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Sri Lanka votes to curb presidential powers

Politicians in Sri Lanka have overwhelmingly approved a bill that will limit presidential powers and ensure the independence of the police and the judiciary as the country attempts to introduce democratic reforms.

Dinouck Colombage, a journalist based in the capital Colombo told Al Jazeera that 215 out of 225 politicians approved a constitutional amendment on Tuesday which would restore a two-term limit for presidents.

Presented to parliament by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, the amendment seeks to roll back moves by former president Mahinda Rajapaksa by also removing the president’s power to appoint judges, police and public officials, and give them to independent commissions.

In 2010, after his government crushed a decades-long Tamil separatist uprising, Rajapaksa consolidated his powers, amending the constitution, whose term in power is now the subject of multiple investigations into allegations of corruption and rights violations.

“Returning to democracy”

Colombage told Al Jazeera that the amendment meant Rajapksa would not be able to contest any future elections.

The amendment would also remove the president’s power to dissolve parliament until it has completed four and a half years out of its five-year term.

Previously, the president had the power to sack parliament after completing one year, a threat Rajapaksa 
had used to keep politicians in line.

Justice minister, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe told Al Jazeera: “This amendment marks a historic moment in Sri Lanka returning to a democracy.

“We will continue to strive towards ensuring the power of the people is returned to parliament.”

President Maithripala Sirisena succeeded Rajapaksa in January on a mandate of reducing the powers of the presidency and pledging to overhaul a system widely criticised as autocratic.

Source: Al Jazeera

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