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Tabling the 20th Amendment “a dark day for democracy” – Sajith

Opposition lawmakers protest constitutional amendments in Sri Lanka on Sep 23, 2020

ECONOMYNEXT – Opposition Parliamentarians staged a protest in the Well of the House today when the government tabled the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution with the Leader of the Opposition Sajith Premadasa calling it a “dark day for democracy.”

The Samagi Jana Balavegaya leader Sajith Premadasa and his Members of Parliament wore badges saying “reject the 20th” and held up banners against the proposed new Constitution which they say will take power away from Parliament and give it to the Executive.

“We are not against the President having power but the Prime Minister also must have power and there should be checks and balances for both,” Premadasa said taking a point of order.

“The President and the Prime Minister are both elected by the people and there must be power vested in them,” he said.

The Speaker, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardene chastised Premadasa saying “we are not debating the 20th Amendment today.”

But Premadasa held his ground and went on to say that the proposed amendment would create an “elected dictatorship.”

He also pointed out that making major changes to the proposed amendment at the Committee stage in Parliament is not possible and that was a fallacy.

The Opposition MPs who wore Black Bands, “are expressing sorrow at the downgrading of the supremacy of Parliament,” Premadasa said.

He said that the pro-democracy reforms brought in by the 19th Amendment need to be retained.

“There has been no election-related violence ever since the independent Election Commission was created,” Premadasa pointed out.

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He said the proposed Amendment will take away the independence of the Commission he warned.

Premadasa warned that the new amendment would “reduce the Constitutional Council to a bunch of puppets,” as they will have no independence.

The Leader of the Opposition also warned that with the restrictions to be placed on the Auditor General’s powers and the abolishing of the Procurement Commission a “death blow has been dealt to the control of Public Funds.”

He asked why the Auditor-General will be disallowed from auditing the office of the Prime Minister and the President.

Premadasa said that the proposal appeared “to be trying to settle a power struggle between different parts of the government.” (Colombo September 22, 2020)
Reported by Arjuna Ranawana

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