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Parliament revokes presidential term limits, sparking opposition protests

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-09-08

Sri Lanka's parliament voted Wednesday to revoke the two-term limit on the presidency, sparking protests in the capital, Colombo. Some critics say the move could allow President Mahinda Rajapaksa to consolidate his power under a family dynasty.

AP - Sri Lanka’s Parliament voted to eliminate term limits for the president Wednesday, a move critics say could lead to dictatorship.

The main opposition group, the United National Party, boycotted the debate and burned an effigy of President Mahinda Rajapaksa at a protest in the capital.
 
But the constitutional amendment passed easily, with 161 votes in the 225-member Parliament. Seventeen lawmakers voted against.
 
The constitution used to limit the president to two six-year terms, so Rajapaksa’s term starting in November would have been his last.
 
Prime Minister Dissanayake Mudiyanselage Jayaratne has defended the move as giving the president the same right that other elected representatives have to seek office without restrictions.
 
Rajapaksa is popular among the country’s Sinhalese majority for crushing a 25-year separatist insurgency by ethnic Tamil rebels. But critics say he has exploited that goodwill to consolidate power with the aim of setting up a family dynasty. Two of his brothers are senior ministers, another is defense secretary and his son is a lawmaker.
 
The amendment also scrapped a provision requiring the president to receive the approval of independent commissions in appointing officials to the judiciary, police, public service and the elections office.
 
“This bill threatens to finally nail the coffin in which the democracy of this country has been laid,” M.A. Sumanthiran, a lawmaker for the Tamil National Alliance, the largest party representing ethnic Tamils, told Parliament during a debate before the vote.
 
Opposition supporters held protests in some parts of capital, but were outnumbered by government supporters brought in from different parts of the country who held pictures of Rajapaksa to show solidarity with the government.

 

Date created : 2010-09-08

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