Sri Lanka: Panel on 20A set for last round of deliberations

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COLOMBO, Sept 15 (PTI): The ministerial committee appointed to review the proposed 20th Amendment to Sri Lanka’s Constitution will have a last round of deliberations on Tuesday before submitting the findings to Prime Minister Mahinda  Rajapaksa, panel members said.

Amendment 20 A proposes to restore full executive power and legal immunity to the president, removing the provisions of Amendment 19 which lay down the procedure to take legal action against the president.

Further, Amendment 19, adopted in 2019, empowered the Parliament over the Prime Minister, watered down the powers of the presidency, de-politicised the government administration, demarcated the independence of key democratic pillars — judiciary, public service and elections.

Since Amendment 20A was gazetted on September 3, various groups have expressed opposition to it.

In response, PM Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed a nine-member ministerial committee to review Amendment 20A in its present form and, if needed, a fresh gazette would be issued.

“We had a look at the amendment and identified some areas where we should make recommendations,” said Minister of Energy and committee member Udaya Gammanpila. While he declined to mention the proposed changes, Gammanpila said the report would be presented only to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the prime minister.

Meanwhile, the Opposition alliance, Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), said they would take the ills of the amendment to the people.

“This is an attempt to subvert democracy in this country, we will educate the public on its downside while going for court action,” said senior SJB leader Tissa Attanayake.

“The government cannot, even, say who authored 20A. Now they appoint committees after gazetting it,” Attanayaka said.

After the August 5 Parliamentary election, the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) got a two-third majority, which enabled them to abolish Amendment 19A without outside help.

However, after Amendment 20A was gazetted earlier this month, unexpected resistance came from among the SLPP allies.

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