Security personnel stop motorists at a checkpoint in Divulapitiya on the outskirts of Sri Lankan capital Colombo on Oct. 4 as police imposed a curfew on the towns of Minuwangoda and Divulapitiya following the discovery of a coronavirus patient. (Photo: AFP)
Sri Lanka’s present constitution has been amended 19 times since its enactment in 1978. Last month the newly elected government tabled the 20th amendment (20A) to the constitution.
This amendment seeks to grant more powers to the already powerful executive president, weakens parliament, the prime minister and ministers, reduces the independence of the judiciary and statutory institutions and makes it difficult for citizens to be part of law-making and challenging the executive. This is similar to the 18th amendment to the constitution under the previous Rajapaksa administration, which was reversed by the previous government through the 19th amendment.
Under the 20A, the chief justice and judges to the Supreme and Appeal Courts, the auditor general, the attorney general and the ombudsman are to be appointed by the president. The 20A also gives the president sole discretion to appoint persons to the Judicial Service Commission, the Public Service Commission, the Human Rights Commission and the Police Commission, which is likely to undermine their independence.