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20A: NMSJ welcomes purported plans for wider consultation

ECONOMYNEXT – A Sri Lankan social justice advocacy group has welcomed a purported government decision to subject the proposed 20th amendment to wider consultation.

In a statement released yesterday (13), the National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ) quoted an unnamed senior minister who had reportedly announced last Saturday (12) a decision to postpone the tabling of the proposed amendment in order to “subject the proposals to wider consultation”.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, meanwhile, had assured pro-government civil society groups last Friday (11) that the proposed 20th amendment would be rescinded to make way for a fresh draft. The following day, Minister of Industries Wimal Weerawansa echoing the president told reporters that the government had decided to make changes to the currently gazetted amendment. However, there was no mention of public consultation in either instance.

“The Prime Minister has appointed a committee after we pointed out there are some problematic areas in the currently gazetted 20th amendment. The committee will present a report, after which we can gazette a new 20th amendment,” Weerawansa said.

The committee that was appointed by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and chaired by Minister of Education Prof G L Peiris comprises eight other members; namely MPs Udaya Gammanpila, Ali Sabry, Nimal Siripala De Silva, Wimal Weerawansa, Susil Premajayantha, S. Viyalendran, Dilan Perera and Premanath C. Dolawatte.

The report of the committee is scheduled to be handed over to the Prime Minister tomorrow (15).

The NMSJ’s statement was tweeted by former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya yesterday.

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Cautioning against rushed constitutional reform, the NMSJ on September 10 called for broader and more inclusive consultation with the Sri Lankan public. In yesterday’s statement, the movement founded by Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero reiterated its call for broader discourse.

“With the strong belief that the constitution of the supreme law of the country should provide an inclusive space for all the citizens and communities in the country, the NMSJ requests from the government to conduct a wide public consultation to listen not only to the 6.9 million who voted for the government but those 6.2 million voters who did not vote for it,” it said

The NMSJ further said that the 19th amendment, which the 20th seeks to repeal and replace, manifests the democratic aspiration of the people that were developed over nearly two decades.

“It embodies the principle that powers of the state should be properly shared among the executive, legislative and judiciary branches of the state, instead of concentrating all power around the executive presidency,” it said. (Colombo/Sept14/2020)

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