On 18 June 2019, Divaina reported MP Gammanpila making the above statement in relation to the following curtailments/removals of the president’s powers:
“[The president] must act on the recommendation of the prime minister when appointing a minister; [the power of] dissolution of parliament after one year was extended to four and a half years; and the president’s power to submit a bill rejected by parliament to a direct referendum has been removed.”
In his statement, the MP claims the above are the only curtailments/removals to the office of the executive president brought about by the 19th Amendment to the constitution. He further remarks that the changes made do not constitute major changes to president’s powers.
To check this claim, we referred to the constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (as amended). Accordingly, FactCheck identified several other powers that were also curtailed/removed. This includes the removal of the president’s discretionary power to make appointments to commissions and high offices. Following the 19th Amendment, such appointments are constrained by the recommendation or approval of the constitutional council (articles 41b and 41c). Additionally, the 19th Amendment curtailed/removed the president’s power to assign ministerial portfolios to himself (article 43(2)); to prevent his actions from being legally challenged (article 35(1)); and to nominate himself to be elected as president beyond his second term (article 31(3)(3A)(a)(i)).
Further, the three curtailments/removals listed by MP Gammanpila constrain the president’s ability to act without the approval of the members of parliament in three respects: the ability to (i) appoint ministers; (ii) dissolve parliament after one year; and (iii) submit a bill rejected by parliament to a direct referendum. These changes constitute significant curtailments/removals of previously held executive powers of the president.
Hence, this fact check finds the MP to be wrong on two counts with regard to the impact of the 19th Amendment on the office of the president: claiming that (i) only three powers were curtailed/removed; and (ii) the powers curtailed/removed are “not a major change”.
Therefore, we classify MP Gammanpila’s statement as FALSE.
*FactCheck’s verdict is based on the most recent information that is publicly accessible. As with every fact check, if new information becomes available, FactCheck will revisit the assessment.
- The Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (as amended up to 15th May 2015) (2015), articles 31(2), 41b, 41c, and 43(2), available at: https://www.parliament.lk/files/pdf/constitution/constitution-upto-19th.pdf [last accessed: 28 August 2019]
- Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution (2015), available at: https://www.parliament.lk/files/pdf/constitution/19th-amendment-act.pdf [last accessed: 28 August 2019]