Mainstream political parties contesting the upcoming General Elections have put forward their ideas either for a new Constitution or Constitutional amendments to be executed if and once they were elected to power.
The current Constitution of Sri Lanka which has been amended on numerous occasions was passed on August 31, 1978 by the first Executive President of the country, J.R. Jayewardene.
Since then, it has been amended 19 times; the latest being the amendment brought under President Maithripala Sirisena by the ‘Yahapalana’ Government on April 28, 2015.
The 18A was brought by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to abolish the two-term restriction on a candidate who can run for Presidency, thus allowing him to contest for a third occasion. This move decentralized power around the presidency.
However, under the 19A, executive powers revolved around the presidency were pruned with more powers given to the Prime Minister and independent commissions such as the election commission and the police commission were established.
Other amendments made from the 19A were reimplementation of the two-term rule for President and that no dual-citizenship holder can run for elections.
The new government under President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has pledged to amend the Constitution once they formed a stronger government following August elections.
Government representative and Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Strategist Basil Rajapaksa on Wednesday said they would not only repeal the 19A but would go for a new Constitution.
“The existing Constitution has been amended so many times it's like a stitched up piece of cloth. We need a new and a strong Constitution and to achieve that, we need two thirds majority in parliament,” he said.
Meanwhile, the United National Party (UNP) candidate Vajira Abeywardane said the 19A, which they brought in, should not be abolished saying it has strengthened democratic institutions.
The UNP was instrumental in drafting a new Constitution but it became an unsuccessful attempt following the government’s expiration.
When he was running for the President’s Office, former minister Sajith Premadasa, the leader of the newly formed Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), also said the country needed a new constitution but added it should be approved by the people at a referendum.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in his manifesto said a Parliamentary Select Committee will be appointed to engage with the people, political leaders, and civil society groups and prepare a new constitution for Sri Lanka.