Sunday, August 14, 2022

Rumblings within Lanka govt over 21st Amendment

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s plan to introduce the 21st Amendment to the Constitution to empower Parliament over the executive president has met with resistance within the ruling SLPP coalition, party sources said on Wednesday.
Wickremesinghe on Sunday batted for the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, saying it will curb the president’s unlimited powers while enhancing the role of Parliament in governing the debt-ridden country which is also facing an unprecedented political turmoil.
The 21st Amendment is expected to annul the 20A to the Constitution, which gives unfettered powers to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa after abolishing the 19th Amendment that will strengthen Parliament.
The proposal met with opposition from the loyalists of the Rajapaksa family, particularly from the supporters of Basil Rajapaksa, the former finance minister.
Basil Rajapaksa, the younger brother of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and former prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, is a dual American and Sri Lankan citizen and the 21A seeks to bar dual citizens from holding any top public office.
At the meeting held on Monday evening, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa told ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) parliamentarians that he was fully backing the 21A.
Some parliamentarians, who are believed to be Basil Rajapaksa’s supporters, told Wickremesinghe that granting economic relief to people in the worst-ever economic crisis was more important than constitutional reforms, according to sources.
However, another group of MPs had felt that constitutional reforms too were necessary for the government’s bid to win international support to tackle the economic crisis.
Wickremesinghe was appointed Sri Lanka’s prime minister by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa after the resignation of his elder brother Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Wickremesinghe told the ruling coalition parliamentarians that they were free to talk to him on the clarification over the 21st Amendment.
With the current economic crisis snowballing into a political crisis in April, over 50 parliamentarians of the ruling SLPP coalition broke ranks to remain independent.
This resulted in the government losing its majority in the 225-member assembly.
Sri Lanka’s economic crisis has created political unrest with a protest occupying the entrance to the president’s office demanding his resignation continuing for more than 50 days.
Wickremesinghe said there was a need to change the structure of Parliament and create a new system.
Wickremesinghe, whose job primarily is to revive the ailing economy by setting in reforms, has started with the task of introducing the 21st Amendment to the Constitution to restore the 19A of 2015.
Under the 21A, the President will be held accountable to the Parliament. The Cabinet of Ministers is also accountable to Parliament. The National Council is also accountable to Parliament. Fifteen Committees and Oversight Committees are accountable to Parliament.
Sri Lanka in mid-April declared that it was unable to meet its foreign debt payments and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) classified Sri Lanka’s debt as unsustainable. Therefore debt restructuring was key for an IMF programme.

SourcePTI

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