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Monday December 5th, 2022

Sri Lanka’s proposed 22nd constitutional amendment to transcend 19th: minister

ECONOMYNEXT –  Sri Lanka’s newly proposed 22nd amendment to the constitution, while being based on the 19th amendment, will transcend the latter’s democratic features while also retaining the more progressive aspects of the 20th amendment, Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe said.

In a press briefing held on Wednesday August 10, Rajapakshe summarised some key features of the proposed amendment.

Constitutional Assembly 

“The basic features of the 19th amendment are all there. Mainly, reestablishing the Constitutional Assembly which has the power to approve appointments of High Court judges and higher government officials, and appoint members to Commissions,” he said.

Unlike in the 19th amendment, he said, the three members of the Constitutional Assembly from parliament would not be selected by the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader.

Instead, one member will be appointed by and of the ruling party, one by and of the main opposition, and one member from the majority appointment from and of the other parties.

The three civilian members of the Constitutional Council will be appointed by the Speaker with the approval of parliament without intervention by the Prime Minister or Opposition Leader.

“As in the 19th amendment, the Police Commission, Public Service Commission, Election Commission and Bribery Commission will be independent institutions,” he said.

The Public Procurement Commission and Audit Services Commission, which were dissolved by the 20th Amendment, will be re-established by the 22nd Amendment.

“These Commissions were established because most corruption in the governing process happens during audits and procurement processes,” said Rajapakshe.

Appointment of Central Bank Governor

The Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) is to be appointed by the President with the approval of the Constitutional Council.

“There was justified discourse surrounding the appointment of the Central Bank Governor,” said Rajapakshe.

“[Previous Governors] Arjuna Mahendran and Ajith Nivaard Cabraal worked in an arbitrary manner to destroy the country’s economy, and because the impact on the economy is so great, steps had to be taken [regarding the appointment of CBSL governors],” he claimed.

President’s ministerial positions

The 22nd Amendment aims to restrict the president’s ministerial portfolios to just the Defence Ministry via interim arrangements, while the 19th Amendment granted them authority over the Environment and Mahaweli ministries too.

Rajapakshe said the Defence Ministry must remain with the President, as the country’s security comes under their responsibility according to previous Supreme Court rulings.

“Under the 22nd Amendment, until a Minster is appointed, the President must take responsibility of the respective Ministry. Additionally, in case of emergency, the President can take over a Ministry on the advice of the PM,” he said.

Opportunity for Public to engage in legislative process

Bills proposed in Parliament can be contested in the Supreme Court, and this can be done within 14 days of the Bill’s presentation.

“The public has the right to contest if a Bill proposed in Parliament is Constitutional or not. To enact those rights, the public must do so within seven days of presentation of the bill. We have increased that to 14 days, to give the people more opportunity to take part in the legislative process,” said Rajapakshe.

Action against Bribery and Corruption

Under the 22nd Amendment, Sri Lanka will establish laws to carry out the provisions of the United Nations Convention against Corruption and other international conventions regarding bribery and corruption.

“Though there was [a similar provision] in the 19th amendment, no laws were created. The Anti Corruption bill has already been created, it will be further studied in the coming weeks,” said Rajapakshe.

The Bribery and Corruption Commission Law and Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Law will also be updated, he said.

Ministry secretary posts

Under the 22nd Amendment, ministry Secretaries will retain their positions even after the dissolution of the cabinet.

These seven features are special as ones that go beyond 19A.

It has been added that dual citizens are not qualified for ministerial positions.

According to Rajapakshe, the 22nd Amendment, if passed, will be named as the 21st Constitutional Amendment.

He said that dubbing the 22nd Amendment, “19+” did not do justice to the scope of the progressive changes that were to be made.

“You cannot give a narrow definition to this amendment. It’s not plus or minus anything. We have included some advanced democratic features that were not in the 19th amendment in this one.” (Colombo/Aug10/2022)

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Time right for elections, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna ready to face any poll: Basil

File photo: SLPP national organiser Basil Rajapaksa

ECONOMYNEXT — The time has come for an election in Sri Lanka and the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) is ready to face any election, SLPP national organiser Basil Rajapaksa said, dismissing claims that the party has come to fear elections in the face of growing unpopularity and increased factionalisation.

Speaking to reporters at an event held in Colombo Monday December 05 morning to mark the fourth anniversary of the party’s media centre, Rajapaksa handwaved off assertions that the SLPP has splintered in the wake of the mass protests that ousted his brother and former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

“No, our party hasn’t fragmented, not the way this cake was cut,” he said, pointing to the cake that was cut to celebrate the media centre’s anniversary.

“There may be some [dissenters], but we are with the people,” said Rajapaksa.

