The 19th Amendment empowers the Constitutional Council to set up independent commissions. The 10 member Constitutional Council comprises three permanent positions – the Speaker (Chamal Rajapaksa), the Prime Minister (Ranil Wickremesinghe), the Leader of the Opposition (Nimal Siripala de Silva), four members of Parliament elected for a term and three civil society members. Two of the nominees to the CC under the civil society list is extremely controversial and moreover the Standing Orders has not been followed in discussing with the party leaders before nominating the three civil society members. Therefore, even the CC that aspires to bring good governance has started with bad governance. The point in question is why civil society members should be turned into virtual politicians!
All seven politicians are answerable to their voters and the general public, but who are the three civil society members answerable to once they enter Parliament.
The three civil society members are supposed to be respected and people who have distinguished records of service to Sri Lanka. But who decides on the tag of distinction? Is it the same circles of people promoting the candidates because they see a green light for them to influence governance?
Non-public nominated civil society inside Parliament is risky because most of these civil society members are either retired from service and engaged with an INGO/NGO and paid by these entities to advance their vision/mission and objectives and these may directly or indirectly, covertly or overtly conflict with national interests. Thus given them the powers to influence the decision making channels of selecting important people is certainly of public concern.
It is best that the seven member Constitutional Council function and take on a consultative basis three members of civil society whom each of the seven deem fit without turning them into virtual politicians. Once appointments to the independent commissions are made there is little service left for them to do as these terms are also for a fixed period, therefore, it is best that civil society members are only taken on a consultative basis as and when the need arises for selecting members to the independent commissions only. There is absolutely no point burdening the taxpayers by having to pay for their maintenance throughout an entire term.
Shenali D Waduge