Civil society groups in Lanka raise concern over new presidential task forces

Colombo, Jun 5 (PTI) Concerns are being raised over Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointing presidential task forces, which the civil society groups claim could end up as parallel structure to the existing institutions.

The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), a think tank, says they are deeply concerned with the appointment of two presidential task Forces this week.

Rajapaksa earlier this week appointed a 13-member Presidential Task Force headed by the Defence Secretary Major General (Retd) Kamal Gunaratne to build a 'secure' country and a “virtuous, disciplined and lawful' society.

He also appointed another task force for the archaeological heritage management in the Eastern Province. Rajapaksa since his appointment in November had already appointed six task forces.

The civil society groups say that the island nation's Parliament has been dissolved for longer than the constitutionally mandated three months. Thus, there is no legislative oversight over executive action.

'The appointment of the two task forces demonstrates to troubling trends of authoritarian rule and militarisation with serious implications to constitutional democracy and reconciliation in Sri Lanka,' the CPA claimed in a statement.

The civil society's concerns came as the Supreme Court this week rejected their petitions which sought the apex court's intervention to annul Rajapaksa's March 2 dissolution of parliament six months ahead of the schedule.

They claimed that since Parliament was not meeting within the stipulated three months the dissolution was illegal.

'These appointments come at a time when the executive has a free hand to govern without the customary checks and balances on the exercise of executive power and authority. This we firmly believe to be a basic and fundamental tenant of parliamentary democracy,' the CPA said. PTI CORR PMS PMS