Political analysts, however, note that the once mighty SLPP has indeed fractured to at least four or five distinct factions. One group, according to party sources, is with President Ranil Wickremesinghe who is keen to involve younger SLPP legislators in his economic reform agenda. The second is with former Media Minister Dullas Alahapperuma who launched an unsuccessful bid for the presidency and was roundly defeated by Wickremesinghe at the July 19 presidential vote in parliament. The third group now sits as independent MPs in parliament, while a fourth faction are with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the SLPP patriarch.

There is another group that remains loyal to Basil Rajapaksa, though all but one SLPP legislator voted for the 21st amendment to the constitution that prohibited dual citizens from entering parliament. Rajapaksa, a dual citizen with US passport, recently returned to the island after a private visit to his second home.

The former finance minister, who resigned after a wave of protests that demanded his departure along with that of his presidential brother, for their alleged role in Sri Lanka’s prevailing currency crisis, the worst in decades, was in a jovial mood at the anniversary event on Monday and was seen heartily indulging reporters who were throwing loaded question after loaded question at him.

Asked about future plans of the SLPP, Rajapaksa quipped that they couldn’t be revealed to the media at this stage.

“However, time has come for an election. It’s difficult to say how it will be at present, but as a party, we’re ready to face any election,” he said.

Rajapaksa’s apparent confidence in facing an election is in direct contrast to speculation that the SLPP is banking on President Wickremesinghe’s refusal to dissolve parliament anytime soon. Opposition lawmakers have accused Wickremesinghe of providing sanctuary and promising security to the deeply unpopular party by not calling early elections.

“We have won every election we faced so far. We are thankful to the Sri Lankan people for that. If we were unable to meet their expectations 100 percent, we regret that. We will correct any shortcomings and will work to fulfill the people’s aspirations,” said Rajapaksa.

Asked if he is going to remain in active politics despite the blanket ban on dual citizens, the former minister said, again with a chuckle: “Active politics… well, I’m not in governance anymore. Governance [for me] has been banned by the 21st amendment. So no, I’m not in governance, but I am in politics,” he said.

Pressed about possibly entering parliament again, he said: “How can I?”

Nor is Rajapaksa saddened by the development, he claimed. “No, I’m happy about it,” he said.

The former two-time finance minister, noted for his clash of views with Wickremesinghe when the latter was invited by then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for a round of discussions on economic recovery, was cautiously complimentary when asked about the new president. It was the SLPP’s backing that guaranteed Wickremesinghe his lifelong ambition.

“I think that selection was the correct one. We have maintained from the start that all of us in government or opposition must be able to freely engage in politics,” he said, referring to assurances that the president has purportedly given SLPP parliamentarians that they will not face the kind of retaliatory mob violence that engulfed the nation on May 09 after alleged SLPP goons attacked peaceful anti-government protestors in Colombo.

A reporter asked if Rajapaksa believes the incumbent president is capable of taking the country on the right path to recovery?

“The first task was accomplished, by allowing us to engage in politics and to get on the streets. There are economic and other issues, and we have high hopes that they will be resolved,” he said. (Colombo/Dec05/2022)

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Sri Lanka proposed power tariff not to recover past losses: Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – The government has not proposed a power tariff increase to recover past losses, Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekera in response to a statement attributed the head of the power regulator commission.

“The proposal that was presented was for an automatic cost reflective tariff mechanism to be implemented to supply uninterrupted power & to recover the current cost of power supply,” Minister Wijesekera said in twitter.com message.

“Govt has not proposed to recover past loses of CEB from a tariff revision…”

The cabinet of ministers had given the nod tariff revisions twice a year to prevent large losses from building up as in the past.

The Public Utilities Commission has disputed costs protected for the power utility saying the petroleum utility was keeping large margins in selling fuel.

The government in a budget for 2022 also proposed to tax surcharge to recover losses.

The regulator also disputed power demand forecasts.

Also read; Sri Lanka regulator disputes CEB costs, demand projections for 2023

The PUCSL cannot increase tariffs to recover past losses, Chairman Janaka Ratnayake said. (Colombo/Dec05/2022)

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Sri Lanka’s shares gain in mid market trade

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s shares edged up in mid day trade on Monday (05), continuing the positive run for seven straight sessions on news over a possible debt restructuring from Paris Club, analysts said.

All Share Price Index gained by 0.69% or 60.10 points to 8,829, while the most liquid shares gained by 0.96% or 26.59 points to 2,801.

“The market was pushed up over the news of a potential 10 year debt moratorium,” analysts said.

The Paris Club group of creditor nations has proposed a 10-year debt moratorium on Sri Lankan debt and 15 years of debt restructuring as a formula to resolve the island nation’s prevailing currency crisis. 

Related – Paris Club proposes 10-year moratorium in 15-year Sri Lanka debt re-structure: report

The market generated a revenue of 2.1 billion rupees.

Top gainers during 1130 hours were Expolanka, Browns Investment and LOLC.  (Colombo/Dec05/2022)

 

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