A New Start for Sri Lanka: Implementing Reform

By Milos Purkovic

The new Sri Lanka President Mithripala Sirisena has a tough job ahead. Having defeated the Mahinda Rajapaksa in a dramatic snap election in January, the former cabinet member now has the task of leading one of South Asia’s most corrupt countries; Sri Lanka has long struggled with governance and investment climate and continues to sit at the lower half of the World Bank’s Doing Business index. However, Sirisena’s 100-day reform program provides an opportunity to address these issues by emphasizing good governance and rule of law, investing in basic public institutions, judicial reform, and catalyzing press freedom.

Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Mrs. Nisha Biswal, with newly elected President Sirisena

Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Mrs. Nisha Biswal, with newly elected President Mithripala Sirisena

As a first step, on January 21 the new parliament introduced legislation to repeal a 2010 constitutional amendment which discontinued the Constitutional Council, empowered the president to dismiss or appoint members of the judiciary, and allowed for a third presidential term.  The 2010 amendment was widely viewed as the previous administration’s attempt to consolidate power, and The United Nations Human Rights Committee had made numerous requests to repeal the amendment since its passage. The new legislation will likely reinstate the Constitutional Council meant to safeguard the Constitution, set a two-time term limit, and introduce checks and balances to the executive. Continue reading