Constitutional changes soon

Minister Peiris heads team to draft amendments

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has initiated the process of formulating draft constitutional amendments to cover several aspects. Main among them, the Sunday Times learns, is the creation of a second chamber or a Senate. Details of how this body will be constituted are still not immediately clear.

It may be recalled that Basil Rajapaksa, then Senior Advisor to the President, told Indian leaders during talks that the second chamber was one of the measures being considered by the Government to address Tamil grievances. The main element in this exercise will be the implementation of provisions of the 13th amendment to the Constitution.

Other amendments include the revoking of existing constitutional provisions that restrict the term of office held by a President to two terms. The proposed changes will place no restriction on the period.
Another amendment under consideration is changes to the 17th Amendment to the Constitution.

This is to enable the President to make appointments which are now vested in the Constitutional Council. It is the Council that is now vested with the responsibility of appointing members, among others, to the Police Commission and the Commission to Investigate Bribery and Corruption.

A highly placed Government source said yesterday the drafts were still at a preliminary stage. "Once they are put into shape, President Rajapaksa will first consult constituent parties of the UPFA before going ahead with the amendments," the source said.

The task of formulating the draft has been placed in the hands of Minister G.L. Peiris. He is being assisted by the Government's legal advisors.

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