Sri Lanka details amendments to strength Parliament against President

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 28 May 2002, 14:16 GMT]
Sri Lanka this week published details of proposed constitutional amendments that it says will bring about “a new political culture.” The main feature, according to the government, is the creation of an executive committee system which will comprise the elected representatives of both the ruling and the opposition parties. But the amendments are clearly designed to protect Parliament from Sri Lanka’s powerful Executive Presidency.

Sri Lanka’s main parties are the bitterly opposed United National Front (UNF) and People’s Alliance (PA). Both are Sinhala dominated.

A new Article 44A will provide for the establishment of 20 Executive Committees, the Department of Information (DoI) said Monday. Each will consist of a Chairman (appointed by the Prime Minister from amongst Cabinet Ministers) and at least 10 other MPs.

A new Article 44B provides for the establishment of a “Social, Economic and Cultural Council” which will consist of the Prime Minister or his nominee , a representative from each of the 20 Executive Committees and up to 40 persons (appointed by the Prime Minister in consultation with the Chairmen of the Executive Committees) representing, Professions, Universities, Business Chambers, etc.

In the context of ongoing power struggle between Parliament and the Office of the President, a key aspect is the proposed amendment of Article 70, through power is vested in the latter to dissolve the former upon the expiration of a period of one year from the general election. Special Presidential Commissions are also to be abolished.

The Article is to be amended to enable the President to exercise this power only with the consent of the Prime Minister or the majority of the Members of Parliament. “So long as the Government continues to enjoy the confidence of the majority of the Members of Parliament, dissolution will not be possible,” the Information department pointed out.

In another change being instigated in the context of the tussle between President Chandrika Kumaratunga of the PA and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinge of the UNF, Article 90 is to be amended “to enable an MP who votes in Parliament in accordance with his conscience to continue as member notwithstanding his expulsion or any other disciplinary measure taken against him by the political party or group to which he belongs.”

The UNF plans to strengthen power of Parliament over public finance. “The anomalous exception preventing Parliament from exercising its power in respect of particular funds will be done away with, and Parliamentary control of public finance will be established as an unqualified principle,” the DoI said.

 

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