Triumphant Rajapaksa on warpath against Sri Lanka constitutional reforms

Making a resounding comeback in Sri Lanka’s local polls, Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa  fired a salvo against constitutional reforms aimed at curtailing powers of the executive president.

Following a landslide victory  of the Sinhala nationalist Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP)  led by  him, Rajapaksa  demanded the president  to roll back the 19th amendment to the constitution and dissolve parliament, inevitably leading to the collapse of any further reforms.

The 19th amendment to the Sri Lanka constitution ushered in by the unity government in 2015 restricts the executive president from dissolving the parliament until it continues in office for four and a half years.

It also established an independent election commission that conducted the local government polls.

“We will support to remove  the 19th amendment,” said Rajapaksa. “The government should propose it.”

SLPP, formed by breakaway members of the ruling President Maithripala Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) took control of 239 local bodies out of 341 throughout the island in the elections held on  Saturday the 10th. 

The United National Party (UNP) led by prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe took control of 42 councils and Tamil National Alliance 34.

The SLFP was able to get control of an abysmal 10.

The local polls were the first elections held since the coalition government of SLFP and UNP took office in August 2015.

“Dissolve parliament”

Following the massive victory Mahinda Rajapaksa urged the president to dissolve the parliament and call for fresh elections.

“There is a clear mandate for that,"  he told a press briefing in Colombo.  "A government should listen to the people’s mandate.”

He asked journalists to “promote that ideology” in their output.

The government had pledged to introduce long overdue reforms to the constitution aimed at strengthening the parliament and devolve powers to provinces.

Sinhala-Buddhist nationalists led by Mahinda Rajapaksa have been on a continuous campaign opposing any changes to the constitution that would make the state secular and devolve powers to Tamils.

PM meets President

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and President Sirisena had an emergency meeting late into the night on Monday (12) to discuss the future of the shaky coalition.

The PM who consulted party seniors before the meeting had been requested by a majority to continue with the unity government to “deliver the commitments of good governance pledged in 2015".