Sri Lanka parliamentary polls urged if constitutional reforms blocked
COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – A Sri Lankan ruling party law maker said Wednesday the government would have no option but to go for fresh parliamentary polls if an opposition faction continues to block constitutional reforms.
Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Ajith Perera said the proposed reforms, known as the 19th amendment to the constitution, aims not only to reduce the excessive powers of the executive presidency but also strengthen the rights of ordinary citizens.
The reforms that were to have been passed by parliament this week were blocked by an opposition parliamentary faction of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) allied to the defeated former president, Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The faction of lawmakers staged a demonstration in parliament preventing a vote on the reforms after the bribery commission summoned Rajapaksa for questioning on corruption allegations.
Rajapaksa refused to answer the summons and will now be questioned by bribery commission officials at his home.
Perera of the ruling United National Party (UNP) said the opposition lawmakers blocked the reforms, which would have strengthened institutions like the bribery commission and courts, fearing their misdeeds when in power would be exposed.
"No one is above the law," Perera said. "Everybody, including the former president, must obey the law. Any citizen summoned by police or the bribery commission must comply."
The constitutional reforms are to be taken up for debate by parliament next Monday April 27 and voted on by Tuesday, April 28.
"Next week will be the last chance we’ll have to pass the constitutional amendments," Perera told a news conference.
"If by next Tuesday evening they are not passed, it will be impossible for the UNP to govern. We’ll have no right to remain in power. There’s no option but for President Maithripala Sirisena to dissolve parliament and call fresh elections."
The UNP has been pressing for early general elections after it helped defeat Rajapakasa in the January 8 presidential poll by supporting Sirisena.