Sri Lanka’s 22nd constitutional amendment bill is not a restoration of 19A’s essence: experts

- economynext.com

ECONOMYNEXT – Provisions in the proposed 22nd amendment to Sri Lanka’s constitution that were supposed to restore the essence of the more progressive 19th amendment are missing from the now-gazetted 22nd amendment bill, experts said.

Executive Director of People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) Rohana Hettiarachchi told reporters on Saturday July 02 that the amendment bill sees a continuation of the concentration of power around one individual.

Hettiarachchi made this comment after a meeting held with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

“This draft amendment does not contain the positive provisions that we expected: the independence of the public service, transfer of power to parliament, checks and balances, the transfer of powers between president and PM.

“We see a continuation of the centralisation of power around one individual in this bill. The fundamentals of public finance and accountability are also absent from this amendment,” he said.

The PAFFREL director said Prime Minister Wickremesinghe had previously said consensus was obtained from all political parties to restore the main provisions of the 19th amendment to the constitution that was enacted during his previous tenure.

“But even those aren’t there in this bill. We stress that it is the will of the public that must become law,” he said.

Hettiarachchi also asked that the version of the 22nd amendment that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had previously agreed to be presented instead.

Prof Rohan Samarajiva, head of LirneAsia, a regional think tank, tweeted on Saturday that the 22nd amendment bill does not restore the substance of the 19th amendment.

In order to make it more acceptable, Samarajiva proposed three changes: not allowing the president to hold any portfolio, removing interim powers granted to the president to appoint minsters without the advice of the prime minister (to be granted under the 22nd amendment temporarily until the 10th parliament), and removing the president’s discretion to dissolve parliament early.

Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, who authored the 22nd amendment, had previously claimed that the amendment will largely be a restoration of the 19th amendment which will see some of the powers conferred on the president by the controversial 20th amendment will be repealed.

The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) said on June 30 that the 22nd amendment bill does not curtail the powers of the president nor introduce checks and balances in any meaningful manner, contrary to the demands of the people of Sri Lanka.

In the absence of any genuine attempt to address the inherent problems of governance, this attempt at reform will only worsen the existing political and economic crisis and destroy whatever little remaining faith citizens might have in constitutional governance, the organisation said in a statement, calling the bill a diluted version of itself.

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Sri Lanka’s gazetted 22nd amendment bill is a diluted version of itself: CPA