New constitution aims to punish government critics, warns head of country’s Catholic Church
Sri Lankan protesters take part in an anti-government rally against the soaring cost of living, in Colombo on November 2. (Photo: AFP)
Sri Lanka’s Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith has criticized a new draft constitution initiated by former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, calling it an attempt to silence critics of the government.
The expert committee appointed by Rajapaksa drafted the constitution without consulting the people and handed it over to the incumbent president, Cardinal Ranjit said at a rally to commemorate World Habitat Day in Negombo on November 3.
“I also received a copy of the draft constitution, according to which anyone who raises a grievance against the government or any government agency will be imprisoned for at least 20 years,” he said.
The cardinal also explained how the new constitution would bar critics of the government from approaching international forums like the United Nations (UN) for the redress of grievances.
Cardinal Ranjith, as head of the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka, had met with UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet in Geneva in March and discussed, among other things, investigations into the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings.
The Church alleges that the slow progress of the investigation is delaying justice for the 269 victims and their families.
A harsh critic of both the previous government and the outgoing government for what he calls their inability to find the masterminds behind the Easter bombing, the cardinal has repeatedly threatened to take the matter to the international community.
“Politicians who cannot solve people’s problems should go home and people should not vote for them,” Cardinal Ranjith argued.
Shirani Nirupama, a rights activist, appreciated Cardinal Ranjith’s efforts to educate the public on the draft constitution.
“Through the constitution, some political families hope to retain their power for a long time,” she said.
She blamed the island nation’s current economic, political and social problems on the previous Rajapaksa regime.
“Many problems facing people today, from corruption, mismanagement and poor economic decisions, can be traced to the concentration of power in the hands of one person,” Nirupama said.
The Cabinet of Sri Lanka has approved the 22nd Constitutional Amendment Bill. It gives parliament the power to override the executive president amid the current economic crisis in the country.
The nation is facing the worst economic crisis since its independence in 1948, which has led to severe shortages of essential items like food, medicine, cooking gas and fuel, sparking street protests against the mismanagement of the situation and the lack of responsibility on the part. from senior management.