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Full Text of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s speech to Parliament

WELCOME – Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardene and Secretary-General Dhammika Dissanayake welcome President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and First Lady Ioma Rajapaksa to Parliament House for the inauguration of the Ninth Parliament/PMD

The full text of the speech delivered by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the inauguration of the Ninth Parliament of Sri Lanka is as follows:

 

The election held on August 5th marked a turning point in the history of Parliamentary Elections in Sri Lanka.

We asked the people to give us a 2/3rd majority to form a stable government.

First of all, I would like to thank and extend my gratitude to all the patriotic Sri Lankans for giving Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna and its allied parties a historic and resounding 2/3rd majority for the first time in the history in an election held under the Proportional Representation System.

Universal suffrage is a democratic right that we must all respect and uphold. Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all Sri Lankan voters who exercised their voting right in this election.

During the Presidential Election held last November, over 6.9 million people gave me a decisive mandate, placing a very high confidence in me. So far through my actions, I have proved that I will uphold the promise that I will not violate the trust they placed on me.

The period between the Presidential Election and the Parliamentary Election has been very challenging for us. What we inherited was an economy that had collapsed. Since we did not have a majority in Parliament we were compelled to function with a minority government. In addition, we had to face the COVID-19 pandemic that disabled the entire world during that period. At a time when even the most powerful countries in the world were left helpless in the wake of COVID – 19 catastrophe, we were able to successfully face the challenge. Even foreign nations praised our efforts to prevent the spreading of the pandemic.

The historic mandate received by Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna has proven that people are impressed with the way we have governed the country during the past 9 months despite various obstacles.

People appreciate the change taking place in the political culture of this country.

As representatives of the people, we always respect the aspirations of the majority. It is only then that the sovereignty of the people can be safeguarded.

In accordance with the supreme Constitution of our country, I have pledged to protect the unitary status of the country and to protect and nurture the Buddha Sasana during my tenure. Accordingly, I have set up an advisory council comprising leading Buddhist monks to seek advice on governance.  I have also established a Presidential Task Force to protect places of archeological importance and to preserve our Buddhist heritage.

While ensuring priority for Buddhism, it is now clear to the people that freedom of any citizen to practice the religion of his or her choice is better secured.

The Government has paid special attention to the protection of national heritage, culture and our identity as well as the protection and promotion of performing arts and folk arts.

When we took over the government, the confidence of the people in the security of the country had been severely dented due to the Easter Sunday attacks that occurred in 2019. Establishing firmly that the prime policy of our Government is national security, we have restructured the security apparatus and intelligence services, eliminating the fears of the people thereby restoring the security of the country. We have re-created an environment where any citizen can live freely without any fear for the safety of themselves and their families.

As I have pledged, the launch of the methodical mechanism to protect the people against social evils such as the activities of the underworld and the drug menace that have been a hindrance to the day-to-day lives of the people has also increased the confidence of the public.

Accordingly, a virtuous and a law-abiding society is emerging as we promised.

We are working towards a significant transformation of the political culture of this country.

After I assumed office as the President, changing the existing system, a methodical procedure was introduced to appoint heads of Government institutions whereby qualifications of prospective appointees were examined through a panel of experts. A well-experienced team of professionals, entrepreneurs and academics was appointed instead of relatives, acquaintances and followers. This policy will continue in the future as well.

We also took measures to build a production economy. Paddy farmers were given a higher guaranteed price for their products. We took steps to protect local farmers by halting importation of exportable produce for re-export as well as banning importation of crops that could have been grown locally. Farmers were provided with required fertilizer free of charge. People were encouraged to re-cultivate abandoned lands throughout the country. Through all these, we provided a new lease of life to the agricultural sector in this country.

After we assumed office, we provided tax concessions targeting local entrepreneurs. Interest rates were brought down to encourage businesses. Competitive imports were restricted in order to protect local entrepreneurs and industrialists.

It is clear that people enthusiastically supported us in this election due to the trust we have been able to build in them in this manner. We will continue to serve the people in a manner that affirms this trust.

It is equally important to precisely interpret the mandate given by the people. We respect the trust that the people have placed in me and the Prime Minister and the newly elected people’s representatives. We have a clear understanding of the expectations with which the people gave such a powerful mandate to the government. We will leave no room for such expectations to be dashed for any reason.

It should always be remembered that the prime responsibility of a people’s representative is to serve the public. We will be sensitive to fulfilling the needs of the people, keeping in mind that all these positions are responsibilities and not privileges.

