Sri Lanka Cabinet OKs unlimited presidential term
Associated Press
2010-08-30 10:12 PM
Sri Lanka's Cabinet has approved constitutional amendments to enable President Mahinda Rajapaksa to seek an unlimited number of terms in office, ministers said Monday.

Rajapaksa's popularity is high because he brought a 25-year war with Tamil Tiger separatists to an end, and critics have accused him of manipulating that goodwill to suppress dissent and consolidate his power.

Under current law, Rajapaksa's second term, which starts in November, would be his last.

But Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said that the Cabinet endorsed a draft constitution with a clause to extend the number of six-year terms a president can serve. He said that the draft will soon be presented in Parliament, where a two-thirds majority will make it law.

"If a citizen becomes president and continues to enjoy public support that person must be able to seek any number of terms," Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena said. "Only then the people's mandate will be respected."

The main opposition United National party blasted the move, saying the president is abusing his powers, trying to extend his rule indefinitely and attempting to create a family dynasty. Two of Rajapaksa's brothers are senior ministers and another is defense secretary. Rajapaksa's eldest son is also a lawmaker.

But Rajapaksa is likely to get the necessary votes since his party holds 144 of 225 seats and a group of opposition lawmakers recently agreed to back the government.

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