18th Amendment, Colombo, Constitutional Reform, Peace and Conflict, Politics and Governance

In conversation with Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne


Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne is a President’s Counsel in Sri Lanka and has also served with the Sri Lankan government in various capacities as Senior Adviser to the Ministry of Constitutional Affairs and member of the Sri Lankan Law Commission. He holds a PhD in Human rights and a Master of Public Administration from University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. His areas of expertise include Constitutional law, Human Rights, Administrative and Criminal law.

We began our conversation on the need for a political solution after the end of war and the ignominious fate of the APRC (read the APRC’s final report, released exclusively on Groundviews). Jayampathy categorically notes that the political leadership today hasn’t shown any progressive movement towards a political solution. I then asked him to juxtapose and critique public apathy over the passing of the 18th amendment to what he had observed from 1994 to 2004 – a high-degree of support for power-sharing by as much as 50% of the voters. This became a leitmotif of our discussion, with Jayampathy later on noting in detail the marked contrast between the rushed introduction – with almost zero public debate and awareness – of the 18th amendment with constitutional reform processes he had been part of in the past.

I asked him about what led to the UNP burning the constitutional proposals in 2000 fashioned under former President Chandrika Kumaratunga. Jayampathy, noting that the nearsightedness of the UNP at the time “contributed in a big way” to the constitutional crisis in Sri Lanka today, also went on to blame the PA government itself.

Jayampathy talked about the nature and introduction of the 18th amendment and how it seriously undermines the 17th amendment, the crisis and significant degeneration of the Leftist parties in politics and rumours at the time of the interview that the 13th amendment may also be amended in a manner detrimental to its spirit and form.

When asked as to what can be done to stem the rapid erosion of Sri Lanka’s constitutional rule, Jayampathy notes at the end of the interview that there is no option but to live in hope, continue to talk about key issues and not lest interest wane.

Also see this short video interview done with Dr. Wickramaratne in 2008 on the APRC and 13th Amendment.

  • ordinary lankan

    We have now passed the stage where a collective solution could be adopted and the required personal commitment assumed.

    For example we would like a return of democracy or the rule of law. These things have collapsed because we have gone beyond the minimum level of personal commitment required to sustain these principles. We are no longer a society bound by any common values. Our institutional structure has collapsed because of the absence of personal commitment.

    What do I mean by personal commitment? I know a lot of my fellow citizens are under the delusion that they have personal commitment. They may have commitment but it is not personal. It is personal when you accept that the garbage we criticize ‘out there’ is also within us and we resolve to clean up our own act as part of a total clean up exercise. It means that in times of deep national crisis we ask ourselves the questions – where did I go wrong and how can I put it right? It is not whether you chose the right argument in your last article but whether you have kept faith with the fundamental principles of honesty and kindness that link each one of us as human beings. It is whether you have also contributed in some measure to the moral decline in society.

    The true extent of our collective failure is this. We have not only allowed our collective consensus to disappear but we have also removed the whole issue of personal morality and commitment out of the national conversation. The concept of blame has effectively removed the ideas of honesty and personal duty. This is the zenith of frivolousness – a state of affairs that is being camouflaged by pseudo intellectual discussions.

  • “The timeline above reflects both the genesis of the heinous 18th Amendment and also the occasions mainstream press reported that the President attended / “visited” Parliament.

    It was no easy task to compile this. Only a handful ordinary citizens would have the expertise to search for this information online, or elsewhere. There is no easy record retrieval of the President’s attendance in Parliament on its official website. But what is immediately obvious when the scattered media reports are taken as a whole is that the 18th Amendment has in no way at all contributed to a more accountable Executive. ”

    Excerpt from ‘Months after the 18th Amendment: Is the Executive really more accountable to Parliament?’, http://groundviews.org/2011/06/11/months-after-the-18th-amendment-is-the-executive-really-more-accountable-to-parliament/