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Sri Lanka President takes “ownership” of the 20th Amendment – Keheliya

ECONOMYNEXT- President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is the main initiator of the controversial 20th Amendment to the Constitution which is now backed by the entire Cabinet of Ministers the government said today.

Cabinet Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella told reporters today said that the President took the main initiative for the draft of the 20A which was Gazetted last week “for which the cabinet takes collective responsibility.”

The statement comes after the Opposition Parties and Civil Society activists decrying the rolling back of democratic reforms introduced in the 19th Amendment demanded to know the author or progenitor of the proposal.

Until Monday government Ministers stayed mum, until Education Minister Professor G L Pieris told reporters on Monday the Ministers were taking collective responsibility which is the norm.

Speaking this morning at the post Cabinet briefing, Rambukwella said that the government will make the report of the expert panel on the 20th amendment for the constitution available to the public in the interest of upholding transparency.

The government has, since the Gazetting of the proposal, appointed two committees to review the draft due to both Sri Lankan and international criticism.

One was a so-called “expert” committee made up of Senior Ministers and the other committee comprised some Cabinet Members as well as government party Members of Parliament.

Asked by reporters why the 20A was initially approved by the cabinet, Rambukwella said that the cabinet approved the initial framework and since the cabinet is representing the people, the cabinet hopes to hear and discuss the opinions of the people.

He said that in the interest of democracy some proposed changes to the initial proposal would be made public.

He also said that the government will not withdraw the 20A draft and only will make changes.

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Rambukwella said that the Prime Minister as the head of the parliament appointed a committee to look into 20A as there was a dialogue within the society that the government should go for a broader opinion about the 20A draft.

“We will not take a dictatorial stance saying that we will not change an inch of it, but we came to the opinion that if there are thoughts which have some importance we should discuss them at the committee stage,” he said. (Colombo/Sept17/2020)

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