Sri Lanka’s constitution on the amendment block
The cabinet plans to scrap the 19th amendment to the constitution adopted in 2015. The Rajapaksa brothers appear keen on eliminating term limits on the president as well as other restrictions on the office. This has alarmed the opposition. The reforms that have modernised the country should not be abolished.
Colombo (AsiaNews) – Sri Lanka’s new cabinet has set up a panel of experts to amend the constitution. This follows the 5 August parliamentary election that saw the victory of the Rajapaksa brothers.
Opposition parties and civil society groups oppose the move, fearing the loss of a number of democratic reforms introduced in 2015 to limit the powers of the executive branch, including term limitations and restrictions on the powers of the president.
The cabinet wants to scrap the 19th amendment to the constitution, adopted five years ago by a large majority to restrain the excesses of the executive branch. At that time, the country was ruled by an administration dedicated to good governance (Yahapalana)
Under a new amendment, term limits to the Office of the President might be lifted, whilst presidential prerogatives transferred to Parliament and independent committees might be restored.
The commission mandated with changing the constitution is made up of five cabinet members, including Justice Minister Ali Sabry and Education Minister G L Peiris.
For the latter, the 19th amendment represented an obstacle to the nation's development, and that the promises of change proposed during the last election campaign will be fulfilled.
Conversely, opposition parties, which lost heavily in the 5 August elections, are deeply concerned about proposed constitutional changes.
Vijitha Herath, who was elected to Parliament with the Marxist-Leninist People's Liberation Front (Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna), which ran under the banner of the National People's Power (NPP) backed by intellectuals and academics, is opposed to any move that could weaken Parliament and concentrate power in the hands of a single person.
The electoral commission created under the 19th amendment "was important for holding free and fair elections,” Herath said. “The progressive features of the 19th Amendment should not be abolished".
The country needs a modern and up-to-date constitution that strengthens "human and basic rights of all communities.”