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Sri Lankan Buddhist monks call for new constitution

Leading Buddhist clerics also urge electoral reform as country faces worst economic crisis in decades

Motorists queue along a street to buy fuel at a petrol station in Pugoda, some 50 kilometers from Colombo, on June 23 amid Sri Lanka’s worst economic crisis in decades

Motorists queue along a street to buy fuel at a petrol station in Pugoda, some 50 kilometers from Colombo, on June 23 amid Sri Lanka’s worst economic crisis in decades. (Photo: AFP)

Published: June 24, 2022 09:58 AM GMT

Updated: June 24, 2022 10:03 AM GMT

Buddhist monks have come out against abolishing the executive presidency and called for a new constitution in Sri Lanka.

"The executive presidency should not be abolished except by repealing the 13th amendment and correcting the electoral system in Sri Lanka," said the Buddha Sasana Task Force in a statement on June 23.

“The 13th amendment delegates a number of powers, including police and land powers to provincial governments, paving the way for a separate state. Under the current system of proportional representation, an extremist-led, unstable parliament will be created,” said the statement signed by several leading Buddhist clerics.

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The cabinet passed the 21st amendment aimed at empowering parliament over the executive president and now it will be tabled in parliament. The 21st amendment is expected to annul the 20th amendment which gives unlimited powers to the president.

Under the 20th amendment, the president is not accountable to parliament but with the 21st amendment, he will be.

"We believe that by bringing in a new constitution we can steer the country on a new path of prosperity. Every government in the last two or three decades has sold the country's valuable resources to foreign companies and foreigners without any accountability," the monks said.

"The powerful Rajapaksa family tightened their power after their massive victory in 2020, which allowed them to amend the constitution to restore presidential powers and install close family members in key positions"

Sri Lanka is grappling with its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948. The economic crisis has created political unrest with protesters demanding President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his government to resign.

Protesters blame Rajapaksa and his family for decisions that have led to severe shortages of fuel, medicines and some essential food. Thousands of demonstrators have campaigned outside the president's office since mid-March, forcing him to retreat to his barricaded official residence.

Activist Nimal Sedara said the unlimited powers of the president must be reduced through a new constitution.

"The powerful Rajapaksa family tightened their power after their massive victory in 2020, which allowed them to amend the constitution to restore presidential powers and install close family members in key positions," said Sedara.

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