Sri Lanka

19th Amendment presented to Parliament


Sri Lanka’s Cabinet has approved legislation that will introduce a 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Yesterday the legislation (you can read it in full here) was tabled in Parliament. With the creation of a National Unity government at the weekend it is clearly hoped that the government will be able to muster the 2/3rds of the parliamentary vote required to pass the legislation. The 19th Amendment was the centre-piece of President Maithripala Sirisena’s election campaign in January.

The new legislation leaves who is the head of government in an ambiguous situation. The replacement to Article 30 reads:

30. (1) There shall be a President of the Republic of Sri Lanka, who is the Head of the State, the Head of the Executive and of the Government and the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces.

But Chapter VIII – The Executive; The Cabinet of Ministers reads:

42. (1) There shall be a Cabinet of Ministers charged, with the direction and control of the Government of the Republic.

(2) The Cabinet of Ministers shall be collectively responsible and answerable to Parliament.

(3) The Prime Minister shall be the head of the Cabinet of Ministers.

(4) The President shall appoint as Prime Minister the Member of Parliament, who, in the President’s opinion, is most likely to command the confidence of Parliament.

The 19th Amendment does limit the size of the government to no more than 30 Cabinet Ministers and no more than 40 non-Cabinet Ministers, although that remains a large government for such a small country.

Two other important changes in the constitutional amendment are the formation of a Constitutional Council which will take the appointment of key committees out of the hands of the President and the formation of a National Procurement Commission. The latter along with the establishment of a Commission to Investigate Bribery or Corruption is aimed at squeezing corruption out of the public service.

The functions of the National Procurement Commission are described as:

156c. (1) It shall be the function of the Commission to formulate fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost effective procedures and guidelines, for the procurement of goods and services by all government institutions

And goes on to say: investigate reports of procurements made by government institutions outside established procedures and guidelines, and to report the officers responsible for such procurements to the relevant authorities for necessary action.

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