Gotabaya Rajapaksa calls for constitutional changes to curb minority parties

Wednesday 08th January 2020 06:06 EST

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s new president endorsed amending the constitution to reduce the power of minority political parties, saying the country wasn’t suited to a system that creates unstable governments “constantly under the influence of extremism”.

In a speech after he presided over the start of a new Parliament session, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said a majority of the voters who elected him in last November’s presidential election rejected “political agendas founded on race” and proved “it is no longer possible for anyone to manipulate and control the politics of this country by playing the role of kingmaker. “Even though elections can be won through numbers, an unstable Parliament that cannot take clear decisions and remains constantly under the influence of extremism is not one that suits the country.”

Voting patterns during the election showed a clear divide between the majority Buddhist Sinhalese and minority Tamils and Muslims. A vast majority of Sinhalese voted for Rajapaksa, while minorities overwhelmingly voted for his main opponent, Sajith Premadasa. He pledged to respect the aspirations of the majority by protecting the unity of the country and Buddhism while ensuring people had the right to practice the religion of their choice.

Rajapaksa said that the constitution has many “confusions” and changes are needed. He said a strong presidency, parliament and judiciary needs to be created through constitutional changes. Sri Lanka has a proportional representative electoral system where parties with a smaller support base could also return lawmakers with a minimum vote percentage. Minority politicians say the system had given them reasonable representation and help stem any anti-minority move in Parliament.

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