Sri Lanka high court approves constitutional changes to remove presidential term limits

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka [official website] on Tuesday approved [press release] a proposed constitutional amendment to eliminate presidential term limits, holding that the amendment is not inconsistent with the Sri Lankan Constitution [materials]. The proposed amendment, which would allow current President Mahinda Rajapaksa [official website] to run for an unlimited number of terms in office, will next be presented for approval before Parliament [official website] later Tuesday where it must pass by a two-thirds majority. Last week, the Sri Lankan cabinet also approved the proposed constitutional reforms [JURIST report]. It is widely believed that Rajapaksa enjoys enough support [Xinhua report] to allow the amendment to easily pass. Critics of the president say he is abusing his power [AP report] and attempting to "create a family dynasty".

While the proposed amendment would allow Rajapaksa to make a bid for an unlimited number of terms in office, his second term has not yet begun, though he easily achieved victory [NYT report] in January elections. Rajapaksa is a consistently popular figure within Sri Lanka, primarily for his efforts in defeating the Tamil Tiger [JURIST news archive] rebels within Sri Lanka. That victory was not without cost, however, as numerous questions have been raised about the government's actions during the conflict, including the treatment of prisoners. Earlier this month, the Sri Lankan defense minister defended [JURIST report] the government's actions during the conflict. In July, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the Sri Lankan Government to improve conditions around UN offices in Colombo after a UN announcement of the formation of an international panel to investigate human rights abuses during the war resulted in days of pro-government protests [JURIST reports] near UN offices.

 

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