I travelled all over the country to support every candidate who represented our group in this election. Instead of holding political rallies, I went to the people during these visits and listened to their grievances directly.

A large majority of issues presented by the general public were not personal, but they were common issues.

Even after 72 years of freedom, simple issues have not been resolved.

There are people who do not possess proper deeds for the lands on which they have lived for many years. We will provide them with legitimate deeds utilizing a swift and due process. I assure you that without a proper alternative we will not evict people from their ancestral homes or farmlands.

Human-Elephant conflict has become a major issue to the people. A group of experts has already been appointed to craft a feasible solution for this issue. A separate state ministry was established solely for this purpose because we are aware that this issue needs a sustainable solution.

An incredible percentage of people across the country suffer from a shortage of drinking water. We will take necessary steps to address these humane issues. As a national policy, we will enact procedures to provide drinking water to every part of the country.

Parents request for their children’s education suitable schools. The shortage of national schools was evident in every area. Most schools have significantly inadequate facilities. The shortage of teachers, laboratories, libraries and sports facilities was frequently mentioned. Although we request students to follow science and technical subjects in order to successfully contribute to the economy, their schools do not even have basic facilities to teach those subject streams.

Funds expended by the government for children to pursue their ambitions and to hone their skills are an investment for the future. We will accord priority to resolve these issues through the ministries which had been assigned with new responsibilities.

Both resources and facilities in rural hospitals are inadequate. There is a considerable shortage of doctors, nurses and other staff in these hospitals. Patients in some areas have to travel long distances to seek treatment. We will eliminate these discrepancies in the delivery of free healthcare facilities for people.

Both Ayurvedic and indigenous medicinal systems will be preserved and promoted.

Instead of spending large amounts of foreign exchange to import medicine, we have already commenced operations to manufacture medicines locally. We will also eradicate corruption which occurs in the importation of medicine. This is why we formed a separate state ministry to manufacture, supply and regulate medicine.

A large percentage of citizens of this country, earn their livelihood through self-employment. Also, a large number of people depend on agriculture. Their sole requests are for adequate water and fertilizer during their cultivation seasons. We should address these issues. Therefore we will implement a broad set of activities to rehabilitate the tanks and to develop the irrigation system across the country.

Another major social issue faced by the youth is unemployment. Both short term and long term solutions have been discussed to address this issue.

We have already commenced a programme to provide employment for 100,000 persons representing the most underprivileged families in the country. Simultaneously, we have set plans in motion to provide job opportunities to 50,000 graduates and train them to render their services efficiently.

When offering government job opportunities, we will accord priority to poorest of the households. Further, we will have to ensure equal distribution of job opportunities for every province.

Every appointee to the government should contribute productively to the country. Therefore, no unnecessary and arbitrary enrollment will be allowed to any ministry or institution.

Both ministries and state ministries will work in cooperation with the respective private sector establishments in the industry to generate job opportunities.

In addition, we will take necessary steps to promote self-employment and entrepreneurship in each industry as well.

Our duty and responsibility is not to distribute job opportunities but to generate them.

In order to overcome both local and global challenges and revive the economy, we will have to adopt new ways of thinking. Out of the box thinking is required in order to meet the economic challenges. This time, the ministries have been formed with this thought in mind.

We have ascertained the requirement for a people-centric economy for our economic revival. When forming ministries, special attention was given in assigning their subjects and tasks to cover fields such as agriculture, plantations, fisheries, traditional industries and promotion of self-employed job opportunities which affect most of the people in the country.

Our basic aims are to strengthen the local economy and to increase export income.

Currently the income from tea, coconut and rubber industries is not at a satisfactory level.

We will commence operations to develop tea plantations and at the same time, the government will assist the small and medium scale tea estate owners as well. Due to the shutting down of tea factories, tea estate owners have encountered a number of difficulties. We will restart these factories and eliminate existing irregularities simultaneously encouraging the export of high quality tea products. We will reclaim the global brand name we held for Ceylon Tea.

We will also encourage planting of new coconut saplings. In order to enact a reasonable price for rubber, local rubber industrialists will be encouraged to utilize local rubber. Plantation of palm oil trees will be stopped completely.

We promote the production of export crops such as pepper and cinnamon. We will provide opportunities to generate substantial foreign exchange by providing a stable price to the farmers through value addition to agricultural products and exporting them.

