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Sri Lanka to abolish 19th amendment to constitution

Topics Covered: Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries.

Sri Lanka to abolish 19th amendment to constitution:


Context:

In his first address to the newly elected Parliament, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has declared his intention to repeal the landmark 19th Amendment to the Constitution, and, thereafter, to work towards a new Constitution.

Why? The Rajapaksa camp viewed the 19th Amendment’s clauses as primarily intending to prevent its leaders’ return to power.

Overview of the 19th Constitutional Amendment:

Introduced in 2015. The legislation envisages the dilution of many powers of Executive Presidency, which had been in force since 1978.

It involves:

  1. The reduction in the terms of President and Parliament from six years to five years.
  2. Re-introduction of a two-term limit that a person can have as President.
  3. The power of President to dissolve Parliament only after four and a half years.
  4. The revival of Constitutional Council and the establishment of independent commissions.
  5. The President remains the head of Cabinet and he can appoint Ministers on the advice of Prime Minister.

Why was the 19th Amendment introduced?

It mainly sought to weaken the power of the presidency which the 18th amendment had greatly expanded.

The 18th amendment allowed four basic changes:

  1. The President can seek re-election any number of times;
  2. The ten-member Constitutional Council has been replaced with a five-member Parliamentary Council;
  3. Independent commissions are brought under the authority of the President; and,
  4. It enables the President to attend Parliament once in three months and entitles him to all the privileges, immunities, and powers of a Member of Parliament other than the entitlement to vote.

The 19th amendment counterbalanced many of these decisions and restored components of the 17th amendment.

Sources: the Hindu.