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Sri Lanka’s cabinet has approved constitutional reforms aimed at clipping the powers of the presidency amid months of protests demanding the ouster of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for dragging the nation’s economy into an unprecedented crisis. Picture: BLOOMBERG
Sri Lanka’s cabinet has approved constitutional reforms aimed at clipping the powers of the presidency amid months of protests demanding the ouster of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for dragging the nation’s economy into an unprecedented crisis. Picture: BLOOMBERG

Sri Lanka’s cabinet has approved constitutional reforms aimed at clipping the powers of the presidency amid months of protests demanding the ouster of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for dragging the nation’s economy into an unprecedented crisis.

The endorsement is a step in what could be a protracted process to amend the sections of the constitution that gave sweeping powers to Rajapaksa’s office. The amendment will be sent to the legal draftsman and the attorney-general for observations about its compatibility with the constitution, cabinet spokesperson Bandula Gunawardena said in Colombo on Tuesday.

Sri Lanka fell into default for the first time last month as the government has struggled to halt an economic meltdown that prompted mass protests and a political crisis. While side-stepping calls for his resignation, Rajapaksa has tried to contain anger towards him and his family by agreeing to the constitutional amendments.

The Sri Lanka Bar Association has questioned the extent to which the amendments will scale back the powers Rajapaksa gave to his office shortly after he returned to power in 2019. The latest amendment approved by cabinet on Monday will also need the votes of two-thirds of the MPs to become law.

Gunawardena gave no details on Tuesday except to say the constitutional recast will give more powers to parliament.

“The latest amendments will improve good governance, which is part of the IMF, other lender requirements and the international view,” Gunawardena said. “It will help with the IMF negotiations.” 

Sri Lankan authorities on Monday began talks with the IMF, working towards an agreement that could offer creditors enough comfort to lend fresh funds to the bankrupt nation that is seeking $6bn in coming months.

Sri Lankan opposition leader Sajith Premadasa has said his party will boycott parliament this week and hold street protests against the government.

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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