20A: JVP clarion call for abolition of Executive Presidency | Sunday Observer

20A: JVP clarion call for abolition of Executive Presidency

Anura Kumara Dissanayake and Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa
Anura Kumara Dissanayake and Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa

As political crisis deepens within the ruling national unity coalition, the JanathaVimukthi Peramuna has issued a fresh clarion call for the abolition of the Executive Presidency, and the party is proposing a 20th Amendment to the constitution to get the job done.

JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake has called upon all political parties to rally, casting aside political differences to scrap the presidential system and fulfil the pledge made to the people on election platforms over the past two decades.

Periods of political turmoil have always resulted in positive legislative and constitutional reform in Sri Lanka, the JVP claims, citing examples of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution in 2001 and the 19thAmendment that was passed almost unanimously in Parliament when a minority government was in power.

The party is now in the process of completing final touches to the draft 20th Amendment to the Constitution, which it says will be presented to Parliament as a Private Members Bill on April 19 or 20. Once the drafting process is complete the JVP will begin consultations with other parties to obtain their support.

“We have been able to use times of political uncertainty for work in the people’s interest in the past,” JVP Leader Dissanayake said. “When the Kumaratunga Government was unstable in 2001, the 17th Amendment was introduced to establish independent commissions. This could also be a good moment to introduce a favourable Amendment to the Constitution,” he added.

Since the introduction of the Executive Presidency in 1978, the JVP had opposed the new system. Since then, Presidents Kumaratunga, Rajapaksa and finally even Maithripala Sirisena had given pledges to the people that the system would be scrapped, the JVP said.

Dissanayake explained that President Sirisena had continued to promise abolition several times even after the Presidential Election campaign of 2015. “At the moment, the UNP which was the architect of the Executive Presidency also supports the abolition of executive powers,” he said.

Some of the concerns raised about moves to abolish the Presidency was that it could lead to separatism because there would be no mechanism to control Provincial Councils through a Governor, Dissanayake explained. An alternative solution to this would have to be found, the JVP Leader added. There were also concerns that the Presidency was a stabilizing factor since parties almost never win outright majorities in parliamentary elections. However, Dissanayake said the solution to this was to propose changes to the current electoral system.

“The draft bill we are trying to move will not affect the incumbent President. As per the proposed draft, at the end of the tenure of the incumbent, there will be no position of Executive President from then on,” the JVP leader specified.

JVP Kalutara District Parliamentarian Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa said since 1982, the JVP has continuously agitated to abolish the Executive Presidency.

“After President Maithripala Sirisena was elected to the Presidency, we waited for three years hoping that he would take steps to abolish the Executive Presidency,” Jayatissa said, explaining the party’s frustration with the pace of reforms.