Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court has judged that the majority of clauses in the Samagi Jana Balawegaya’s (SJB), Sri Lanka’s main opposition party, proposed 21st Amendment are unconstitutional and will require a two-thirds majority in parliament to be passed as well as approval via a public referendum.
The bill sought to abolish the executive Presidency that is in existence at present and transfer power to Parliament.
The proposed 21st Amendment has received a hostile reception with reports that sharp divisions within the Sri Lankan government blocking its passage. The Sunday Times LK has reported that a sizeable number of members of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), the dominant ruling party, have voiced dissent to the bill fearing it would worsen the crisis in Sri Lanka.
The SLPP’s General Secretary, Sagara Kariyawasam, has maintained that the party’s position is “that the executive presidency should be abolished. There should be a strong prime ministerial system vested with executive powers.” However, President Rajapaksa has insisted that he will continue his rule raising concerns that the version of the 21st amendment presented by the government will be watered down. The government will require a two-thirds majority to pass in parliament and the SLPP has around 103 members within its fold.
Quoting a source close to Sri Lanka’s President, the Sunday Times reports that Rajapaksa has explained to Prime Minister Wickremesinghe that “he has a mandate from 6.9 million voters whilst Wickremesinghe had none”.
“This was why he opined that provisions in 21A either removing powers of the President or empowering a Prime Minister, if at all carried out, should take effect only from the next (tenth) Parliament and not immediately. He has also publicly made clear he was not in favour of piecemeal amendments but stood for the abolition of the executive presidency.”
The Sunday Times details that the passage of the 21 Amendment will face an uphill battle as there is a faction 50 members within the SLPP which will vote against the bill. The SJB also has 46 MPs pushing for their own conception of the 21st Amendment with the support of the Tamil National Alliance, which has 10 members.