LESSONS FROM OUR HISTORY AND POST INDEPENDENT EXPERIENCES – RESTORATION OF THE EXECUTIVE AUTHORITY OF THE STATE OF SRI LANKA IS MOST WELCOME
Posted on October 20th, 2020

By M. Lakshhman Wickramasinghe

In the public discussion about the merits and demerits of the 19th or 20th Amendments the most vital national issue, it seems, has not received high recognition that it deserves.

Our two thousand plus years of history and the unfortunate developments that took place in the post- Independent era have  taught Sri Lanka one vital lesson. And for a small country like Sri Lanka, placed as it is geographically, this is an absolute maxim.  That is that Sri Lanka’s territorial integrity, its degree of ‘exercisable’ sovereignty, and independence of action locally and internationally can only protected and exercised when the executive authority of the State of Sri Lankan  is strong,  uncompromised and integrated. In layman’s terms the Country should have adequately strong executive power at the Centre and concomitantly a strong national security policy and structure. Without a strong central executive authority there would certainly be no effective national security policy. In such a governance situation, it would be hard put to manage and control  separatists, terrorist, and extremist forces that could  be unleashed against the Country.  

From time immemorial this lesson has been taught to Sri  Lankans. King Pandhukabhaya  began the establishment of the Anuradhapura kingdom by  establishing  village boundaries over whole of Sri Lanka. But 120 years after King Pandhukabhaya , there were two South Indian invasions which saw the occupation of the Country by two horse traders by the names of Sena and Guththika, for 12 years and by Elara, a navy captain for 44 years.

King Dutugemunu realized that the highly decentralized governance system (which existed at the time he came to power), which was headed by a ‘Parumaka’,  (who  was  the Chief of a Cluster of  about 6 to 10  Villages that are fed by the cascade village tank   system) was completely inadequate to strengthen the governance system for the protection of the Country and the people. Hence, King Dutugemunu  was the first to establish a strong unitary system of centralized  governance in Sri Lanka.  

There were innumerable invasions from south India when the central governance structures and the kings of Sri Lanka  had become weak.

President  Jayawardene  established a mixed system of a parliamentary and Presidential rule for the Country and through the 1978 Constitution  provided adequate power to the Executive President of Sri Lanka. But the Yahapalanaya’s  19th Amendment  truncated the powers of the Executive President in its attempt to strengthen the hand  of the Prime Minister. The attempt to create two centres of executive authority within the central governance structure weakened the central government of Sri Lanka to the lowest levels since Independence. The Yahapalana experience of the last five years was proof enough. The people of our country was at the receiving-end of the impact of weakened central governance  during the 2019 Easter attacks partly due to the erosion of executive authority in the Centre brought about through the 19th Amendment.

It should be the duty of all Sri Lankans to support the restoration of the executive power of the Central Government of Sri Lanka as a counter- force  to Provincial Councils  and general propensity of the current  electoral system to spawn weak governments. The 2019  Presidential election and the 2020 Parliamentary election results were exceptional results due to the charisma of an exceptional and trusted personality. Notwithstanding that result, the Executive authority of the Central Government of Sri Lanka that was truncated through the 19th  Amendment should be restored to the office of the President to ensure future peace and harmony in Sri Lanka.

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