 20th Amendment to the Constitution and does not place adequate checks and balances on the powers of the Executive President. As the 21st amendment is enacted into law, it is essential that the Constitutional Council which is to be appointed thereunder, and the Independent Commissions which will be reconstituted thereafter, be independent, impartial, and be institutions that will help restore confidence in Sri Lanka and its Institutions, the BASL said.

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka called upon the President, Prime Minister, Speaker, Leader of the Opposition, and all political parties represented in Parliament, to firstly ensure the integrity of nominations to the Constitutional Council and to ensure that such nominations are devoid of partisanship and in a manner that will inspire public confidence. Full Statement: The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) notes that on the 21st of October 2022, Parliament approved the enactment of the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution, which has now been renamed as the 21st Amendment to the Constitution.

The Bill approved by Parliament was by and large that which was presented in Parliament on 10th August 2022 and published in the Gazette on 2nd August 2022 by the Government, subject to certain changes at the Committee Stage mainly to bring it in line with the determination of the Supreme Court.

The necessity to amend the Constitution arose as a result of the public outcry that sprung up throughout the country in response to the present economic crisis. It has been perceived that the causes of the crisis include the lack of checks and balances on the powers of the Executive including the Executive Presidency. The 20th Amendment to the Constitution rolled back the checks and balances which were introduced by the 19th Amendment on the exercise of executive power.

The 21st Amendment to the Constitution regrettably does not completely restore the status quo ante which prevailed prior to the 20th Amendment to the Constitution and does not place adequate checks and balances on the powers of the Executive President.

The BASL in its previous statements on the 22nd Amendment Bill highlighted the shortcomings of the Bill and of the danger that the nominations of a majority of members to the Constitutional Council will be controlled by the party or parties in the Government, resulting in it lacking independence and consequently affect the independence and integrity of the offices and institutions to which appointments will be made through the Constitutional Council.

Nevertheless, now that the 21st amendment is enacted into law, it is essential that the Constitutional Council which is to be appointed thereunder, and the Independent Commissions which will be reconstituted thereafter, be independent, impartial, and be institutions that will help restore confidence in Sri Lanka and its Institutions. As such the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) calls upon the President, Prime Minister, Speaker, Leader of the Opposition, and all political parties represented in Parliament, to firstly ensure the integrity of nominations to the Constitutional Council and to ensure that such nominations are devoid of partisanship and in a manner that will inspire public confidence.

For this purpose, it is important to ensure that the non-ex-officio members of the Constitutional Council appointed from among Members of Parliament and from among non-Members of Parliament be done in a transparent and open manner and to also ensure that those appointed will be acceptable to the members of the public and be persons of the highest integrity and reputation. After the Constitutional Council is established, it should thereafter adopt a transparent, open, and inclusive process by which it nominates Chairpersons and members of Independent Commissions and other institutions established by the Constitution and other laws.

It is also noted that upon the enactment of the 21st Amendment, the Chairpersons and members of Independent Commissions will cease to hold office upon these Commissions being reconstituted. In doing so it is imperative that those appointed to the Election Commission, the Public Service Commission, the National Police Commission, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption, the Finance Commission and the Delimitation Commission be persons who have not only the requisite qualifications and abilities but also be those whose appointments receive wide acceptance. It is equally important to ensure that the enactment of the 21st Amendment must not be used as an excuse or mechanism to discontinue Chairpersons and members of Commissions whose services helped establish public faith in such Institutions.

It is also vital for the Government to make provisions for the Commissions to have financial independence and that these Commissions to adopt procedures that promote accountability and transparency in their work. Any failure of the 21st Amendment to address the issue of creating strong independent institutions in Sri Lanka will also have a bearing on future law reform initiatives, such as the proposed composite Anti-Corruption law, and will have an adverse impact on the Rule of Law in Sri Lanka.



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Pakistan’s ex-president, Pervez Musharraf dies aged 79

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(picture BBC)

BBC reported that Pakistan’s former president General Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in a coup in 1999, has died aged 79.

The former leader – who was president between 2001 and 2008 – died after a long illness, a statement from the country’s army said.

He had survived numerous assassination attempts, and found himself on the front line of the struggle between militant Islamists and the West.

He supported the US “war on terror” after 9/11 despite domestic opposition.

In 2008 he suffered defeat in the polls and left the country six months later.

When he returned in 2013 to try to contest the election, he was arrested and barred from standing. He was charged with high treason and was sentenced to death in absentia only for the decision to be overturned less than a month later.

