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Sri Lanka's President Gotabaya Rajapakse gestures as he arrives for the new cabinet swearing-in ceremonya at the Buddhist Temple of the Tooth in the ancient hill capital of Kandy, some 116 km from Colombo on August 12, 2020. - Sri Lanka president Gotabaya Rajapaksa retained the powerful defence portfolio and gave other key jobs to his close family in a 26-member cabinet appointed on August 12. (Photo by LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI / AFP) (AFP)
Sri Lanka's President Gotabaya Rajapakse gestures as he arrives for the new cabinet swearing-in ceremonya at the Buddhist Temple of the Tooth in the ancient hill capital of Kandy, some 116 km from Colombo on August 12, 2020. - Sri Lanka president Gotabaya Rajapaksa retained the powerful defence portfolio and gave other key jobs to his close family in a 26-member cabinet appointed on August 12. (Photo by LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI / AFP) (AFP)

Sri Lankan government moves swiftly to roll back 19 Amendment

Sri Lanka’s new government has decided to amend the 19th Amendment introduced in 2015 that curtailed the powers of the President and strengthened the role of Parliament, a move the ruling Rajapaksa family-led SLPP had pledged prior to the general election

COLOMBO : Sri Lanka’s new government has decided to amend the 19th Amendment introduced in 2015 that curtailed the powers of the President and strengthened the role of Parliament, a move the ruling Rajapaksa family-led SLPP had pledged prior to the general election, a senior minister said on Wednesday.

Keheliya Rambukwella, the minister for Information and Broadcasting, who was speaking at the inaugural meeting of the Sri Lanka People's Party Cabinet meeting ahead of the ceremonial opening of the new Parliament on August 20, said the government has decided to amend the 19th Amendment.

“The Cabinet has decided to amend the 19A by introducing 20A," Rambukwella, who is also the government’s spokesperson, said.

However, he did not divulge further details as to which provisions in the 19A would be amended or if the government would opt for the repealing of it.

During the August 5 election, the SLPP sought two thirds parliamentary mandate or 150 seats in the 225-member assembly to effect constitutional changes, the foremost of them was the move to abolish the 19A.

The SLPP and allies won 150 seats and have a two-third majority to effect the constitutional change they desire.

While Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected as the Sri Lankan President in November last year, his eldest brother Mahida Rajapaksa won the general election and assumed charge as Prime Minister on August 9.

The 19A was the main election plank of the previous government.

The 19A depoliticised the government administration by ensuring the independence of key pillars such as the judiciary, public service and elections.

The SLPP from the time the 19A was adopted in 2015 has been clamoring for its abolition, alleging that the amendment was meant to politically clamp the members of the Rajapaksa family.

It made dual citizens ineligible to contest elections – at least 2 members of the family, including the current President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, were dual citizens at the time of 19A was approved.

The reformists in 2015 argued that the 19A was needed to correct the power imbalance created by the 18A which the government of Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2010 had introduced.

The 18A lifted the two term bar for a president to run for office.

The 19A brought in the reversal bringing back the two terms bar and reducing the presidential term from 6 to 5 years. It pruned the powers of the presidency and empowered parliament.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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