Sri Lankan leader promises reforms to presidency

2014-12-23 16:48
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa greats Buddhist monks during the launch of his election manifesto in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (Eranga Jayawardena, AP)

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa greats Buddhist monks during the launch of his election manifesto in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (Eranga Jayawardena, AP)

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Colombo - Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa promised on Tuesday to reform his country's powerful presidency as part of a new constitution that he intends to introduce if he is elected to office for a third term in January.

Rajapaksa's promise in his policy statement comes in response to increasing public support for his main challenger, Maithripala Sirisena, whose campaign has centred on democratic reforms, including heavily reducing presidential powers and strengthening Parliament.

Rajapaksa said he would ask Parliament to draw up a new constitution and reform the presidency within one year of being elected.

He had used an overwhelming election success previously to scrap a two-term limit for the presidency and give himself the power to appoint all key officials, including top judges, election officials, and police and military heads.

The moves prompted widespread demands for political reforms, with the UN's then-human rights chief saying last year that Sri Lanka was sliding toward autocracy.

Rajapaksa also promised on Tuesday to end ethnic, religious and other forms of discrimination, but did not say how he will deal with demands for autonomy in the island nation's ethnic Tamil-majority Northern Province in the aftermath of a decades-long civil war that ended in 2009.

He also pledged to appoint a retired judge to decide whether to prosecute or release hundreds of Tamils detained for years without trial on suspicion of having links to the defeated Tamil Tiger rebels.

Read more on:    un  |  mahinda rajapaksa  |  sri lanka
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