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Friday July 12th, 2024

Sri Lanka early presidential poll will require constitutional amendment: expert

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe who is reportedly looking for an early popular mandate will need to seek a constitutional amendment repealing a provision that prevents a president elected by parliament from calling an early presidential election.

Human rights lawyer Gehan Gunatilleke told EconomyNext on Monday June 05 that the amendment, as any other constitutional amendment, will require a two-thirds majority in parliament. Additionally, he said, if the Supreme Court determines that any provision of the amendment is inconsistent with one of the entrenched clauses in the Constitution, the amendment bill must also be approved by the people at a referendum.

According to Gunatillake, it can be argued that the repeal of the provision in question – article 31(3A)(e) of the constitution –  will not result in any inconsistency with any entrenched clause.

“However, it is the Supreme Court that will ultimately decide the matter,” he said.

Wickremesinghe was elected in July 2022 under article 40 of the constitution which provides for parliament electing one of its members to fill a vacancy in the office of the president for the remainder of the departing president’s term of office. This was after ex President Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigned following mass anti-government protests at the height of last year’s economic and political crises.

According to Gunatillake, as things stand now, a fresh presidential election can be held only after the remainder of what was originally Rajapaksa’s term ends in November 2024 as, as per article 30(2), a presidential term shall be five years. Though article 31(3A)(a) gives an incumbent president the power to call an election at the end of four years to seek a second term in office, article 31(3A)(e) posits that a president elected by parliament under article 40 shall not have the power to call an early election. It provides: ‘A person succeeding to the office of President under the provisions of Article 40 shall not be entitled to exercise the right conferred on a President by sub-paragraph (a) of this paragraph.’

“So, the current President – who was elected by parliament under article 40 – does not have the power to call an early election. Only a constitutional amendment to repeal article 31(3A)(e) can enable him to call an early election, said Gunatallike.

This means President Wickremesinghe will have to seek a constitutional amendment repealing article 31(3A)(e) which, as noted by Gunatallike, will require a two-thirds majority in parliament and, depending on the Supreme Court’s determination, the approval of the public at a referendum though a case can be made the amendment will not result in any constitutional inconsistency.

Parliament support well in excess of a two-thirds majority for such an amendment is likely given that the main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) has already declared its support for an early presidential election.

Opposition and SJB leader Sajith Premadasa, whose party endorsed him on May 16 at its presidential candidate, said that he intends to form an SJB-led alliance of opposition parties in the event of an early election, which Wickremesinghe is widely speculated to call.

Related:

Sri Lanka’s Sajith Premadasa all for early presidential polls despite crossover talk

(Colombo/Jun05/2023)

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Sri Lanka appoints new Attorney General

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s President Ranil Wickremesinghe has appointed K A Parinda Ranasinghe PC as Attorney General.

He was appointed in terms of Article 61E (b) of the Constitution of Sri Lanka, the president’s media division said.

The new AG received the appointment from President Wickremesinghe at the Presidential Secretariat on Friday.

Ranasinghe is the 49th Attorney General of Sri Lanka.

He fills the post after the retirement of former Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam. (Colombo/Jul12/2024)

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Sri Lanka rupee closes stronger at 301.70/302.00 to US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed stronger at 301.70/302.00 to the US dollar on Friday, from 302.80/303.00 to the US dollar on Thursday, dealers said, while bond yields were up.

A bond maturing on 15.12.2026 closed at 10.90/11.00 percent, up from 10.85/95 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.12.2027 closed at 11.75/80 percent, up from 11.80/88 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.05.2028 closed at 11.90/12.00 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2029 closed at 12.10/30 percent, up from 12.15/25 percent. (Colombo/Jul12/2024)

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Sri Lanka stocks close up, muted activity

ECONOMYNEXT – The Colombo Stock Exchange closed up on Friday, data on its site showed.

The broader All Share Index closed up 0.35 percent, or 41.71 points, at 11,843; while the more liquid S&P SL20 Index closed up 0.56 percent, or 19.20 points, at 3,454.

Turnover was low at 653 million.

“The market picked up a bit from yesterday but it’s still below the psychological 12,000 mark,” Softlogic Stockbrokers said.

“Local retail participation drove the market predominantly.”

John Keells Holdings Plc brought in Rs109mn to the turnover, and the share closed flat at 194.50.

Melstacorp Plc contributed in Rs104mn to the turnover, and the share closed flat at 85.00.

Sentiment around the banking counters was mostly negative. Sampath Bank Plc closed down at 77.00, closed flat at 101.25, and Hatton National Bank Plc closed flat at 195.25.

The top contributors to the ASPI were Commercial Bank of Ceylon Plc (up at 103.50), Bukit Darah Plc (up at 397.00), and Hayleys Plc (up at 101.00).

Foreign participation remained low as well. There was a higher net foreign outflow of 101 million.

“Foreign selling was seen on John Keells Holdings, and banking counters; Hatton National Bank Plc (down at 195.00), Pan Asia Banking Corporation Plc (down at 20.70), and Commercial Bank of Ceylon Plc.

There was selective foreing interest on the diversified financials sector, particularly in companies that had vehicle leasing portfolios. “We think this might be due to the news of the vehicle import ban possibly ending.”

LOLC Holdings Plc closed up at 440.50, People’s Leasing and Finance Plc closed up at 12.20.

Softlogic Holdings Plc which announced the date of its rights issue, closed up at 8.50. (Colombo/Jul12/2024)

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