Sri Lankan lawmakers will debate next week on the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution aimed at empowering Parliament over the executive president.
Party leaders agreed to take up the debate on the 22nd Amendment in Parliament on October 6 and 7, Communications Department of Parliament said on Thursday.
The decision was taken at the Business Committee meeting held at Parliament Complex on Thursday morning chaired by Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena.
If enacted, the amendment would come to be known as the 21st Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka which was first adopted in 1978.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ruled that the bill seeking the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution can be adopted with a two-thirds majority in the House but some clauses will require a nationwide referendum unless some of the clauses inconsistent with the Constitution are left out of the Bill.
The government responded then saying that debatable clauses would be left out for its adoption in Parliament.
The draft bill on the 22nd Amendment was approved by the Cabinet and gazetted last month. The amendment was formulated amid the ongoing economic turmoil in the country which also caused a political crisis.
It is meant to replace the 20A adopted in 2020 that had given unfettered powers to ex-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa after abolishing the 19th Amendment. With protests raging calling for Rajapaksa's resignation since March end, the need to reform the Constitution to reduce absolute power in the office of the President was brought forward by the protest movement.
Rajapaksa had reversed through 20A the features of the 19A which had empowered Parliament over the presidency.
Rajapaksa was ousted in mid-July through the popular uprising against him for mishandling the country's economy.
His successor Ranil Wickremesinghe pledged reforms to address the demands of the protesters.
Several features, including curbing the Sri Lankan President's power to sack the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, have been included in the draft of a constitutional amendment bill that seeks to reduce the concentration of power in one person.
However, think-tank Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) in a critique of the amendment noted that the 22A does not curtail the powers of the President nor introduce checks and balances in any meaningful manner, contrary to the demands of the protest movement.
The CPA said while changes have been made to the President's powers to appoint ministers, no change has been made in the President's power to determine the number of ministers and ministries and the assignment of subjects and functions to such ministries.
Furthermore, the President will be able to appoint all secretaries to ministries on his own discretion. This again protects the executive power concentrated in the office of the President. The Bill also provides that the President shall hold the Defence Ministry and that he can assign to himself any other portfolio and function on the advice of the Prime Minister. Thus it does little to address the concentration of powers with the Executive President, it said.
Bill is not in any sense a meaningful contribution to the necessary institutional reform that must be part of Sri Lanka's economic recovery. It is at best an exercise in window-dressing to show the government is initiating token reforms to appease some with no significant positive impact for Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans," the CPA said.
Sri Lanka is facing the worst economic crisis since independence in 1948 which has led to an acute shortage of essential items like food, medicine, cooking gas and fuel across the country.
The street protests had been triggered across the country over the poor handling of the economic crisis and the lack of accountability to it.