By Jehan Perera –
The primary justification for the government’s campaign to replace the 19th Amendment with the 20th has been the need to strengthen the president’s hand to govern the country in the aftermath of the misgovernance that took place under the former amendment. The argument that the strengthening of the presidency is needed for decisive action to be taken on behalf of the country spills over into other areas of governance. As presently formulated the 20th Amendment seeks to weaken institutions at the level of the central government itself to the extent they will find it difficult to check and balance the presidency. This includes weakening parliament and the cabinet and also institutions such as the judiciary, public services and the auditor general.
As the 20th Amendment will give the president the power to sack any minister at will, it is no cause for wonder that dissent from within the government ranks is mute. It has been left to those outside the government to make their objections known. The state auditors and the bar association have made strong arguments against the weakening of the audit function and the lack of accountability of the president that has been proposed. The framers of the 20th Amendment have sought to capitalize on the high level of trust placed in President Gotabaya Rajapaksa by the general population. As he is new to politics and not tainted by having been a politician but respected for being a public official as defense secretary the general population does not seem to be unduly troubled by the 20th Amendment and its potential for misuse.