Removal on restrictions on a President’s term in
People’s mandate, prerogative for Presidency
Nimal Siripala de Silva
The constitutional amendments signal a new beginning for the
government, Health Minister, SLFP General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena
The constitutional amendments would not witness the end of government
as alleged by the UNP. A golden era has dawned on the country under
President Mahinda Rajapaksa who eliminated the scourge of LTTE terror
from the country. This is the era of development under President
Rajapaksa’s undisputed leadership. Sri Lanka will become the “Miracle of
Asia” he said.
The removal of the restrictions on the number of terms a person could
hold Executive Presidency is an enhancement of the franchise of the
people as they would have a wider choice before them, the minister said.
Under the proposed amendment the President is made answerable to
parliament and to the people, as well, he said.
Irrigation and Water Management Minister and SLFP Senior Vice
President Nimal Siripala de Silva said that President Mahinda Rajapaksa
deserved a third term as he gave political leadership to the military
campaign that defeated LTTE terrorism. President Rajapaksa’s credentials
to lead the country for a third term are not disputed, he said.
Minister de Silva said that all independent commissions appointed in
keeping with the 17th amendment to the constitution would be retained
with pivotal changes effected to make them operational. A 10 member
constitutional council would make the way for a five member
Parliamentary Council (PC) comprising the Premier, Speaker and
Opposition leader and a nominee each by the premier and opposition
Minister de Silva said that the political parties would have to make
their recommendations to the seven independent commissions namely Public
Service Commission, Election Commission, Police Commission, Human Rights
Commission, Bribery Commission, Finance Commission and Delimitation
Petroleum Industries Minister and UPFA General Secretary Susil
Premajayantha said that the objective of the constitutional amendments
was to remove the impediments of the 1978 Constitution that hampered the
government’s development program.
He said that the two third majority needed for the new amendment is
comfortably within the UPFA could easily muster the required 2/3 with
the support extended by the eight member SLMC parliamentary group.
Premajayantha said that all constituent parties of the SLFP led UPFA
had discussed the proposed constitutional reforms themselves at length
before reaching consensus. The LSSP and the CP representatives were
present at the meetings and no one objected to the reforms.
The close relationship between the President and the government and
the opposition members are very important said Child Development and
Women Affairs Minister Tissa Karalliyadde.
The Minister said the President’s decision to visit the parliament in
every three months would help him acquaint himself with the government
and the opposition parliamentarians and to listen to them closely.
He said he believed it is better if the President makes regular
visits to parliament. The image of the parliament itself would also
improve, he said.
State Resources and Enterprise Minister P. Dayaratna said that the
removal of the ceiling on the term of presidency is a critical step
towards democracy what harm in the incumbent president contesting more
than twice when the Prime Minister can do so, the minister asked.
It is for the voters to decide whether they should elect him or not.
He is not trying stay in power by force. People have the freedom to use
their franchise as they wish in this regard, he said.
Monaragala District UNP, MP Ranjith Maddumabandara said the UNP shall
also impose a ceiling on the opposition leadership, if it is against the
removing of the ceiling on the presidency.
In other countries the opposition leaders resign in the face of
defeats suffered at the hands of the ruling party. In Sri Lanka the
opposition leader continues his portfolio even after losing many a
electoral battle in the past. We hope to bring a resolution against
this, he said.
Badulla Distract UNP MP Luxman Seneviratna said that there is no
necessity to go against the 18th amendment when the opposition leader
himself continues in office despite repeated defeats suffered by his
Although we have not yet decided on the voting I personally believe
it is not fare to go against the 18th amendment. Even President J.R.
Jayewardene wanted to remove the ceiling on the terms of President.
Former UNP MPS Merril Kariyawasam and Lionel Jayatileka moved a
resolution in the UNP working committee regarding it. Later both of them
were assassinated during the 1989 terror, Seneviratne said.
Kandy District UNP, MP Abdul Cader said it is time for all to shed
petty political differences and work for the development of the country.
At this crucial moment the UNP should join hands with the President and
the government to serve the country, if not the UNP would further break
in to pieces. The majority of UNP parliamentarians who are in favour of
the proposed Constitutional amendments should vote for it he said.
Polonnaruwa District UNP MP Earl Gunasekera said that all decisions
taken by UNP in the recent past were wrong. I also said at the UNP
Executive Committee meeting that the decision taken by UNP Working
Committee regarding 18th Amendment was also wrong.
He said that the UNP could benefit by the 18th Amendment as according
to political science the tendency was for the decline in popularity of
the ruling party over a period of time. He added that the UNP had
nothing to worry over the matter as the ultimate decision in this regard
invested with the public.
Galle District UNP MP Manusha Nanayakkara said that the President
eradicated the LTTE terror and restored normalcy in the country. Now he
leads the national development drive. Therefore it is time for all to
support the President and strengthen his hands. Politician interested in
a better tomorrow for the country. I have decided to support the 18th
Amendment. I also do not want to work under defeated leader and an
eroding party, he said.
SLMC leader Rauf Hakeem said that the proposed constitutional
amendments strengthen democracy and the people’s franchise. We felt that
a pragmatics approach is a must of the current situation in the country,
The SLMC National organiser Shafeek Rajabdeen said that they have
been supporting the UNP for the last five years. But it now finds itself
in a stalemate, he said.
“If we do not extend our support to President Rajapaksa there are at
least ten UNPers willing to back him. We did the right thing in the
interests of our people, he said.