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Prez to consolidate power

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* Constitutional Council to be abolished

* No provision for civil society members

* Dual citizens can enter parliament

* A person aged 30 can run for President

* Restriction on number of Cabinet ministers, deputies removed

* Parliament can be dissolved within one year

* Romesh de Silva heads team tasked with preparing draft new Constitution

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Constitutional Council (CC) introduced in terms of the 19th Amendment in 2015 is to be abolished by the 20th Amendment (20A) gazetted yesterday (3).

In place of the 10- member CC, the 20A has proposed a Parliamentary Council comprising the Prime Minister, the Speaker, the Opposition Leader and nominees (one each) of the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader.

The 20th Amendment stipulates that the nominees of the Premier and the Opposition Leader belong to the communities other than the communities represented by the Prime Minister, the Speaker and the Opposition Leader.

In terms of the 19th Amendment, the CC headed by the Speaker, included three civil society representatives as well as a representative of the President. The 20A has done away with both civil society representatives and the presidential nominee.

Cabinet spokesman Mass Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella and co-cabinet spokespersons, Ministers, Dr. Ramesh Pathirana and Udaya Gammanpila refrained from commenting on the provisions of the 20A in spite of the media repeatedly seeking their comments.

The Attorney General on Sept 2, ruled that the 20A could be enacted by a two-thirds vote sans a referendum. SLPP National List member Justice Minister Ali Sabry, PC, worked out the 20th Amendment.

In line with 20A, the President will have the authority to make appointments to the Election Commission, the Public Service Commission, the National Police Commission, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption, the Finance Commission and the Delimitation Commission (all in Schedule I) having obtained observations of the Parliamentary Council.

The President will seek the observations of the Parliamentary Council in appointing the Chief Justice and judges of the Supreme Court, the President and the judges of the Court of Appeal and the members of the Judicial Service Commission other than the Chairman (all under Schedule II/Part I) and the Attorney General, the Auditor General, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration (Ombudsman) and the Secretary General (Schedule II/Part II).

In terms of the 20th Amendment, the immunity of the President, both in official and private capacity has been restored.

The SLPP, both at the presidential and parliamentary elections held in Nov 2019, and Aug 2020, respectively, campaigned for a two-thirds majority to do away with the 19th Amendment. The SLFP obtained 145 seats and with the support of its allies can muster the required two thirds.

There is provision in the 20th Amendment for the President to remove the nominees of the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader in the Parliamentary Council.

The Parliamentary Council has to submit its observations as regards the President’s nominees to the above mentioned offices within one week. In case, the Parliamentary Council fails to respond within a week after the President sought its observations, there is provision for the President to go ahead with the appointments.

There is provision for leaders of recognised political parties to propose suitable persons to the Commissions categorized under Scheduled I for the President’s consideration.

The 20th Amendment also seeks to do away with the restriction on the number of ministers to 30 and non-cabinet ministers to 40 introduced by the 19th Amendment. The President will be head of the cabinet.

The 20th A seeks to provide space for the President, in consultation with the President, if necessary, to determine the number of ministers and also appoint ministers who are not members of the cabinet of ministers. There is also provision for the appointment of Deputy Ministers, from time to time, in consultation with the Prime Minister, if necessary, to assist members of the cabinet.

In terms of the 20th Amendment, the President can remove Prime Minister, a member of the cabinet, any other minister or a Deputy Minister.

The President has retained the constitutional authority to dissolve parliament after completion of sittings for a period of one year. The 19th Amendment, deprived the President the power to dissolve parliament until the House completed four and half years of five-year term.

The 20th Amendment has retained the five-year term for the President and two term restriction.

 

The 20th Amendment provides for the introduction of emergency Bills.

The age of presidential contestants has been reduced to 30 from 35. The 20th Amendment also paved the way for dual citizens to contest parliamentary election.

Addressing the media at the Information Department, cabinet spokesperson said that a nine member expert committee headed by Romesh De Silva, PC had been asked to prepare a new draft Constitution. The media was told that the 20th Amendment was temporary measure until consensus could be reached on a brand new Constitution. The team comprises Gamini Marapana, PC, Manohara de Silva, PC, Sanjiva Jayawardena, PC, Samantha Ratwatte, PC, Professor Nasima Kamurdeen, Dr. A Sarweswaran, Professor Wasantha Seneviratne and Professor G. H. Peiris.



