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Sri Lankan opposition targets Gotabaya Rajapaksa by proposing fewer presidential powers

Sri Lankan opposition leader Sajith Premadasa (Photo: IANS)

Sri Lankan opposition leader Sajith Premadasa has submitted a number of proposals to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeyawardene on Thursday to carry out reforms in the Sri Lankan political system. The effort is to bring about checks and balances in Sri Lanka's governance and curtail concentration of powers with the president.

Ever since the economic and humanitarian crisis broke out in the island nation, ostensibly due to mismanagement by the all-pervading Rajapaksa family, opposition parties have been pressing for immediate changes to the country's governance system.

The draft 21st constitution amendment bill submitted to the Speaker calls for abolishing the executive presidency that confers wide-ranging powers on the president. It seeks to replace the executive presidential system with a system that reinforces constitutional democracy.

Under this change, the prime minister reigns supreme as he heads the cabinet of ministers while the president remains the head of the State and the commander-in-chief.

Another amendment calls for repealing the controversial 20th amendment and restoring the 19th amendment to the constitution. This will curb the powers of the president and empower the Parliament. The 19th amendment was nullified by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa after which he vested most of the powers in the presidential position.

Premadasa, who leads the opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) party, also seeks the establishment of independent commissions as well as the formation of a National Security Council (NSC).

With the country in the grip of a financial turmoil, escalating prices and shortage of food items, the masses have targeted the Rajapaksa family, particularly President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who they allege has mismanaged the economy. People have been shouting "Gota go home" to express their annoyance against President Rajapaksa.

The opposition is, in the meanwhile, trying to ensure that the Rajapaksa family does not once again come back into positions of power.

With the crisis completely out of hand, the government is trying to raise funds from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to ensure supplies flow into the country.