Colombo: Sri Lanka’s embattled Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has proposed to amend the Constitution to create an accountable administration that met the people’s aspirations, amid large scale protests against the government over its handling of the economy.
A statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office on Monday said that Mahinda Rajapaksa intends to propose a new Constitutional Amendment to the Cabinet in order to fulfil the people’s aspirations.
The Prime Minister is expected to propose to the Cabinet a Constitutional Amendment that would include the Executive, Judiciary and the Legislature, the state-run Daily News newspaper reported on Tuesday.
Rajapaksa said he pays special attention to the requests from various quarters to create a government that is accountable to the people, the Colombo Page news portal reported.
Based on those requests, he hopes to present to the Cabinet a new proposal for a constitutional amendment incorporating the positive aspects of the executive, the legislature and the judiciary, it said.
It is my hope that the amended Constitution will be able to achieve the aspirations of the people, the premier said in a statement.
Sri Lanka is grappling with unprecedented economic turmoil since its independence from Britain in 1948. The crisis is caused in part by a lack of foreign currency, which has meant that the country cannot afford to pay for imports of staple foods and fuel, leading to acute shortages and very high prices.
Meanwhile, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Monday admitted that mistakes like banning chemical fertilisers in 2020 and not seeking an IMF bailout led to the current economic crisis.
President Rajapaksa, younger brother of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, also said his government should have opted to go for an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout much earlier. It was a mistake not to go .
Speaking to his newly-inducted Cabinet Ministers, the president termed his decision to ban chemical fertilisers in farming “a mistake” and that corrective steps were being taken now.
President Rajapaksa on Monday appointed a new 17-member Cabinet that excluded his close relatives except for Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, as he called for a “system change” amidst growing demand for his resignation over the worst economic crisis faced by the island nation.
President Rajapaksa in mid-2020 banned the use of fertiliser imports in order to turn to a green agricultural policy with organic fertiliser.
Agriculturists had protested the move, saying there would be a food shortage due to crop loss/loss in field output. Notwithstanding, the government had gone ahead with the move and followed it up with a crackdown on shopkeepers and traders following reports of hoarding of staple food items.
Commenting on the ongoing public protests, President Rajapaksa said, “I can understand the anger of the people, they have to put up with the high cost of living while suffering in the queues to buy essentials.”
The government resisted calls from economists to resort to a bailout from the IMF in view of dwindling foreign reserves.
A government delegation is currently in Washington negotiating with the IMF after it announced last week, the island’s first-ever international debt default.
Largely attended public protests including the one opposite his secretariat here and a cross-country call for President Rajapaksa’s resignation has jolted the government.
The stock exchange has also been suspended for a week with effect from Monday.
The state power entity said there will be four and a half-hour power cuts on Monday.
Sri Lanka’s state oil entity has raised its retail price from Monday midnight, the second in a month. It came a day after the Indian Oil Company’s local operation raised its prices, adding to the woes of the people who are impacted by the island nation’s worst economic crisis.
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