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20A could lead to crisis worse than Yahapalana power struggle: Sri Lanka opposition

SAJITH’S PICK APPOINTED – Former Minister Ranjith Madduma Bandara was unanimously chosen to be the General Secretary of the United National Front

ECONOMYNEXT – By significantly stripping the prime minister’s office of its powers, the 20th amendment to Sri Lanka’s constitution could lead to a worse crisis than what was witnessed in the latter part of the Yahapalana years, a senior opposition MP said.

Main opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara said provisions in the draft amendment could effectively render the prime minister toothless.

“This will make the prime minister an invalid coin,” he told reporters this morning.

Bandara, whose party broke away from the United National Party (UNP), further said that the power struggle between former President Maithripala Sirisena and then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in the last two years of the Yahapalana administration was not borne out of a constitutional crisis but was rather owing to a problem with the man who was elected.

Electing Sirisena as president with UNP votes was the “stupidest thing” the party ever did, said Bandara, adding that he and his colleagues in the SJB now regret it.

“The country has been governed under this same constitution for a long time and there was never a conflict of this nature between the president and prime minister,” he further said.

There was, in fact, a similar tussle between former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and Wickremersinghe, who was also prime minister at the time, which saw Kumaratunga prematurely dissolve parliament leading to the UNP’s defeat in 2004.

The UNP’s routing at last month’s parliamentary polls in Sri Lanka has led to renewed calls for his resignation, with the SJB watching from the sidelines as promised reform in the UNP continue to be delayed.

Bandara noted that the SJB leader and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa has already made it clear that he and the party would welcome the UNP into an SJB-led alliance.

“We haven’t appointed anyone for discussions on this, but if the UNP is ready to talk to us, it’s fine by us,” said Bandara.

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Commenting on a remark by newly appointed UNP Deputy Leader Ruwan Wijewardene that the UNP is ready for talks, the SJB MP said his party is ready to talk to Wijewardene once he becomes UNP leader. (Colombo/Sep18/2020)

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