Lankan govt to introduce multiple amendments to 20th Constitution Amendment

All petitions have taken the common ground that the 20A if enacted would impinge on the fundamental rights of the citizens.

Sri Lankan Attorney General Dappula de Livera on Tuesday informed the Supreme Court that the government will introduce multiple amendments to the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution that aims to bolster the powers of the president, according to a media report.

Livera informed the court when petitions challenging the draft 20A Amendment Bill were taken up for consideration, the Colombo Gazette reported.

The court will continue the hearing in the matter tomorrow, the report said.

A total of 39 petitions have been filed so far in the Supreme Court against the controversial bill which was tabled in Parliament by the government.

Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya has appointed a five-member bench of the Supreme Court to hear the petitions and the first day of hearing was on Tuesday.

The attorney general said that the amendments will be introduced during the committee stage debate in Parliament on the draft 20A bill, it said.

The government on September 2 gazetted 20A, the new proposed legislation that would replace the 19th Amendment introduced in 2015 that curtailed the powers of the President and strengthened the role of Parliament.

The apex court has 3 weeks from September 22 to determine if the proposed amendment would be consistent or ultra virus of the Constitution.

Among the petitioners are the main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) and the main Tamil minority party TNA.

All petitions have taken the common ground that the 20A if enacted would impinge on the fundamental rights of the citizens.

The SJB petition has argued that the amendment could only become law if it would be passed with two thirds majority in Parliament and if approved in a referendum.

The party's lawyers said that the 20A violates the principles of fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution.

The SJB led a noisy demonstration inside the parliamentary chamber when it was presented. They stressed that 20A would pave the way for autocracy.

The 20A is meant to annul the 19A which was seen as a pro-democracy, good governance amendment which called for checks and balances in the presidential system while making Parliament more powerful.

The 19A was seen as the most progressive pro-democracy reformist move since Sri Lanka came to be governed under the all-powerful executive presidency in 1978.

The 20th Amendment proposes to restore full legal immunity to the President, removing the provisions made in the 19A to take legal action against the President.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected with a mandate to abolish the 19A.

During the last November's presidential elections and last month's parliamentary elections, Rajapaksa said that the 19A had made governance difficult as it created a rift between the executive president and prime minister.

He was also critical of the 19A provision which barred dual citizens from contesting elections.

He had to renounce his US citizenship to contest the presidential election in November last.

His younger brother and SLPP founder and its National Organiser, Basil Rajapaksa, is a dual citizen of the US and Sri Lanka. There are five from the Rajapaksa family already in the government.


(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)


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