20th Amendment to the Constitution Friend or foe?
Posted on October 6th, 2019

By a Special Correspondent Courtesy Ceylon Today

“In keeping with the concept of good governance, the national interest demands to abolish the Executive Presidency, and several other Constitutional reforms in order to strengthen the Parliamentary system of governance and sovereignty of the people,” the background of the Cabinet Memorandum of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution presented by the office of the Prime Minister, and signed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, on 16 September 2019.

Why do we need an Executive President? Countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia, where the Leader of the Nation is chosen by the Parliament, faces many disturbances in governing the Nation.

 Because of the fact that the Prime Minister is chosen from the Parliament and due to conflicts that happen occasionally between political parties, most Prime Ministers in the United Kingdom and Australia have a term of three years.

 In a developing country, this system could make the country unstable; for Sri Lanka to proposer in terms of national security and development, the Nation requires strong leadership for at least five consecutive years, to implement national agendas. 

It is no secret that the Sri Lankan Parliament is determined by agendas of Political Parties, which often result in conflicts. Political Parties have a proven history of promoting their political agendas to gain power through the Parliament, rather than promote a unity national agenda. 

Sri Lanka needs an Executive President who is elected by the public to establish the stability of the country, without strings attached or pulled by the Parliament. 

To make substantial decisions on national security, public policy and guide development strategies nationally; 

for example during a national security crisis the Executive is capable of making quick active decisions to ensure the security of the Nation.

 If the Prime Minister faced such a situation, he would have to respect opinions and approvals of multiple Political Parties, because it’s highly unlikely any single Political Party can get 113 votes in Parliament independently, so they would have to go for an alliance with other parties, which will come with demands. The Prime Minister can’t make independent and quick decisions, while satisfying the Political Parties’ demands, that will be required to get the majority of Parliament, in order to secure the Prime Minister seat.  

Constitution of Sri Lanka

The Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (exercise of sovereignty) Article 4(b) states the executive power of the people, include the defence of Sri Lanka, shall be exercised by the President of the Republic, elected by the people. The 20th Amendment amends Article 4(b) of the Constitution according to Article 2(i) stating the deletion of the words “elected by the people” 

in paragraph (b) of Article 4 and substitution therefore of the words “and the Cabinet of Ministers provided for in the Constitution.” Article 2(ii) deletion of the words “the President of the Republic and of” in paragraph (e) of Article 4; paragraph (e) of Article 4 of the Constitution secures the right for the public to vote and elect the President of the Republic, but it gets cancelled according to Article 2 of the 20th Amendment.

 Chapter VII Article 30(1) of the Constitution is amended by Article 3 of the 20th Amendment. Article 3(i) indicates the deletion of words “and of the Government” 

in paragraph (1) of Article 30. Article 30 of the Constitution is regarding the Executive President and basically Article 3(i) of the 20th Amendment restrains the President of the Republic from being the Head of the Government.

Which in turn gives power of the Government to the hands of the Prime Minister, but who is the Prime Minister? The Prime Minister is a position that requires a majority of the Parliament, in order for the PM candidate to remain in that significant position.

 The finest illustration of the inequitable process in selecting a Prime Minister would be for a candidate to become a Member of Parliament from Colombo, the candidate would require to get somewhat forty to sixty thousand votes, but a candidate from Jaffna can be elected to Parliament by a vote base of two thousand; both of these Parliamentarians will have the same voting and influencing power when selecting a Prime Minister.

 It is no secret to the public that, in Sri Lanka, Parliamentarians representing various Political Parties will show their support only if their political or personal demands are met. 

The conclusion that the Prime Minister position will always have backdoor deals and strings attached to multiple power centres come to light, and is an unstable position to govern a developing Nation like Sri Lanka. Article 3(ii) of the 20th  Amendment determines the deletion of the word “people” in paragraph 2 of Article 30 of the Constitution and substitutes with the word “Parliament.” Article 30, paragraph 2 of the Constitution secures the voting right of the people to elect the President of the Republic as they please, but that privilege is given to the Parliament. 

This will put the position of the President to the same situation as the Prime Minister, of pleasing political and personal demands of MPs to remain in power, rather than the people of the Republic.

Article 3(v) of the 20th Amendment expresses the immediate insertion of Article 3(v), paragraph (3) of the 20th Amendment, right after paragraph (2) of Article 30 of the Constitution.

 Article 3(v), paragraph (3) says a citizen qualified under Article 88 and not disqualified under Article 89 and 92 of the Constitution shall be elected by a majority of MPs within four weeks of its first sitting, by a closed ballot. Article 88, 89 and 92 state, regarding the eligibility to contest for the Presidency; 

All three articles of the Constitution don’t indicate of the practical fact of the prevention of rich businessmen or other persons from bribing or influencing MPs to the Presidency. 

However, the JVP expressed in a parliamentary session that they are willing to make the amendment flexible in preventing the potential of such a situation.

Article 8(a)

On the bright side, Article 8(a) of the 20th Amendment; in a situation of the President by reason that cause him to be unable to exercise the powers and duties of his office, the Speaker of Parliament will perform the duties of the President, instead of the Prime Minister. In addition, Article 8(b) deletes paragraph (1) of Article 37, where in such case the Prime Minister will remain as the Prime Minister, and not assume duties of the President.

The 8th Article of the 20th Amendment also states in a situation of the Executive unable to perform his duties, the Chief Justice will not consult the Speaker, instead consult the Prime Minister;  the Consultation of the Chief Justice is directed form the Speaker to the Prime Minister, who is a politician representing a Political Party. 

 Article 8(e) again directs power over the Speaker of Parliament to the Prime Minister.  

The 20th Amendment also states that the President and the Speaker of Parliament cannot represent any Political Party, which raises the question why more privileges and power is directed to the Prime Minister, who will represent a Political Party?

The accusation of the fact that political parties like TNA are motivated by personal agendas over political, and in respect to the 20th Amendment; demands by the TNA can be higher when electing a Prime Minister from the Parliament, who will be the main power of the Nation. Since a single MP will have the power to influence or challenge the main power of the Nation;

 minority parties will have a higher bargaining power with the 20th Amendment, when active.

The Executive President cannot be influenced by Parliament, or his position cannot be challenged by Parliament, and is capable of making independent decisions in protecting the sovereignty of the country; which can be the reason most foreign powers support abolishing the Executive Presidency.

 If so, even foreign powers can influence positions such as Prime Minister and government, by simply supporting a minority Political Party or independent MPs, due to the fact that their bargaining power is more by the implementation of the 20th Amendment. 

Even a small Political Party would possess the power to influence the Government, in turn creating an unstable country. 

The 19th Amendment has created transparency, and given authority to Parliament, in decisions such as selection of the Inspector General of Police, Chief Justice, Supreme Court Judges and independent commissions.

 Will the 20th Amendment establish democracy or demoralise the confidence of the public on the sovereignty of the Nation?

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.



Copyright © 2021 LankaWeb.com. All Rights Reserved. Powered by Wordpress