Looking for straws
Posted on July 20th, 2019

Editorial Courtesy The Island

UPFA General Secretary and MP Mahinda Amaraweera has gone on record as saying that he will move a private member’s motion for abolishing the executive presidency. Reflected in his statement is his realisation that the SLFP/UPFA has failed to secure the SLPP’s consent for fielding President Maithripala Sirisena as their presidential candidate. If Amaraweera goes ahead with his move, he might be able to receive the backing of the UNP-led government and its allies.

The next presidential election has become a huge problem for all political parties save the SLPP and the TNA. The SLPP is said to have decided to field former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa as its presidential candidate; it is expected to announce its decision next month though it has chosen to remain silent on the revocation of Gotabaya’s US citizenship and the ongoing court cases against him both there and in the US. As things stand, the TNA will throw its lot with the candidate who has the UNP’s blessings. The JVP wants to prevent the Rajapaksas from making a comeback, but cannot support a UNP candidate. It has said it will contest the presidential election, but as for its success, it has the same chances as a cat in hell.

The UNP has pledged to contest a presidential election after a lapse of about 15 years for want of a better alternative, but is in a dilemma as to who should be its candidate. There are three presidential hopefuls within its ranks and choosing one of them will be at the risk of a debilitating internal conflict.

Why is it that Amaraweera wants to present a private member’s motion for scrapping the executive presidency? Why can’t the UPFA do so as an alliance represented in Parliament?

Amaraweera and his boss, President Sirisena, are desperate to get out of the political mire they have got into. But it is only wishful thinking that they can achieve that goal through Amaraweera’s proposed motion, given the seemingly insurmountable obstacles in their path. Any motion aimed at abolishing the executive presidency is doomed to failure without the JO’s support for it in that it has to be ratified with a two-thirds majority in Parliament. Besides, it will have to be approved by the people at a referendum. This is an even bigger hurdle.

The UNP and the JVP may agree to do away with the executive presidency in principle or even support the motion to be moved. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who cannot seek another presidential term, may be well disposed towards the abolition to the presidency, but it is doubtful whether the SLPP will agree thereto.

An attempt to abolish the executive presidency will entail the process of introducing a new Constitution. The government has already undertaken to write a new Constitution but come up against a brick wall on the question of devolution. Its attempts have been abandoned to all intents and purposes. The proponents of the existing Constitution view the executive presidency as the only safeguard against secessionist forces that are using devolution to achieve their goal. The government has put its constitution making project on hold, unable to tackle this contentious issue. The JVP’s 20th the Amendment has also suffered a similar fate due to, more or less, the same reasons.

There are only a few months to go for the next presidential election and even if all parties agree to abolish the executive presidency, there won’t be enough time. Amaraweera cannot be unaware of these difficulties. If so, why is he trying to have the executive presidency abolished at this juncture?

A drowning person clutches at anything. Amaraweera and President Sirisena, out of sheer desperation, seem to be toying with the idea of having the presidential election postponed. Hope refuses to go away like flies and mozzies.

One Response to “Looking for straws”

  1. Ananda-USA Says:

    Let the SLPP be firm in its committment not to make the same mistake of splitting executive power between two parties by fielding TWO candidates from the SLPP and the SLFP for President and Prime Minister. Both MUST BE FROM the SLPP, otherwise infigthing between the President and the PM will CONTINUE for another 5 years!

    Under the FLAWED 19th Amendment, many of the previous President’s EXECUTIVE Powers were DEVOLVED to the Prime Minister, leading in fact to a PM who was executively MORE POWERFUL than the President.

    That would not be an issue in a PERFECT WORLD where both have the SAME AGENDA and are PATRIOTIC leaders, but is TOTALLY DESTRUCTIVE when they are not, as we have seen in the Yamapalanaya!

    Until the FLAWED 19th Amendment is REPEALED and an EVEN STRONGER EXECUTIVE PRESIDENCY than during the former Rajapaksa government is instituted, and PREFERABLY the post of PRIME MINISTER is ELIMINATED as a useless, divisive bureaucratic redundancy, the SLPP should not make the MISTAKE of fielding a President or a Prime Minister from another allied party.

    Both the President and the PM should be from the SLPP!

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