COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Sunday called for repealing the 19th Amendment to the Constitution which has curtailed the presidential powers, blaming it for the political instability in the country.
The 19A was the main election pledge of Sirisena when he challenged former president Mahinda Rajapaksa as the opposition’s common candidate in 2015. Rajapaksa in 2010 had moved the 18A which allowed him to contest presidency any number of times by lifting the then existing two-term bar.
Sirisena in 2015 introduced the 19A which reduced the presidential term for five years while taking away his absolute control over the dissolution of Parliament.
The 19A has also barred two term presidents from running for a third time.
However, the President addressing a gathering here on Sunday blamed the 19th Amendment for the political instability in the country.
“It has been four years since we formed the government. It is time to conduct a post-mortem with only four months to go before the next election,” he said, addressing a gathering here today.
“The biggest mistake of this government was the 19 Amendment. It created instability,” Sirisena said.
“People accuse us of running an unstable government. They say that me and prime minister (Ranil Wickremesinghe) are pulling in different directions…the reason is the 19A,” he said.
Sirisena was made to introduce 19A as a concerted civil society action to make the presidency accountable to people. The reform process was expected to lead to a new Constitution by abolishing the presidential system – a long held demand since it was enacted in 1978.
Sirisena’s term would now end in January 2020 and the next presidential election would have to be announced in November, 2019.
Sri Lanka, which is still recovering from the deadly Easter attacks, saw an unprecedented power struggle between the president and the prime minister.
President Sirisena’s dramatic move to sack Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and install former strongman Rajapaksa in his place following differences over policy issues, left the country without a functioning government for nearly two months.
Wickremesinghe was reinstated following the Supreme Court’s intervention.