ECONOMYNEXT – Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa took the government to task yesterday for allegedly refusing to take ownership of the draft 20th amendment to the constitution which has drawn criticism from various quarters including a few of its own MPs.
The architects of the draft amendment seem to have vanished off the face of the earth, Premadasa said, speaking at an event themed ‘Defeat 20A’ held yesterday to mark the International Day of Democracy.
“Even the state intelligence cannot find the author of the 20th amendment,’ he said.
In the wake of harsh criticism from “progressive and intellectual groups” including the Premadasa-led main opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB), top government ministers are “running from the media” when questioned about the individuals who had drafted 20A, he said.
Premadasa, whose father Ranasinghe Premadasa wielded immense power as Sri Lanka’s second executive president some 30 years ago, said in his speech yesterday that though he had once approved of the executive presidency, events from 2010 to 2014 opened his eyes to the power abuse problems inherent to the system. He said he recognised the “damage done to Sri Lanka” by undemocratic governance.
“That’s why during the presidential campaign in 2014-2015, I stood for reducing the powers of the president, shifting my view to suit the times,” he added.
The 19th amendment introduced by the previous government, said the SJB leader, established independent commissions that ought to be there in any democratic state. The draft 20th amendment has been criticised for proposing to essentially render these commissions toothless, in addition restoring the powers of the office of the president.
Acknowledging that there were shortcomings in the 19th amendment, Premadasa said what ought to be done is addressing those shortcomings and strengthening its salient features of independence instead of repealing it completely.
“What country would ever introduce amendments to stop the president’s office and the prime minister’s office being audited? Is this advanced democracy?” Premadasa said.
The opposition leader further said that the results of the SJB’s and other democratic forces’ opposition to the draft amendment can already be seen in the form of hurried changes announced to certain provisions in the draft. (Colombo/Sep16/2020)