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‘Sri Lanka’s last chance to get rid of Executive Presidency’

[MISC, Tuesday, 1 June 2010 04:59 No Comment]

presidents ‘It used to be said that J.R.J. locked-up the 1978 constitution in a box and threw away the key. The key, it was believed, could not be found. But now the key has been found with the UPFA enjoying an almost two thirds majority in Parliament. With the SLMC, the TULF and the Left parties, all prepared to help President Mahinda Rajapaksa to pass the relevant constitutional amendments, this is Sri Lanka’s last chance to be rid of the Executive Presidency. There would not be another chance to do so,’ senior constitutional lawyer and LSSP politburo member Dr. Jayampathy Wickremaratne P.C. said.

‘President Rajapaksa could go down in history by virtue of the fact of having achieved this also. That is by undoing what J.R. did. It must be realized that 90% of the public are for the abolition of the Executive Presidency. The parties in the government are for its abolition. The UNP which brought in the Executive Presidency is today for doing away with it. May be they are being opportunistic, but they are adopting the same position. The Tamil and Muslim parties which thought it was a good safeguard for minorities have found through experience that it is not so and are for the complete abolition of the Executive Presidency. In the APRC summary which was presented to the President by Prof. Tissa Vitarana, it was clearly indicated that all parties are for the abolition of the Executive Presidency. Even the Mahinda Chinthanaya of 2005 clearly states that it would be abolished at the end of the President’s first term, he said.

‘In 2009, just before the Presidential poll, the SLFP ex-co gave Prof. Tissa Vitarana of the LSSP and Dew Gunasekera of the CP the assurance that the Executive Presidency would be abolished. We were very happy about it but we now have a complete turn-around. They are now not only talking about a third term but also of completely taking away the term limit of the Executive Presidency,’ Wickremaratne told this newspaper in an interview.

Excerpts of interview:

‘I want to make it very clear that this is about the presidency and not about Mahinda Rajapaksa the President. He is popular, no doubt about it. He is capable and is acceptable to the people and the SLFP is realizing that it cannot throw-up a leader of the same calibre in the next few years and so they are going to appoint Mahinda Rajapaksa to run for a third term. This I can understand but for that do you need the Executive Presidency? You can go back to the Westminster model and still win. Because the President has the support; he has 145 out of 225 seats. For the next six years he does not have to worry. He can got back to Parliament as Prime Minister and govern very comfortably.

‘His mandate is for governance. It is not a mandate for the Executive Presidency. It is not a question of Mahinda Rajapaksa, Chandrika Kumaratunga, Premadasa or Ranil Wickremsinghe. It is a question of the Executive Presidency.

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