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20th Amendment Giving Sweeping Powers to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is Passed with a Two-thirds Majority Obtained Through the Support of Eight Opposition Parliamentarians

By Chandani Kirinde

The 20th Amendment (20A) to the Constitution Bill was passed in Parliament last night with 156 MPs voting for the Bill and 65 against.

With support from seven MPs from minorities and main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Assistant Secretary MP Diana Gamage, the Government secured the two-third majority in the 225-member Legislature to pass the constitutional amendment which would strengthen the hand of the Executive and restore the powers that were stripped from the President under the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

The Opposition MPs who supported the Bill were SJB Anuradhapura District MPs Ishak Rahuman and M.S. Thowfeek, National List MP Diana Gamage, Digamadulla MPs H.M.M. Harees and Faizal Cassim, Badulla District MP A. Aravindh Kumar, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) Batticaloa District MP Naseer Ahamad and Muslim National Alliance (MNA) Puttalam District MP Ali Sabri Raheem.

Gamage said she voted as per her consciences.

A notable absentee was former President and Polonnaruwa District SLPP MP Maithripala Sirisena, one of the main proponents of 19A. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa came to Parliament but stayed away from the Chamber.

Differences that had cropped up within some of the constituent parties of the SLPP were ironed out at the last minute after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa met with Ministers Wimal Weerawansa, Udaya Gammanpila and Vasudeva Nanayakkara on Wednesday night, who had publicly voiced their opposition to allowing dual citizens to enter Parliament.

They supported the Bill inclusive of this provision after the President gave an undertaking that such provisions would not be there in a new Constitution that will be placed before the people by the end of his second year in office.

A separate vote on the clause that allows for dual citizens to enter Parliament also won the support of a majority of MPs.

The JVP lead National People’s Power (NPP), the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and several other Opposition parties voted against the Bill.

The vote was taken last night at the end of two days of debate on the Bill which has been strongly opposed by Opposition lawmakers but also by members of the Buddhist and Catholic/Christian clergy, and civil society groups.

During the Third Reading of the Bill (Committee Stage) the Government introduced several amendments, some in keeping with the determination of the Supreme Court and others suggested by those within the Government.

Justice Minister Ali Sabry winding-up the two-day debate said that the Government would introduce a new Constitution within the next year and that it would be one that builds national unity and consensus among all communities.

He said 20A is an interim measure to enable the Government to get on with its work and overcome the obstacles paved by 19A.

The Bill will become law once Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena certifies the Bill inclusive of the amendments.

Courtesy:Daily FT