ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka Minister of Justice Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe has called for wide support for his version of a 21st amendment to the constitution after the Supreme Court determined that the provisions of a competing draft by the main opposition required a referendum.
Rajapakshe told parliament on Tuesday June 21 that the Supreme Court had determined that virtually none of the provisions in the main opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya’s draft 21st amendment could be passed in parliament without a referendum.
“The people of this country irrespective of party differences accept the need for the 21st amendment we proposed,” he said.
The SJB’s 21st amendment concentrated heavily on abolishing Sri Lanka’s all-powerful executive presidency and, according to a determination by the Supreme Court, many of its provisions require a two thirds majority in parliament along with a people’s referendum.
The exact contents of Rajapakshe’s draft 21st amendment are not out in the public domain at present, but according to the minister, it will largely be a restoration of the 19th amendment which will see some of the powers conferred on the president by the controversial 20th amendment will be repealed.
“The opposition has to accept that not one word of their draft can be passed in parliament in any practical way. We have brought forward something that can actually be done,” he said.
“We have included everything that can be passed without a referendum,” he added.
Pending Supreme Court perusal of the draft, it is the duty of the opposition and every citizen to support the amendment, the minister said.
Rajapakshe also expressed support for Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and criticised the SJB for not taking up the premiership when offered by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa after then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was compelled to step down amid widespread violence on May 09.
“The PM is for massive political reforms in this country, and that was why I took the justice ministry,” he said.
Sri Laka is going through its worst ever forex crisis, with a severe lack of dollars leading to long queues for fuel and other essentials as the country grids to a virtual standstill.
The SJB and the opposition National People’s Power (NPP) walked out of the chamber Tuesday morning, announcing a boycott of parliament this week in protest of what they said was government inaction in the face of Sri Lanka’s worsening crisis.
Minister Rajapakshe said the international community and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have asked Sri Lanka to get its house in order in order to continue supporting the country through the crisis.
“The EU, the US, and others are asking ‘where is your country’s democracy and rule of law?’ They ask that these be established,” he claimed. (Colombo/Jun21/2022)