In assigning responsibilities to ministries, special attention was paid to the development of urban as well as rural infrastructure facilities and to find solutions to the issue of housing for the people.

We have taken measures to identify several sectors that can directly contribute to the development of the country and to appoint State Ministers responsible for these tasks and to assign them the relevant subjects and activities.

As human resource development has been identified as a priority, the subject of education has been brought under one Ministry and four State Ministers were appointed for different responsibilities therein. Separate State Ministries for Pre-School, Education Reforms, Skills Development as well as Dhamma School and Bhikku Education have been set up due to their importance.

In achieving our future objectives, special attention needs to be paid to technical education. We will pay special attention in education reforms in respect of Grade 6 to Grade 13.

We will increase the capacity of Universities enabling all students who pass the Advanced Level Examination to pursue university education.  Further, we will take measures to improve the Open University network and Distance Learning methods. The curriculum will be revised to ensure that these degree subjects would directly contribute to the growth of the economy.

The cost of electricity is an important factor that impacts the economic development process of the country. Therefore, a separate State Ministry has been set up to promote renewable energy sources.

Focus of relevant ministries will be directed to assist entrepreneurs to use modern technology for value addition, to encourage innovation and to explore new market opportunities in a creative manner.

Although our country is rich in natural resources, the value adding industries are not yet on par with international standards. Measures are afoot to earn a large sum of foreign exchange by adding value to the export of natural resources such as gems and minerals.

Methodical development of our traditional industries such as Batik, local apparel, brass, cane, pottery, furniture, gem and jewellery will pave the way for the country to promote self-employment, to generate new employment opportunities as well as to build businesses and earn a large amount of foreign exchange.

One third of country’s population depends on agriculture, plantation and fisheries as their livelihood. We should raise the living standards of these people. The development of these industries requires a new approach based on technology that goes beyond traditional methods. This is why ministries directly targeting several sectors related to agriculture, plantation and fisheries have been set up to focus attention on this matter.

We will take measures to introduce high quality packaging as well as proper transport facilities to deliver the best quality produce, minimizing wastage while taking steps to produce high quality seeds locally with the aim of providing such seeds to the farming community. We will take necessary measures to develop dairy and poultry industries.

We will also target to increase the production of organic fertilizer locally with the aim of producing toxin free foods and in the next decade to ensure total organic farming in Sri Lanka.

We are targeting a massive progress in the fisheries sector. We should halt the importation of fish into our country as our motherland is surrounded by the ocean. We will introduce a comprehensive programme to provide new technology and equipment needed to enhance the fisheries sector. All the fishery harbours will be modernized to provide facilities for multi-day fishing boats that fish in deep seas. Similarly, we will take steps to build new harbours as per any necessity.

We will bring a halt to the plundering of our oceans by unlawful foreign fishing vessels.

It is part of our strategy to introduce new technology to develop the inland fresh water fisheries industry.

The scopes and responsibilities of each Ministry and State Ministry have been demarcated very clearly. Through this initiative it is expected that the relevant Ministers will implement policies for related fields as well as to take steps to monitor the functions, activities and efficiency of State Ministries. The State Ministers are able to fulfill their respective duties and responsibilities without any hindrance as the monetary provisions required to implement development projects and financial responsibility are directly placed with them.

People are of the view that they are not getting the expected service from the public service in an efficient manner. Therefore, I request all the Ministers and State Ministers to take steps to provide fast and efficient service to the public via Ministries, Departments and Institutions that come under their purview. During my recent visits to several State institutions, I observed that some institutional procedures of those institutions do not add any value to the government or to the public but only waste the time of the public. You should identify new methods to provide efficient, speedy and convenient service to the public instead of continuing with prevailing traditional methods. You need to re-engineer the processes for greater productivity and customer satisfaction. We should find new technological solutions in this regard.

In the National Policy Framework ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour’, we promised the people that we would eradicate waste and corruption. This is a core responsibility of all of us. We will take steps to completely eradicate waste and corruption in all the Ministries and institutions. In future I will not hesitate to enforce the law against those who are involved in fraud and corrupt actions, irrespective of the status of any such perpetrators.

Constantly I will review the progress of the achievement of the goals of the Government that are implemented through Ministries and the public sector. If I find any Ministry failing to achieve its set targets, I will not hesitate to effect necessary changes to implement policies of the Government.

