Parliament on 28 April 2015 passed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution a series of key constitutional reforms which include reducing the powers of the President.The opposition United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) voted with the government on the proposals.
215 member from the 225 member -parliament, voted for the bill. Only one voted against, one abstained, and seven were absent. Many of those who were in the forefront of the campaign against the 19A, and who were supportive of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, voted for it after President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe accommodated the amendments moved by the Opposition Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA).
The 19th Amendment to the Constitution was part of President Maithripala Sirisena’s mandate when he contested the January 08 elections. Mr. Sirisena said he was keen to ensure the powers of the President are reduced in future and pushed for the 19th Amendment to be passed.
The Bill envisages a partial reintroduction of parliamentary powers which existed till 1978. Under 19A, the directly elected Executive President “shall” act on the advice of the Prime Minister and his cabinet, though the President will continue to be the Head of the Executive and the Cabinet with the right to hold cabinet portfolios.
The President’s term has been reduced from six to five years, and no incumbent can contest for more than two consecutive terms. The 19A establishes a Constitutional Council, which in turn, will set up Independent Commissions to oversee appointments and the work of 11 organs or functions of the State. It also repealed the president’s ability to dissolve parliament just one year into its five-year term and replaced the law allowing the executive to dissolve parliament after four-and-a-half years.