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Current Affairs

Constitutional amendment in Sri Lanka

Date: 22 April 2022 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

Prime Minister of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa has proposed a constitutional amendment to counter popular protests in the country.

 

Background

The serious economic crisis faced by Sri Lanka is translating into protests all over the country. Majority of the anger is directed towards the ruling Rajapaksa family.

 

Details

  • The change seeks to repeal the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, and bring back clauses of the 19th Amendment as the 21st Amendment to the Constitution.

  • The 19th amendment was initiated by the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to prevent the President from sacking the Prime Minister at his discretion.

 

Removal of ministers

Cabinet ministers could have been dismissed only:

  • If the Prime Minister ceased to hold office by death, resignation or otherwise

  • If the Parliament rejects a statement of government policy or the budget

  • If the parliament passes a vote of no confidence against the Government

 

The 20th constitutional amendment

  • It enhanced the executive powers of the President in an unprecedented way. The independent constitutional council for a Parliamentary Council was abolished.

  • It was accused of derailing the balance between the legislature, executive and judiciary by centralising maximum powers into the hands of one individual.

  • The biggest criticism was that it removed the checks and balances on the executive presidency. President was given sweeping power while making appointments.

 

Expectations of 21st amendment

  • The amendment is expected to remove several key powers of the President, essentially reducing the Presidency to a ceremonial position, like in India. 

  • There are chances of retaining powers over three armed forces while handing over other key powers including governance, and cabinet ministers to the Prime Minister.