Mon | Sep 26, 2022

Sri Lanka introduces reform bill to clip presidential powers

Published:Wednesday | August 10, 2022 | 8:36 AM
A Buddhist monk walks past the president's office as he prepares to vacate the premise along with other protestors in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Thursday, July 21, 2022. A Sri Lankan government minister on Wednesday, August 10, submitted to Parliament a constitutional amendment bill that would clip the powers of the president, a key demand of protesters calling for political reforms and solutions to the country's worst economic crisis. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena, File)

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka's justice minister submitted a proposed constitutional amendment to Parliament on Wednesday that would clip the powers of the president, a key demand of protesters calling for political reforms and solutions to the country's worst economic crisis.

The action came as former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled violent anti-government protests last month, was reportedly seeking to enter Thailand from his temporary exile in Singapore.

He fled Sri Lanka last month after thousands of angry protesters stormed his official residence, holding him responsible for the country's economic woes.

A Thai Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Rajapaksa would be allowed entry but had not asked for political asylum.

However, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said Rajapaksa was seeking asylum in a third country, which he did not identify.

Rajapaksa was unavailable for comment.

Under the proposed amendments, presidents would only be able to appoint chief justices, other senior judges, attorney generals and central bank governors on the recommendation of the council. The prime minister would recommend appointments to the Cabinet and the president would not be allowed to hold any ministry positions except defence.

The bill, which will undergo debate, must be approved by two-thirds of Sri Lanka's 225-member Parliament to become law.

If passed into law, the amendments would reinstate democratic reforms made in 2015.

Rajapaksa reversed those reforms and concentrated power in himself after being elected in 2019.

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