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Sri Lankan Cabinet Passes 21st Amendment Aimed at Empowering Parliament

This will empower Parliament over the executive president and it will now be tabled in Parliament soon.

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World
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Sri Lankan Cabinet Passes 21st Amendment Aimed at Empowering Parliament
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Sri Lankan Cabinet on Monday, 20 June, approved the 21st Amendment to the Constitution aimed at empowering Parliament over the executive president and it will now be tabled in Parliament soon, two senior ministers have said.

The 21st Amendment is expected to annul the 20A to the Constitution, which gives unfettered powers to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa after abolishing the 19th Amendment that will strengthen Parliament.

"The 21 amendment was tabled and passed in cabinet today and will be tabled in @ParliamentLK soon. Like to thank @RW_UNP and @wijerajapakshe for pushing it through," Minister of Tourism and Lands Harin Fernando tweeted.

The 21A aims, among other reforms, at barring dual citizens from contesting elections to hold public office.

"Today the cabinet approved the 21A - this was the draft that I had discussed with all political parties and other organisations. This will now be sent to the legal draftsman," Constitutional Affairs Minister Wijedasa Rajapakshe told PTI.
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He said he was keen to make sure that the draft would not incorporate any provision which would be deemed as required to be approved at a national referendum by the Supreme Court.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe Batted For 21st Amendment

The law requires that any bill be referred to the Supreme Court for a determination on its constitutionality.

A section of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna party (SLPP) was opposed to bringing in 21A without addressing the current economic crisis.

The Cabinet nod came amidst much opposition to it within the ruling party.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had batted for the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, saying it will curb the president's unlimited powers while enhancing the role of Parliament in governing the debt-ridden country which is also facing an unprecedented political turmoil.

The powerful Rajapaksa family tightened their grip on power after their massive victory in the general elections in August 2020, which allowed them to amend the Constitution to restore presidential powers and install close family members in key positions.

Wickremesinghe was the main sponsor of the 19th Amendment in 2015 which empowered Parliament over the executive president.

The constitutional reform was a major plank of the agreement between Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe when he took over the job of prime minister on 12 May.

Protesters Demand the President's Resignation

Sri Lanka has been grappling with unprecedented economic turmoil since its independence from Britain in 1948.

Sri Lanka's economic crisis has created political unrest with protesters demanding the President's resignation.

With protests against Rajapaksa raging over his government's inability to tackle the ongoing economic crisis, the demand surfaced to make parliament more powerful over the presidency - even the demand for the abolition of the office of the executive president came to the fore.

The main opposition SJB had moved for a comprehensive overhaul of the presidency including its abolition through a private members bill.

Rajapaksa thought that the Supreme Court was likely to rule a national referendum if the SJB amendment was to become law.

Under the 21A, the President will be held accountable to the Parliament. The Cabinet of Ministers is also accountable to Parliament. The National Council is also accountable to Parliament. Fifteen Committees and Oversight Committees are accountable to Parliament.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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