20A: Who is using JVP cat’s paw?
Posted on June 3rd, 2018

By Sugeeswara Senadhira Courtesy Ceylon Today

The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) is a Party that has kept a proud record for decades as a party consistent with its policies, despite political ups and downs. However, the current leadership of the party turned to socialist democratic path after two bitter experiences of armed militancy, apparently adapting the age-old political strategies of convenience as followed by other political parties.

The first deviation was the support extended to Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga to be the President; after extracting the promise of abolishing Executive Presidency in six months. The six-month period lapsed and years turned into decades and there was no major protest movement from the JVP for the fulfilment of the promise; for more than two decades.

Now, suddenly the JVP is taking a step towards abolishing of the Executive Presidency, by introducing a proposal for the 20th Amendment as a private member’s bill. At the same time, the radical party leaders show, it is merely a half-hearted attempt by stating this is only a draft for a national debate and any views from political parties would be considered before a final draft is prepared. However, as the JVP pointed out the system of Executive Presidency has been widely criticized by almost all parties but no one really got down to abolishing it, due to many wide ranging

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayaka and three of his party members handed over a private members bill or the 20th Amendment calling for the complete abolition of the 40-year old Executive Presidential system to Secretary General of Parliament, Dhammika Dasanayake in the presence of the Speaker Karu Jayasuriya. Abolishing the Executive Presidency was a key election promise of President Kumaratunga, President Rajapaksa and President Sirisena, but hopes of it being delivered were deflated. At least President Sirisena managed to get the 19th Amendment passed to prune Presidential powers.

National Referendum

When the first draft of the 19A was submitted, the Supreme Court ruled that amending certain fundamental clauses of the Constitution require a national referendum in addition to the  two-thirds majority in Parliament and subsequently those clauses were removed from the Bill. Some of the minority parties in Parliament are up in arms, vowing to oppose the 20A. The minority Tamil and Muslim parties have expressed unwillingness to support the abolition of the Presidency as they feel they are well served in safeguarding their political rights through the Presidential system
However, the United National Party (UNP) said it will support a move to abolish the Executive Presidency. Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella said that his party would support the bill.

Kiriella said although it was only a private member’s motion that it can be legislated by following the due process. “It needs to be adopted with two-thirds majority; then referred to the Supreme Court, if the Court recommends a national referendum then it must be subjected to a referendum,” Kiriella said.

Kiriella’s statement resulted in some opponents alleging that the JVP had proposed the 20A on the behest of UNP. Some persons said the 20A was drafted by Dr. Jayampathi Wickremaratne, the leftist expert on Constitution, who has been appointed to Parliament by the UNP.

JVP MP Sunil Handunnetti said his party was certain that 20A can be adopted. “All political parties at different times have pledged to abolish it, and, therefore, no party can stay opposed to it,” he argued. Some political analysts wonder about the hidden motive of the JVP proposal. It has come at a time when the Constitutional Assembly has completed bulk of work about the proposed new Constitution.

Another argument is that the 20A would require a national referendum and such a political campaign would upset the entire political time table of forthcoming Provincial Council elections, Presidential election and the Parliamentary elections.

It will be a far smother exercise to get Parliament approval for some of the clauses in the JVP proposal that could be validated without a national referendum and leave out the Executive Presidency and such fundamental amendments for the time being. Joint Opposition initially said the Executive Presidency must be abolished but in an apparent u-turn, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa announced the JO opposition to 20A. Earlier the JO stated that there should be a clause in 20A to dissolve the current Parliament immediately, JVP added the clause that Parliament should be dissolved on 9 January 2020 in the event the 20th Amendment is passed.

Until then, both the President and the Prime Minister will continue to enjoy their respective powers, JVP Leader Dissanayake said.

Already four political parties – Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA), Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), Eelam Peoples Democratic Party (EPDP) and All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) have announced their opposition to the 20A. These four parties have 19 MPs, a sizable vote. They are of the opinion Constitutional Amendments such as abolishing the Executive Presidency, introducing a new electoral system and power devolution to the provinces, should be brought as a single package in the proposed new Constitution.

The JVP is of the view that the party could look into these issues by holding discussions with the other political parties to get their support. Last week, two leading Tamil politicians, TNA Leader
R. Sampanthan and EPRLF Leader Suresh Premachandran said that when Sri Lanka is drafting a new Constitution, India should ensure that the “remaining provisions of Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement of 1987” are incorporated into the new Constitution. They also spoke of the devolution and merger of the North and East. Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka of Hela Urumaya-UNF said, the Executive Presidency is essential to safeguard sovereignty of Sri Lanka. He also pointed out the 1990 unilateral declaration of independence by EPRLF Chief Minister of North and East, Vartharaja Perumal and the stern action taken by the then President Ranasinghe Premadasa to sack the CM and vest the North and East under the Governor.

All these point to there being hidden motives behind the JVP move; and the proposed 20A vote could result in divisions even within the main political parties. Whatever, the motive for the JVP’s move, it is likely to end up as another failure of the radical party, which is struggling hard to become a national alternative, if not at least a third force with a clout.

One Response to “20A: Who is using JVP cat’s paw?”

  1. Dilrook Says:

    [Quote] Already four political parties – Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA), Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), Eelam Peoples Democratic Party (EPDP) and All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) have announced their opposition to the 20A. [Unquote]

    This is sufficient for any real patriot to decide how good 20A is! These are the most sectarian political groups that benefit from executive presidency.

    Voters on the other hand have demanded abolishing executive presidency since 1994 at five presidential elections. Too bad greed for power and the greed to win support of sectarian political parties have erased this promise from the priority list of politicians. If anyone thinks such greedy politicians can do any good for Sri Lanka, they must take a good hard look at their “patriotic” and “patronising” credentials.

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