The Sri Lankan Cabinet under the chairmanship of Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne has approved a proposal for “important amendments” to the 1978 Constitution dealing with presidency, procedure and powers of Parliament and the establishment of provincial councils.

Acting Media Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena hinted at a news conference here of a provision for an Upper Chamber of the House and the President would be made directly accountable to Parliament.

The proposal assumes significance as there is consensus among political parties that the 1978 Constitution, introduced by the then President, J.R. Jayawardene, has aggravated the ethnic strife.

The 1978 Constitution confers absolute powers on the President, reducing the importance of Parliament. The system of proportional representation in elections has also been criticised as lopsided and counter-productive.

For nearly two decades, political parties have been promising drastic amendments to the Constitution. However, neither the current United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) led by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party nor the United National Party has kept its promise.

The existing Constitution also puts a two-term bar on the President. Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was elected for a second term in January, in a recent interview said he desired to contest for a third term.

The Minister told the media that the Cabinet had approved amendment of Sections VII (A), XI and section XVIII (A) of the Constitution. According to him, proposals were to be submitted as an urgent Bill in Parliament.

The Minister also hinted that ways for the President to sit in Parliament, along with setting up of a Senate, could be in the offing.

The proposal seeks changes to sections VII (A), XI and XVIII (A). Section VII (A) deals with the President of the Republic, his or her election and term of office. Section XI deals with the procedures and powers of Parliament and Section XVIII (A) deals with the setting up of provincial councils.

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