Sri Lanka’s political alliance moves bill to remove powers of executive presidency

Gotabaya Rajapaksa

Colombo: Sri Lanka’s parliamentary group of Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) on Sunday said that they have come up with a private member’s bill to scrap the 20th amendment and remove the powers of the executive presidency.

This decision was taken after a meeting at the Opposition Leader’s office. Sri Lankan MP Harshana Rajakaruna said a constitutional amendment will be brought in to scrap the powers of the President, the Daily Mirror newspaper reported.

“Leader of Opposition Sajith Premadasa will meet MPs of other parties shortly to get their support. We are confident of numbers as we will try to muster the support of some SLPP MPs as well as those who have decided to become independent,” Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella.

Meanwhile, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa invited 41 lawmakers who quit the government amid the nation’s worst economic crisis to meet for talks on a caretaker government on Sunday.

Dozens of lawmakers from Rajapaksa’s coalition chose to sit in parliament as independents after accusing him of economic mismanagement, effectively stripping the government of majority support.

Maithripala Sirisena, the leader of the Freedom Party that withdrew its support of Rajapaksa, said the rebels wanted Rajapaksa to put a unity government in place for the duration of the transitional period and curtail his executive powers in order to deal with the crisis.

Sri Lanka plunged into chaos after a lack of essential items and rolling power cuts caused nationwide protests. The country relies on tourists for foreign currency to import food and fuel and months of pandemic restrictions have starved it of money.

UN human rights experts on Friday had urged the Sri Lankan Government to guarantee the fundamental rights of peaceful assembly and of expression during peaceful protests, amid the country’s severe economic crisis.

“We are gravely concerned by the recent proclamation of a state of emergency as well as the order that blocked access to social media platforms,” the experts said in a statement issued by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

They also condemned the excessive use of teargas and water cannon to disperse protesters, as well as the recent block of social media platforms. “We urge the Sri Lankan Government to allow students, human rights defenders and others to protest in a peaceful manner, and to freely share their political views and express their discontent, both online and offline.”