Government confident of 19A passage

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The government is confident of obtaining the required 2/3 parliamentary majority to pass the proposed 19th Amendment to the Constitution as about 75 Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) Parliamentarians are supporting President Maithripala Sirisena and are willing to cooperate, Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe said.

Responding to a question held at a media briefing on Friday, Rajapakshe also said he expected MPs from the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) and even Democratic Left Front Leader Vasudewa Nanayakkara to vote for the amendment, after the government decided to remove sections in the draft 19th Amendment which the Supreme Court determined requires approval of the people at a referendum in addition to a 2/3 majority.

Rajapakshe noted that the Supreme Court has identified that the proposed 19th Amendment as contained in the Bill seeks to make 16 principal amendments to the Constitution. However, paragraphs 42(3), 43(1), 43(3), 44(2), 44(3) and 44(5) in Clause 11 and paragraph 104B(5)(c) in Clause 26 requires the people’s approval at a referendum, the court had determined.

The minister noted the sections that the Supreme Court determined required approval at a people’s referendum include paragraphs which sought to transfer powers vested with the Executive President to the Prime Minister. The Supreme Court had determined that removing such powers vested with the Executive President elected by the people violates Article 3 and 4 of the Constitution.

Expressing his personal opinion, Minister Rajapakshe said he also believed the President should have some powers and not merely be a ceremonial figure. “Even after removing the sections determined to need a referendum, the 19th Amendment would ensure that the President is neither a scarecrow nor a devil,” he quipped.

Regarding electoral reform, the minister said the process was ongoing. However, he did not specify whether the Bill on electoral reforms would also be presented along with the 19th Amendment, which is due to be debated in Parliament on April 20 and 21.

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