Decks cleared for Rajapaksa to run for third term

Sri Lankan Parliament passed a key constitutional amendment to lift a two-term limit for a president.

Colombo: Sri Lankan Parliament on Wednesday
passed a key constitutional amendment to lift a two-term limit
for a president, paving the way for Mahinda Rajapaksa to run
for a third tenure amid a split in the main opposition party
which boycotted the proceedings.

The Constitutional Reforms Bill, referred to as the
18th amendment, was passed by a stipulated two thirds
majority, with 161 votes in favour and 17 against it.

The amendment scraps the two-term limit for a
president, and would allow Rajapaksa to run for a third time
after his second tenure ends in 2016.

Rajapaksa, 64, swept back to power in January this
year, riding high on the victory over the LTTE, and the
amendment cements his grip over power in the country where
deep social fissures continue to persist.

The main opposition, United National Party (UNP),
boycotted the proceedings, even as six of its lawmakers and
one from the pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance supported the

The UNP MPs who crossed over to the government side
are Abdul Carder, Upeksha Swarnamalee, Earl Gunasekara, N
Wijesinghe, Lakshman Seneviratne and Manusha Nanayakkara.
M Piyasena of the TNA also voted in favour of the

The vote was held a day after the Supreme Court backed
Rajapaksa`s bid by ruling that the amendment could be enacted
by two-thirds vote in parliament and that a referendum was not
required for it.

This amendment needed a two-third majority in the 225
member House.

"... We believe it (the amendment) will give us a
strong leader to fast-track economic development after the
war," Prime Minister D M Jayaratne told parliament while
introducing the bill this morning, following which a day-long
debate was held over it.

Former Army Chief and opposition leader Sarath Fonseka
denounced the proposed amendment, describing it as the "last
nail in the coffin of democracy" and said whenever the bill is
passed that will be a "dark day for democracy".

The executive presidency was introduced by Junius
Jaywardene who served in the post from Feb 1978 to January

Jayewardene had earlier swept the 1977 general
elections to become Prime Minister. Soon after which he
amended the first republican constitution of 1972 and created
the post of executive president which was for two terms of six
years each.

The cabinet had approved the Constitutional Reforms
Bill last week, and the draft bill was debated in the
parliament today before a vote.

Defending the bill Rajapaksa, who was under fire from
the opposition over the amendment, had said the proposed
legislation would in fact "dilute" his powers.

"This will ensure supremacy of Parliament and in fact
the proposed 18th Amendment will dilute some of the powers of
the Executive President," he said.

He claimed the Constitutional Council under the 18th
amendment will ensure supremacy of Parliament in a better way
as the panel will comprise only MPs.

He said when the Presidency is limited to two terms,
the incumbent may become indifferent to people`s wishes during
the second term as he or she would not be facing another


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