Gyges’ Ring – The 1978 Constitution of Sri Lanka


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Commencing with what the writer refers to as “Paranoia of the Regime in Power” then proceeding to discuss “the Coalition of 1970-75”, “the Post 1977 Regime” and “the other factors” leading to his comments on a resultant constitutional development based on districts in Chapter 4 and Chapter 5 on (whether) the judiciary has been diminished in value, are coruscating pointers, which to my knowledge and awareness, have never been touched upon before, leave alone being academically and/or professionally critiqued, may warrant some reflection from my own perspective. …His ability to expose and consequently condemn in coruscating style, with the stroke of his pen, social hypocrisy and double standards on the part of self proclaimed elitists is one aspect that struck me most….. I might add, while agreeing with Fernando, the said 18th amendment tolled the death knell on whatever remnants that may have still remained, notwithstanding the efforts made by the “Supreme Controller” prior to counter them. Worse was the fact that, the Supreme Ring of Invisibility and J.R. Jayawardena’s legacy” indeed, the man who had found the ring not only used his powers to enter the palace, rape the queen, kill the king and take over the throne, but he also paved the way for others who succeeded him in putting the ring on their finger to go even beyond what the ring itself might have not envisaged initially as possessing within its power.

– Dr. J. de Almeida Gunaratne (P.C.)

Anyone who would want to replace a constitutional court by appointing the head of the executive branch as the ‘Guardian of the Constitution’ – as Carl Schmitt wanted to do in his day with the German president – twists the meaning of the separation of powers in the constitutional state into its very opposite. (Between Facts & Norms, pp. 242 – 243)

The placing of the executive president outside the constitution itself, in that he alone can violate its terms and be beyond punishment, which Fernando in chapter five describes as a feature of the 1978 charter, is exactly as Schmitt would have had it, since the guardian cannot be bound by the constitution but must always stand beyond it.

Nick Cheesman
A Ph.d candidate at the Australian National University

See also: Press Release: SRI LANKA: A new book: Gyges’ Ring — The 1978 Constitution of Sri Lanka by Basil Fernando — “an outstanding contribution to the study of the constitution and the contemporary politics and history of Sri Lanka”

Published in August 2011 by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims (RCT),
177 pages, Language: English, ISBN: 978-962-8314-51-5; PID: AHRC-PUB-002-2011
246 pages, Language: Sinhala, ISBN: 978-955-4597-00-6

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