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Pakistan Navy ship arrives in Colombo

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Pakistan Navy Ship (PNS) Taimur arrived, at the port of Colombo, on a formal visit, yesterday morning (12). The visiting ship was welcomed by the Sri Lanka Navy, in compliance with naval traditions.The 134m-long ship is commanded by Captain M. Yasir Tahir and it is manned by 169 as the ship’s complement.

The Commanding Officer of PNS Taimur is scheduled to call on Commander Western Naval Area, at the Western Naval Command Headquarters, today. The ship is expected to remain in the island, until 15th August, and the crew of the ship will take part in several programmes, organized by the Sri Lanka Navy, to promote cooperation and goodwill between the two navies.

PNS Taimur is also expected to conduct a naval exercise with the Sri Lanka Navy in western seas on its departure on 15th August.

Meanwhile, PNS Tughril, an identical warship belonging to the Pakistan Navy, arrived in Sri Lanka on an official visit on 13th December 2021 and conducted a successful naval exercise with SLNS Sindurala off the western coast on 16th December. Naval exercises of this nature with regional navies will enable each partner to overcome common maritime challenges in the future, through enhanced cooperation.

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Stalin reads riot act to govt. over proposal to allow schoolchildren to work part time

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Alliance of Trade Unions and Mass Organisations yesterday warned that the government’s decision to allow schoolchildren, between the ages of 16 and 20, to work part time, would have disastrous consequences.Addressing the media on 11 Aug., General Secretary of the Ceylon Teachers’ Union, Joseph Stalin, said that the government was planning to amend laws, allowing schoolchildren to work in the private sector for 20 hours a week.

“Now, this may look like a progressive idea. A lot of families are

struggling and if another family member can chip in, it would be a great help. I am sure a lot of children feel the same way. It is also true that there may be children who will find great jobs and horn their skills,” he said.However, these proposals have come at a time when education is in crisis and the schools are on the verge of collapse.

“During the last two and a half years, most children have learnt nothing. But children who go to elite schools are doing better. These schools have systems in place, but most others don’t. Children who do not go to tier one schools have suffered and most children who do not go to such elite schools will not find part time work that will prepare them for the jobs of the future,” he said. “It’s not easy to balance school work with vocation training, especially physically intensive work. Most people will drop out and social mobility will further stagnate. Fix the education system first and create a more level playing field,” Stalin said.

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Harsha: Will RW use Emergency to steamroller his economic reforms?

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By Saman Indrajith

SJB MP Harsha de Silva yesterday asked President Ranil Wickremesinghe whether the latter was planning to use Emergency powers to suppress the people who might oppose his economic reform agenda.

“It is being asked why the government wants to continue the State of Emergency. The anti-government protesters have gone home. There is no unrest. There are those who say that the President wants to keep the Emergency laws to carry out economic reforms. Does that mean the President will use these laws to scare people into submission if they do not accept his economic reforms? I don’t think people can be intimidated. I want the President to answer this question,” he said.

MP de Silva said that the government did not have public support and that it was obvious that the spectre of the Rajapaksas was haunting the government.

“I agree that Wickremesinghe was appointed constitutionally. We have to work within the Constitution. However, the 134 votes he received on 20 July were not realistic. They have managed to manipulate the Constitution, but the government doesn’t have the support of the people. The problem is can the government win the support of the people,” he said.The SJB lawmaker added that Sri Lanka needed to restructure its debt. However, the country had not even started the process.

“One of the consultants we hired, Lazard, says that we have to start with China because it is new to debt restructuring. But we have not done so. Not only that, we have in fact started a diplomatic issue with China. What’s the front page news today? Can this government solve this sensitive international issue? Can it carry out the necessary economic reforms?” he asked.

MP de Silva said that the government had to work with the people and that it had to be honest with them. The government needed to present a common programme on which an all party government could be established.

“In 2020, we said that the government was on the wrong path and that we needed to seek IMF assistance. The government didn’t listen. We need an all-party programme to go before the IMF and get a decent deal. Today, I present to Parliament an economic recovery plan we have prepared. When we decided to throw our weight behind SLPP MP Dullas Alahapperuma, I was entrusted with the task of making an economic plan. We have run it through experts too. I ask the MPs to look at this and suggest improvements.”

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