Sri Lanka’s parliament convened for an important session on Tuesday, the first since the appointment of new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as the country prepares for major constitutional reforms amid the worst economic crisis.
Parliament session began with mourning the assassination of ruling Sri Lankan Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) lawmaker Amarakirthi Athukorala, who was killed along with his personal security officer during clashes between anti-government and pro-government protesters in the country last week.
The primary task in Tuesday’s session was to select a suitable candidate for the post of Deputy Speaker.
The post of Deputy Speaker of Parliament was vacant after Ranjit Siambalapitia resigned.
The main opposition party Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) has nominated Rohini Kabiratne, while the ruling Sri Lankan Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party has nominated Ajith Rajapaksa for the post of deputy speaker.
However, the majority MP called on Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abevardana to close a secret ballot without wasting time and money and directed the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister to reach the general field at the request of a suitable candidate, especially a female candidate. Premier
National Freedom Front leader Vimal Warawansa has condemned the call for a vote, saying that a voting process costs taxpayers Rs 9 million and makes the whole parliament a joke.
Independent Group of MPs lawmaker Nimal Lanza threatened to walk out of the chamber if called for a vote, while former president Maithripala Sirisena and the chairman of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party said SLFP lawmakers would cast invalid votes if the vote went ahead.
The speaker, however, favored a secret ballot.
This is the first session of Parliament since Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned as Prime Minister and appointed Vikramasinghe as the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka.
On Sunday, Bikram Singh said that the 21st amendment to the constitution would be discussed with the Attorney General’s Department on Monday to curb the power of the president so that it could be submitted to the cabinet for approval.
Protesters on the streets want a change in the country’s political system.
The 21st Amendment is expected to repeal 20A which after the repeal of the 19th Amendment gave President Gotabaya Rajapaksa uninterrupted power which strengthened the parliament over the President.
The powerful Rajapaksa family held on to power after their landslide victory in the August 2020 general election, which allowed them to amend the constitution to restore the presidency and place close family members in key positions.
In his 2019 presidency, Gotabaya Rajapaksa won a credible mandate for a presidency during which he sought full presidential power over parliament.
The government under Gotabaya Rajapaksa has taken some decisions in favor of banning the import of chemical fertilizers in favor of organic farming and preventing it from leaning towards the International Monetary Fund, which led to the country’s worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1948.
A crippling deficit in foreign reserves has led to long lines for fuel, cooking gas and other necessities while power outages and rising food prices have caused misery to the people.
The economic crisis triggered a political crisis in Sri Lanka and the demand for the resignation of the powerful Rajapaksa.
President Gotabaya has fired his cabinet in Rajapaksa and appointed a young cabinet in response to demands for his resignation. Protests have been going on in front of his secretariat for more than a month.
On May 9, Mahinda Rajapaksa, the elder brother of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, resigned as prime minister to pave the way for the president to appoint an interim all-party government. On Thursday, Bikram Singh was appointed as the new Prime Minister of the country.