CNA Staff, Oct 15, 2020 / 15:47 pm
Sri Lanka’s bishops said Tuesday that the country’s democracy would decay if parliament passes a constitutional amendment that would strengthen the president's power.
The bishops said the Twentieth Amendment, which would allow President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to take control of parliament, would be dangerous for the country. They instead encouraged government officials to focus on drafting a new constitution that safeguards democracy, law, and equality.
“We need to emphasize that concentration of power in an individual without checks and balances does not augur well for a Democratic, Socialist Republic,” they said in an Oct. 13 letter.
The letter was signed by the president and the secretary general of the Sri Lankan bishops’ conference, Bishop Winston Fernando of Badulla and Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Jayakody of Colombo.
Under the current constitution, adopted in 1978, presidential decisions are reviewed in court and the prime minister has the power to assign cabinet ministers who form central government. It also permits an independent commission to select officials to public institutions like the police force or the human rights commission.
If the amendment passes, the Associated Press reported, Rajapaksa would have the power to appoint judges, dissolve laws, and install or remove government ministers. The president would also be able to oversee any number of ministries giving him the power to appoint officials to public institutions.
Before parliament votes on the amendment, the Supreme Court must make a decision on whether specific aspects of the amendment will need a referendum to be approved. It is expected that members of parliament will approve the amendment, which needs a two-thirds majority to pass, the AP reported.
″A two-thirds majority of the members in the Parliament based on political parties does not necessarily manifest the true conscience of the people,” the bishops said.