He left Pakistan for Dubai in 2016 to seek medical treatment and had been living in exile in the country ever since.

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The 75th Anniversary of National Independence celebrated under the patronage of President, PM

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(picture Presidents Media)

The 75th National Independence Day celebration was held under the theme “Namo Namo Mata – A Step towards the Century”, under the patronage of President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena on Saturday morning (04) at Galle Face Green.

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Lanka sovereign bond holders write to the IMF

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ECONOMYNEXT –Sri Lanka’s bondholders have written to the International Monetary Fund expressing their willingness to engage in debt re-structuring talks but also raising matters related to the domestic debt re-structuring and economic assumptions and forecasts.

The group, styling itself as the “Ad Hoc Group of Sri Lanka Bondholders (the Bondholder Group) has written last week to the IMF Managing Director from New York said inter alia that the Bondholder Group through its Steering Committee stands ready to engage quickly and effectively with the Sri Lankan authorities to design and implement restructuring terms that would help Sri Lanka restore debt sustainability and allow the country to re-gain access to the international capital markets during the IMF Programme period.

The letter concluded with the paragraph: Recognizing the important commitments made by India in the India Letter, the Sri Lankan authorities will apply the principle of comparable treatment in respect of the debt relief requested and obtained from all their remaining official bilateral creditors.

Following is the text of the letter:

NEW YORK, Feb. 3, 2023

Dear Managing Director Georgieva,The Ad Hoc Group of Sri Lanka Bondholders (the “Bondholder Group”) acknowledges the Sri Lankan authorities’ engagement with their official creditors towards a resolution of the current crisis and restoration of debt sustainability.

The Bondholder Group further acknowledges that such engagement has recently resulted in the Government of India (in its letter to the IMF, dated January 16, 2023 (the “India Letter”)) delivering letters of financing assurances, committing to support Sri Lanka and contribute to its efforts to restore debt sustainability by providing debt relief and financing consistent with the IMF Extended Fund Facility Arrangement (the “IMF Programme”) and the IMF Programme targets indicated in the India Letter.

Similarly, the Bondholder Group through its Steering Committee stands ready to engage quickly and effectively with the Sri Lankan authorities to design and implement restructuring terms that would help Sri Lanka restore debt sustainability and allow the country to re-gain access to the international capital markets during the IMF Programme period.

Based on the limited information available to us at this time, including information contained in the India Letter, we understand that the IMF Programme’s debt sustainability targets are identified as

(i) reducing the ratio of public debt to GDP to 95% by 2032,

(ii) limiting the central government’s annual gross financing needs to GDP ratio to 13% in the period between 2027 and 2032, and central government annual foreign currency debt service at 4.5% of GDP in every year between 2027 and 2032 and

(iii) closing of the external financing gap.

The Bondholder Group hereby confirms it is prepared to engage, through its Steering Committee, with the Sri Lankan authorities in restructuring negotiations consistent with the parameters of an IMF Programme and the targets specified therein (the “IMF Programme Targets”), which the Bondholder Group understands to be the targets identified in the India Letter; it being recognized that these negotiations will necessarily be further informed by the receipt of the forthcoming DSA.

We would note that the finalization of an agreement will also be subject to the satisfaction of the following conditions:

The central government’s domestic debt – defined as debt governed by local law – is reorganized in a manner that both ensures debt sustainability and safeguards financial stability.

Assuming that annual gross financing needs should not exceed 13% of GDP in the period between 2027 and 2032, whilst allowing for central government annual foreign currency debt service to reach 4.5% of GDP in every year between 2027 and 2032, domestic gross financing should therefore be limited at 8.5% of GDP for the period 2027-2032.

While we recognize that the determination of the economic assumptions underpinning the IMF Programme Targets is ultimately the responsibility of the IMF and that the overall design of the IMF Programme is one that is negotiated between the IMF and Sri Lanka, it is nevertheless important that the Bondholder Group has the opportunity to express its views on both the economic assumptions underpinning these IMF Programme Targets and the adequacy and feasibility of the adjustment efforts contemplated under the IMF Programme.

When considering any restructuring proposal that is made to the Bondholder Group, it is the Bondholder Group’s intention to take into consideration the extent to which the economic assumptions and the adjustment efforts are consistent with these views.

Recognizing the important commitments made by India in the India Letter, the Sri Lankan authorities will apply the principle of comparable treatment in respect of the debt relief requested and obtained from all their remaining official bilateral creditors.

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