Cabinet endorses constitutional reforms

Cabinet endorses constitutional reforms


President to attend Parliament every 3 months

The Cabinet, at a special meeting yesterday, endorsed the draft Bill on constitutional amendments, which among other clauses, envisages the removal of the restriction on the President from contesting for the third term and making him accountable to Parliament, government sources said.  The new amendment will also empower the Executive.

President to call for a presidential election even after the lapse of four years in his second term. Earlier, he could do so only during his first term.

According to the proposed changes, the President is also required to attend parliamentary sessions every three months.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa summoned an urgent Cabinet meeting to discuss these proposals for constitutional amendments, which also sought to replace the present Constitutional Council with a five-member committee comprising the Speaker, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition as ex officio members. There will also be two nominees proposed by the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister each.  These two members should be from the ethnic groups not represented by the three ex officio members.  The Constitutional Council which exists in the present Constitution make appointments to the seven independent commissions.

However, according to the proposed changes, President will appoint not only this Council but also make other appointments to the independent commissions. When making appointments to the independent commissions, he will only consult the members of this proposed Council.

The proposed five-member committee will nominate members to the seven independent commissions. However, those of the public services and police will be somewhat different to the other commissions.

Authoritative sources said the Inspector General of Police would have the power to appoint and transfer personnel in the police service and should anyone by aggrieved by the IGP’s decision he or she could appeal to the Police Commission.

Also, the Cabinet will be vested with powers to decide on appointments, transfers, promotions and disciplinary control and removing from office of the heads of the government departments.  The Public Service Commission has powers to take decisions with regard to appointments, promotions, transfers, disciplinary control of other public servants only.

The Constitution introduced in 1978 has been amended for 17th times so far in the past. The government has already secured the required two-thirds majority in parliament for the passage of this legislation. The Bill, after being gazetted, will be referred to the Supreme Court for its observations. The Supreme Court will notify its ruling to the Speaker within one week. It is learnt that the government is planning to present the Bill in the House next week.

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