Sri Lanka’s government proposed amending the constitution on Thursday to reduce presidential powers and strengthen anti-corruption powers in order to help shore up stability and defuse unrest caused by the country’s worst financial crisis in decades.
The 22-million-person South Asian island is running low on fuel and has been struggling for months to find enough US dollars to pay for essential imports such as food, cooking gas, and medicine.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, whom critics blame for the financial crisis because he gave key positions to relatives and was slow to seek an IMF bailout, has been under intense pressure to resign for some time, though he has stated that he intends to serve until his term expires in 2024.
Following weeks of street protests, two of his brothers resigned as prime minister and finance minister, respectively.
The proposed amendment, which was released in draught form on Thursday, would create a constitutional council and nine independent commissions to improve governance. The commissions would work to promote human rights, strengthen anti-corruption investigations, and increase audit oversight of government agencies.
According to Justice Minister Wijedasa Rajapakshe, the amendment could be presented to parliament in July. It may be subjected to additional changes before becoming law.
However, critics argue that the amendment did not go far enough to address protesters’ demands.