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Transferring president’s powers to “unelected” constitutional council undemocratic: GL

Minister Prof G L Peiris speaking to reporters

ECONOMYNEXT – Transferring an elected president’s powers to a group of unelected individuals such as the constitutional council would be an undemocratic act in and of itself, a senior government minister said.

Minister of Education Professor G L Peiris speaking to reporters today complained that the 19th amendment to the constitution has severely limited the president’s powers to make key appointments without the recommendation and approval of the constitutional council.

“How can such a council take control of a president that was elected by the people?” said Peiris.

In an attempt to allay fears that the proposed 20th amendment would allow the president to make important appointments as he wishes, the minister said under the proposed reforms, the president still has to seek the observations of a proposed parliamentary council that is expected to replace the constitutional council. The constitutional council has so far been tasked with appointing members to independent commissions.

However, the parliamentary council only has observational powers and the president is not required to follow its advice when making appointments.

Peiris further said that in the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP)’s election campaign, it didn’t promise to repeal sections of the 19th amendment but remove it in its entirety.

“The only thing we said was that we won’t try to change anything in the amendment whose removal would require a referendum,” he said.

The minister stressed that this is not because the government is afraid to face a referendum.

“Having a referendum right after a parliamentary election and a presidential election before that is not appropriate under the present circumstances. Although, the government is fully aware that the people will support us in such an endeavour given what they had seen under the previous administration,” he said.

If there is a need to make changes to the draft 20th amendment, Peiris said, it can be done at the committee stage.

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However, the government will never agree to withdraw the gazetted draft and issue a new one, he added. (Colombo/Sep21/2020)

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