In the current political culture, most of the people’s representatives, after they get elected, neglect the prime duty of going to the people. When I travelled round the country in the recent past, this was confirmed by the people who voiced their grievance on this matter. Henceforth, ministers, state ministers as well as members of Parliament will fulfill this expectation of the people by visiting them often to understand their issues and find solutions to their issues.

The basis of the success of a democratic state is its constitution. Our Constitution, which has been amended 19 times, from its inception in 1978, has many ambiguities and uncertainties, presently resulting in confusion. As the people have given us the mandate we wanted for a constitutional amendment, our first task will be to remove the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. After that, all of us will get together to formulate a new constitution suitable for the country. In this, the priority will be given to the concept of one country, one law for all the people.

An unstable Parliament that cannot take firm decisions and succumbs to extremist influences very often is not suitable for a country. While introducing a new constitution, it is essential to make changes to the current electoral system. While retaining the salutary aspects of the proportional representation system, these changes will be made to ensure stability of the Parliament and people’s direct representation.

I love my country. I am proud of my country. I have a vision for my country. Our ardent desire is to build a prosperous nation with a productive citizen, contented family and a righteous society. What we have done so far as well as the plans we propose to implement in future will be aimed to achieve this objective.

We have arrived at an important landmark in history. The people have given the current government a massive mandate. We have been given the responsibility to take the country towards prosperity while safeguarding the people and protecting the sovereignty of the country without succumbing to any force. The present generation must fulfill that responsibility for the sake of the future generations.

This is the Motherland of all of us. Hence, the time has come for all of us to join hands for the sake of the country irrespective of race, religion or party differences.

I extend my hand of friendship to everyone to join me in building the prosperous nation we promised to our people.

May the Noble Triple Gem bless you all!

 

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Jayampathy Wickramaratne PC, responds to President on constitutional article 83

ECONOMYNEXT – Jayampathy Wickramaratne, President’s Counsel had responded to a statement made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe that Article 83 (b) of the constitution which has reference to a six year term was left alone not due to any ‘lapse’ on his part.

A Cabinet sub-committee headed by Premier Wickremesinghe was appointed to oversee the Nineteenth Amendment process.

The changes to the Constitution, were made by a team of legal officers of which he was member, overseen by a Cabinet sub-committee headed by then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

“Presidential candidate Maithripala Sirisena signed a memorandum of understanding with a group of 49 political parties and organisations headed by the Venerable Maduluwawe Sobitha Nayaka Thero at Viharamaha Devi Park, in which he pledged to abolish the Executive Presidency altogether,” Wickramaratne explained.

“However, the very next day, he signed another MOU with the Jathika Hela Urumaya, in which he pledged not to make any constitutional change requiring a Referendum. Mr Sirisena’s election manifesto also stated that no constitutional reform necessitating a Referendum would be initiated.”

The Attorney General also made sure that there were no changes that required a referendum, he said. As a result Article 83 (b) was left as it was.

The full statement is reproduced below:

On President Wickremesinghe’s statement that not amending Article 83 was a lapse on my part

The President stated in Galle on 19 July 2024 that not reducing the upper limit of the term of the President and Parliament from six to five years while preparing the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution was a lapse on my part due to my inexperience.

I wish to set the record straight.

Presidential candidate Maithripala Sirisena signed a memorandum of understanding with a group of 49 political parties and organisations headed by the Venerable Maduluwawe Sobitha Nayaka Thero at Viharamaha Devi Park, in which he pledged to abolish the Executive Presidency altogether.

However, the very next day, he signed another MOU with the Jathika Hela Urumaya, in which he pledged not to make any constitutional change requiring a Referendum. Mr Sirisena’s election manifesto also stated that no constitutional reform necessitating a Referendum would be initiated.

Soon after being sworn in, President Sirisena appointed Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister. Constitutional affairs was Gazetted as a subject under Prime Minister Wickremesinghe. A Cabinet sub-committee headed by Premier Wickremesinghe was appointed to oversee the Nineteenth Amendment process.

The five-member team that prepared the initial draft comprised three retired officials who had served in very senior positions in the Legal Draftsman’s Department, myself and another lawyer.

The entire drafting process was carried out on the basis that the Bill should not be placed for approval at a referendum, in keeping with President Sirisena’s electoral pledge. While the terms of the President and Parliament were proposed to be reduced from six to five years, the upper limit of six years was not touched as that would require a Referendum.

