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Do not abolish Executive Presidency

Country needs strong government for development:

By Freedom Watch

(August 27, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) JVP Leader Somawansa Amarasinghe has sought the abolition of the Executive Presidency. The net result of such an abolition would be to enable small parties to dictate to the Government elected by the majority. Amarasinghe’s demand appears to be aimed at restoring, once again, the undemocratic dominance of small parties over bigger parties, a political process that came into prominence with the introduction of the Proportional Representation (PR) system of elections.

Disproportionate and unreasonable demands of small groups in Parliament had been the bane of this country’s democratic advancement towards a developed economy, as much as the ignoring of reasonable expectations of such small parties. The PR system of Government introduced by President J.R. Jayewardene in 1978 boosted ethnic and religious divisions in Parliament. It is the present PR system that must be abolished and not the Executive Presidency.

The old first past the post system with a limited PR must be restored to help set up a reasonable system for better governance without having an exclusive PR. The Executive Presidency helped defeat the LTTE terrorism, more effectively and efficiently, unlike under the Cabinet System where, everyone has to sit together and decide, by which time terrorism or similar threats would have overrun the country. How can Amarasinghe say that today’s Executive Presidency is a threat to democracy, when it is this presidency that had ousted the northern dictator and is presently restoring democracy to the North?

Amarasinghe’s proposal seems aimed at asking the President to kick the ladder upon which he climbed to victory over terrorism in Sri Lanka. He claims that the Executive Presidency is a major threat to democracy. His party, looking back at its own history, has the least claim to talk of democracy. He is forgetting that the President is elected by the people and his actions are in the democratic exercise of his powers.

The President, it is true cannot be challenged in Courts per se as President. But it is incorrect for the JVP Leader to say that the President cannot be sued even after retirement.

Article 35 (2) of the Constitution excludes the period of time during which the office of presidency was held, from the period of prescription for filing actions in Court, after the President’s retirement.

The President can also be sued in his capacity as Minister if he retains any subject or function without assigning to any Minister. Every Minister can be sued. What is left with the President after he forms a Cabinet (and excluded from immediate court action,) is a very limited range of powers!

Of course, Executive Presidents have abused Presidential powers in the past, unlike the incumbent President. The remedy for abuse of powers lies elsewhere!

In the event of any intentional violation of the Constitution, any act of treason, bribery, misconduct or corruption involving the abuse of his powers or the commission of any offence under any law involving moral turpitude, the President can be impeached by Parliament, and removed from office, even though elected by the majority of the people.

Amarasinghe must realize that if the country is to be developed expeditiously, Sri Lanka needs a strong government and not a weak government that can be twisted and turned by small parties like the JVP.

The people of this country do realize that today’s Government must concentrate on the expeditious development of the country, while listening to and accommodating the reasonable requests of the small parties, including the JVP, represented in Parliament.

They also realize that the abolition of the Executive Presidency will result in the dictatorship of the small parties affecting adversely the development of the country.

- Freedom Watch, a voluntary group of Sri Lankans seeking to participate in promoting good governance in Sri Lanka and greater political awareness on current issues of interest in the country.
-Sri Lanka Guardian

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