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Twentieth Amendment “only the beginning of a process of Constitutional change” – GL

Minister Prof G L Peiris speaking to reporters

ECONOMYNEXT – A nine-member committee appointed by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to study the various opinions that have been expressed with regard to the draft 20th Amendment to the Constitution will report to Cabinet this week, a Senior Minister said.

Education Minister G L Peiris told reporters today September 14, that the nine-member committee chaired by him includes several Ministers, State Ministers and MPs.

He said that the Committee will meet today to discuss the Amendment and present their findings and comments to the PM tomorrow.

Thereafter that report will be put before Cabinet on Wednesday afternoon, Peiris who is also the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna Chairman said.

“It is our opinion that some things need to be clarified quickly. For instance, can the President hold the Defense Ministry portfolio? This has to be sorted out.”

“We see the 20th Amendment as just the beginning of the process of Constitutional Change,” he said.

A detailed reform of the Constitution will take place later bringing substantial changes to the electoral processes, he said.

Peiris says he was not the person who drafted the proposed 20th Amendment.

“It is a government that proposes a Constitutional Amendment, with the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers,” Peiris told reporters today September 14.

“We take collective responsibility as members of the Cabinet,” he said.

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“The whole government accepts responsibility for the proposal. It is not a final proposal, it has been Gazetted, but not tabled in Parliament.”

“That is possible only after the 17th which means the two-week mandatory period has to pass.”

The next session of Parliament will be on September 22, and after that, there is a three-week period during which citizens can challenge the proposal before the Supreme Court.

Peiris says for two whole years the country functioned without Provincial Councils.

“The last government did not want to hold the Provincial Council Elections because it knew it would be defeated” Peiris claimed.

The government at the time said that it was because of wrangling over delimitation and changes in the Elections Law that delayed the process.

Parliament could not agree to the new proposals to make changes as the Attorney General ruled that these changes need a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

“However the country functioned without the PCs and the question has arisen as to whether they are actually needed,” Peiris said. (Colombo, September 14, 2020)

Reported by Arjuna Ranawana