Article 83 of the Constitution mandates that a Bill that seeks to amend or is inconsistent with particular Articles listed or the said upper limits would be required to be passed by a two-thirds majority in Parliament and approved by the People at a Referendum.

It is essential to note that Article 83 itself is included in the list of provisions requiring a Referendum. The several drafts prepared were all shared and discussed with the Cabinet sub-committee.

The draft finally approved by the Cabinet sub-committee was then sent to the Legal Draftsman, who took over as required by law and made some changes. It was then sent to the Attorney-General, who took the view that certain clauses, especially some that reduced the powers of the President, would require a Referendum. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe had several meetings with the Attorney General to discuss the matter. I participated in one such meeting. Several changes had to be made to the Bill because of the Attorney-General’s position.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe presented the Bill to Parliament. When it was challenged in the Supreme Court, the Attorney-General argued on behalf of the Government that no provision required a Referendum. The clauses that the Supreme Court held to require a Referendum were either amended or withdrawn in Parliament.

In light of the above, I regret that President Wickremesinghe has thought it fit to place the entire blame on me for not reducing the upper limits of the President’s and Parliament’s terms.

I reiterate that the entire amendment process was based on avoiding a Referendum following President Sirisena’s pledge at the Presidential election.

(Dr) Jayampathy Wickramaratne, Presidents Counsel
20 July 2024.

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Sri Lanka banking system foreign assets turn positive in May: analysis

ECONOMYNEXT – Net foreign assets of Sri Lanka’s banking system turned positive in May 2024, official data showed, amid a steady reduction in the negative reserve position of the central bank helped by the current interest rate structure and domestic credit.

In May the combined net foreign assets position of commercial banks and the central bank was about 311 million US dollars by May, up from a negative 178 million US dollars a month earlier, central bank data show.

It was made up of positive 1.9 billion US dollar foreign assets position in overseas banking units and a negative 811-million-dollar position which gave a positive NFA position of about 1.13 billion US dollars for banks.
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The central bank still had a negative position of about 821 million dollars by May, down from about 4.5 billion US dollars in last currency crises triggered by deploying liquidity tools (printing money) to cut rates.

The central bank has been collecting reserves for several months, except in June after a confidence shock from the flexible exchange rate and some injections made to keep rates down.

Analysts have warned that under flexible inflation targeting, where there are anchor conflicts, external imbalances will re-emerge when private credit recovers and money is printed to cut rates.

Printing after giving Reserves for Imports

Sri Lanka’s central bank ran up a negative foreign assets position, by spending dollars borrowed from the International Monetary Fund and from other central banks including in Bangladesh and India as well as domestic banks and spending them to suppress market interest rates and finance imports.

An ‘age-of-inflation’ (or age-of-BOP-deficit) central bank that spends reserve for imports, simultaneously prints money into banks, injecting excess rupee reserves to maintain an artificial policy rate, preventing the outflow of real resources to other countries being reflected in bank balance sheets.

The printing of money after spending reserves, or the sterilizing of an outflow, allow banks to give loans without deposits and trigger forex shortages.

To collect foreign assets, a central bank has to do the opposite, and sell its domestic asset portfolio down against dollars purchased from banks, at an appropriate interest rate, which will moderate domestic credit.

Modern IMF-prone reserve collecting central banks are able to mis-target rates beyond their reserves mostly with the aid of Central bank swaps.

Sri Lanka’s central bank also borrowed reserves from domestic banks through swaps, in a somewhat similar operation to the way Lebanon’s central bank borrowed dollars to show reserves instead of buying outright against domestic assets.

Borrowed Reserves

Central bank swaps were invented by the Federal Reserve to mis-target rates and avoid giving gold reserves as macro-economists printed money to target growth in the 1960s and the printed dollars boomeranged on itself from other Bretton Woods central banks that focused on stability.

RELATED Central bank swaps symptomatic of Sri Lanka’s IMF return tickets and default: Bellwether

By March 2022, before rates were hiked, negative reserve position of Sri Lanka’s central bank was around 4.0 billion US dollars.

The negative position worsened to around 4.5 billion US dollars by the third quarter of 2022, helped by credits from Reserve Bank of India, which allowed Sri Lanka to run arrears on Asian Clearing Union balances.

In addition to the swaps, Sri Lanka also had borrowings from the International Monetary Fund which contributed to the negative foreign assets position.

The IMF borrowings came from serial currency crises triggered in the course of money printing to enforce rate cuts and target growth (potential output) and generate twice to three times the level of inflation found in monetarily stable countries through ‘flexible’ inflation targeting.

