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Sri Lankan PM to Discuss with Attorney General's Office Constitutional Amendment to Curb Presidential Powers

Ranil Wickremesinghe is the sixth Prime Minister of Sri Lanka (File Photo)

Ranil Wickremesinghe is the sixth Prime Minister of Sri Lanka (File Photo)

The first Cabinet meeting was held on Sunday. Special attention was paid to fuel imports at the meeting

Sri Lanka’s new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has said that the 21st Amendment to the Constitution to curb the presidential powers will be discussed with the Attorney General’s Department on Monday so that it can be submitted to the Cabinet for approval. The 21st Amendment is expected to annul the 20A which gave unfettered powers to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa after abolishing the 19th Amendment which had made Parliament powerful over the president.

The first Cabinet meeting was held on Sunday. Special attention was paid to fuel imports at the meeting. ”21st Amendment: This will be taken up for discussion with the Attorney General’s Department tomorrow (Monday) and then be presented to Cabinet for approval,” Wickremesinghe tweeted.

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. In his 2019 presidential bid, Gotabaya Rajapaksa won a convincing mandate for a presidency during which he sought full presidential powers over Parliament.

Wickremesinghe, who on Sunday held discussions with representatives of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank on the current economic crisis in the country, said the two financial institutions have pledged support to assist in procuring essential items like medicine, food and fertiliser. He also outlined a plan to fulfil fuel requirements.

”Given the dollar scarcity at banks, we are exploring other options of securing the necessary funds to pay for the coming week’s fuel requirements,” he tweeted. ”The government has secured payments for an LP Gas consignment which will begin to unload and distribute as early as possible,” he said.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe is scheduled to make a special statement on Monday, his office said. A senior spokesman said the aim was to educate the public on the current political and economic situation in the country.

According to Daily Mirror, an online news portal, a few more Cabinet ministers of the new government are slated to be sworn-in on Monday. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is planning for the appointment of 18 ministers in addition to himself and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, it said. Besides, there will be 30 state ministers.

Four ministers have already been sworn-in. According to the report, ten slots will be reserved for lawmakers of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP).

Sri Lanka is grappling with an unprecedented economic turmoil since its independence from Britain in 1948. A crippling shortage of foreign reserves has led to long queues for fuel, cooking gas and other essentials while power cuts and soaring food prices heaped misery on the people.

The economic crisis also triggered a political crisis in Sri Lanka and a demand for the resignation of the powerful Rajapaksas. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa sacked his Cabinet and appointed a younger Cabinet as a response to the demand for his resignation. A continuous protest opposite his secretariat has now gone on for well over a month.

Last Monday, Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s elder brother Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned as the prime minister to make way for the president to appoint an interim all political party government. Wickremesinghe was appointed the country’s new prime minister on Thursday.

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first published:May 16, 2022, 14:19 IST