Sri Lankan lawmakers debate bill to trim presidential powers

Oct 19, 2022, 3:43 PM | Updated: Oct 20, 2022, 5:02 am
FILE- An army soldier soldier stands guard outside the parliament building in Colombo, Sri Lanka, S...

FILE- An army soldier soldier stands guard outside the parliament building in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Saturday, July 16, 2022. Sri Lankan lawmakers began debating a proposed constitutional amendment on Thursday that would trim the powers of the president, a key demand of protesters who are seeking political reforms and solutions to the country’s dire economic crisis. The bill will be debated on Thursday, Oct. 20, and Friday and a vote will be held on Friday. It must be approved by two-thirds of the 225-member Parliament to become law. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool, File)

(AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool, File)

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lankan lawmakers began debating a proposed constitutional amendment on Thursday that would trim the powers of the president, a key demand of protesters who are seeking political reforms and solutions to the country’s dire economic crisis.

The Indian Ocean country is effectively bankrupt. Severe shortages of essential imports such as fuel and medicine set off massive demonstrations that led to the resignations of the president, prime minister and key Cabinet ministers several months ago.

The protesters, including many students and activists, have been demanding reforms to ensure transparency and accountability.

Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe told Parliament that the proposed amendment would transfer some presidential powers, including the appointment of officials, to a constitutional council comprising lawmakers and respected non-politicians. The council would recommend candidates for appointment to the president.

Rajapakshe said the proposal would help ensure the independence of the judiciary and public service.

Under the proposed amendment, presidents could only appoint senior judges, attorney generals, central bank governors, police, election commissioners, and bribery and corruption investigators on the recommendation of the council. The prime minister would recommend Cabinet appointments, and the president would not be allowed to hold any Cabinet positions except defense.

The bill will be debated on Thursday and Friday and a vote will be held on Friday. It must be approved by two-thirds of the 225-member Parliament to become law.

Current President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who succeeded ousted President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in July, has promised to limit the powers of the presidency and strengthen Parliament.

If passed into law, the bill would reinstate many democratic reforms made in 2015. Rajapaksa reversed those reforms and concentrated power in the presidency after being elected in 2019.

The protesters blame Rajapaksa and his powerful family for years of mismanagement and corruption. Many remain skeptical of Wickremesinghe and accuse him of trying to protect the former leader and his relatives. Wickremesinghe was elected by Parliament to complete Rajapaksa’s term, which ends in 2024.

Sri Lanka has suspended repayments of nearly $7 billion in foreign debt due this year pending the outcome of talks with the International Monetary Fund on an economic rescue package. The country’s total foreign debt exceeds $51 billion, of which $28 billion has to be repaid by 2027.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - In this Oct. 10, 2018, file photo Amazon Prime boxes are loaded on a cart for delivery in Ne...
Haleluya Hadero, Associated Press

Amazon says it had its biggest Thanksgiving shopping weekend

Amazon said Wednesday it had its biggest ever Thanksgiving holiday shopping weekend, aided by a record number of consumers looking for deals online amid high inflation.
23 hours ago
FILE - A woman supporting abortion-rights holds a sign outside the South Carolina Statehouse on Jul...
Associated Press

Abortion rights groups look to next fights after 2022 wins

CHICAGO (AP) — Emboldened by the results of November’s midterms, abortion rights supporters say they are preparing for even bigger fights in state legislatures and pivotal elections to come, including 2024 races for Congress and president. Victories for abortion rights ballot measures and candidates who support abortion provided a roadmap for how to win future […]
23 hours ago
President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron depart after eating dinner at Fiola Mare i...
Associated Press

Biden hosts Macron amid friction over US climate law

WASHINGTON (AP) — Presidents Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron are celebrating the longstanding U.S.-French relationship — but these are friends with differences. The French president is using his visit to Washington to sharply criticize aspects of the U.S. president’s signature climate law as a bad deal for Europe. Biden is set to honor Macron with […]
23 hours ago
This combination of photos shows, Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., speaking to reporters on Capitol Hil...
Associated Press

Obama heads to Ga. as Warnock seeks big early vote advantage

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia voters have cast more than 1 million ballots ahead of the Dec. 6 runoff between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker, with Warnock looking to juice an apparent Democratic head start in early voting with a visit Thursday from Barack Obama. The former president will campaign with Warnock […]
23 hours ago
FILE - Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, chats with former President Jiang Zemin during the closi...
Associated Press

Analysis: Under Jiang, China projected a more open image

He grinned, and — just eight years after the crackdown on democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square — the spectacle of China’s ruler beaming and glad-handing people in the very heart of capitalism seemed at once charming and really, really odd. It was an October morning in 1997 at the New York Stock Exchange, and Jiang […]
23 hours ago
FILE - The sun sets behind a windmill farm in Anantapur district, Andhra Pradesh, India, Sept 14, 2...
Associated Press

In new role as G-20 chair, India set to focus on climate

BENGALURU, India (AP) — India officially takes up its role as chair of the Group of 20 leading economies for the coming year Thursday and it’s putting climate at the top of the group’s priorities. Programs to encourage sustainable living and money for countries to transition to clean energy and deal with the effects of […]
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSPA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Sri Lankan lawmakers debate bill to trim presidential powers