The external sector started to balance only after ACU credits were stopped. It has since been turned into a swap and the central bank is paying it down steadily in the current interest rate structure.

Related Sri Lanka repays US$225mn to Reserve Bank of India in first quarter

Sri Lanka was unable to use a People’s Bank of China swap to mis-target rates and boost imports its use was barred after gross reserves fell below three months of imports.

Private and State Banks

Sri Lanka’s private and state banks also had negative foreign assets for many years, due to lending to the government through US dollar Sri Lanka Development Bonds and other credits. The dollar loans to the government were financed in part by foreign credit lines.

As downgrades hit the country, and forex shortages worsened from flexible inflation targeting/potential output targeting, banks could not renew their credit lines.

Some banks avoided rolling over Sri Lanka Development Bonds. After the default and debt restructure, they were repaid in rupees leading to banks covering their open positions. The dollars are banked abroad, leading a net foreign assets position.

An improvement of net foreign assets, reflects an outflow of dollars from the domestic economy to foreign accounts, similar to repaying debt for building foreign reserves.

The foreign assets position of banks excluding the central bank turned positive in February 2023 and reached around a billion US dollars by the year end and has remained broadly stable around those levels in 2024r.

RELATED Sri Lanka bank net foreign assets turn positive: analysis

The stabilization of the NFA position in banks may allow the central bank to collect more foreign reserves than earlier, analysts say, at the current interest rate structure as long as money is not injected overnight or term injections to mis-target interest rates claiming inflation was low.

Any confidence shocks from the ‘flexible’ exchange rate or liquidity spikes, would also reduce the ability of the central bank to collect dollars and lead to mini ‘capital flight’ style episodes from importers and exporters. (Colombo/July20/2024)

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New constitutional amendment a ‘necessary revision’: Sri Lanka President

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s President has said a proposed amendment to the country’s constitution was a ‘necessary revision’, which would not result in a postponement of elections.

“In 2015, we proposed a new constitutional amendment,” President Wickremesinghe was quoted as saying during a ceremony to open a court complex in Beligaha, Galle on Friday.

“Typically, I would have assigned this task to K N Choksy, a lawyer.

“However, since he had passed away, the responsibility fell to lawyer Jayampathi Wickramaratne. He was unable to make the necessary revisions. This oversight is regrettable, and I apologize to the nation for it.”

President’s Counsel Wickramaratne has explained that the leaving out Section 83 (b) of the constitution was a not an “oversight” but it was a result of instructions received from the then administration to avoid making changes that required a referendum.

President Maithripala Sirisena in his election manifesto has pledged not to make changes that required a referendum, and the drafting team was told not to make changes that would require a referendum.

Related Sri Lanka’s 6-year Presidential term: problem in drafting 19th amendment explained

Meanwhile President Wickremesinghe said the move to change the constitution should not lead to a delay in elections.

“Our country has upheld democracy since 1931,” he said. “Protecting democracy is crucial. The upcoming election is on schedule, with the Chief Justice and the Supreme Court confirming that it should be held within the specified timeframe, and we support this directive.

“Some critics argue that democracy is at risk during certain crises. However, our constitution, judiciary, and political system have worked to advance and protect it. The most significant threat to our democracy occurred in 2022, yet we have continued to progress through consensus.”

Sri Lanka became the first country in Asia and Africa to grant universal suffrage in 1931, Wickremesinghe said.

“Unlike in the United States, where some states did not extend voting rights to Black people, Sri Lanka is unique for maintaining democracy continuously since then.

“Despite facing wars and rebellions, Sri Lanka has preserved its democratic system, and democracy has remained intact despite numerous challenges.”

Sri Lanka got universal suffrage under British rule.

In Sri Lanka, power transitions smoothly and without conflict after elections, the president said, “a testament to the strength of our democratic process. Despite various debates and issues, democracy has never been compromised.”

Opposition parties and lawyers have charged that the legal process involving changing the constitution could potentially delay the upcoming Presidential elections.

“Article 83 of the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is hereby amended in paragraph (b) thereof, by the substitution for the words “to over six years,”, of the words “to over five years,” the gazette notice issued on the orders of Wickremesinghe says.

Download bill 523-2024-bill-constitution-EN

There is a discrepancy in the Article 83 with reference to a six year term, while the rest of the constitution, refers to a five year term. (Colombo/July19/2024)

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