Ranil wanted to be Executive Prime Minister – Dayasiri | Sunday Observer

Ranil wanted to be Executive Prime Minister – Dayasiri

Dayasiri Jayasekara
Dayasiri Jayasekara

UPFA Kurunegala District parliamentarian and former Skills Development and Vocational Training Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara said there should be a proper 19th Amendment where powers of the President, Prime Minister, Parliament and the Judiciary need to be defined clearly.

In an interview with the Sunday Observer, the former Minister said as President Maithripala Sirisena who had pledged to 6.2 million people who voted for him, he wanted to give back some of his powers to Parliament. However, former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe wanted all powers from the President and become an Executive Prime Minister in Parliament. There are some problems with the 19 th Amendment because some powers of the President had been taken over by the Prime Minister and this problem has to be sorted out. Otherwise, this kind of problems will occur again and again in the near future as well.

Q. UNP MP Dr.Jayampathy Wickramarathne says according to the Constitution, the President has no alternative but to appoint Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister despite personal differences between them?

A. The Constitution says that the President can appoint the person whom he trusts has the majority votes in Parliament as Prime Minister. According to clause 43 (3) of the Constitution, “The President shall appoint as Prime Minister the Member of Parliament , who in his opinion is most likely to command the confidence of Parliament.” It is up to the President to decide whether he should appoint Ranil Wickremesinghe or any other person as the Prime Minister with whom the President should work closely during the remaining one-year period. We saw the problems between the President and the Prime Minister which led to the current scenario which emerged from October 26. I think it is up to the President to decide with whom in the UNP he could work. The President has the power to appoint the person with whom he can work as Prime Minister .

Q. President’s Counsel Gomin Dayasiri says Mahinda Rajapaksa acted unwisely in accepting the premiership since he had not been given the right advice. Your comments?

A. I don’t think so, because normally without getting advice from his close associates and lawyers, he does not take decisions. Actually, it was not a decision taken by him to accept the premiership but the country was in a very desperate situation. That is why he thought that he should accept the premiership and resolve all outstanding problems Sri Lankans faced during the past three-and-a-half years. Although a prominent lawyer like Gomin Dayasiri says so, I don’t think without getting proper advice from the people who are around him, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa took such a decision.

Q. Now, on a Quo Waranto writ application, the Court of Appeal has temporarily suspended the Prime Minister and the Cabinet from functioning. Is there any impact of it on governance and administration?

A. Yes, definitely. This is the first time in history that this kind of thing has happened in Sri Lanka. As a lawyer, I can see they do not have any mandate to give this kind of decision because they do not have the jurisdiction to check or go into the parliamentary proceedings or the Constitution. The Supreme Court is the sole authority on the interpretation of the Constitution. That is why we all wanted to appeal to the Supreme Court to get a reasonable verdict. But it has affected the country’s day-to-day governance, because this is the first time in our history we have witnessed a situation like this. The Court has suspended the Premier, the Cabinet and the Ministers for two weeks. The country was in such a mess for the past two or three weeks and it was aggravated by this kind of decisions. Anyway, we have already appealed to the Supreme Court. I think the Supreme Court will make its decision as early as possible.

Q. President Maithripala Sirisena has asserted that even if the 225 MPs unanimously request him to appoint Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister, he will not do so. Don’t you think a compromise will resolve the present deadlock?

A. We also spoke to the UNP MPs because we wanted to settle this issue as early as possible in the interest of the country. That is why I also got involved with some MPs to discuss and come to a compromise. The President took this decision having worked with former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe for three-and-a-half years of which he has many bitter memories. Three months after January 8, the Central Bank was robbed by the UNP supporters including a very close friend of the Prime Minister. From that time many things happened. As a Cabinet Minister, I can still remember during the past three and a half years how we fought many times over Cabinet papers brought up by the Prime Minister. These are the very reasons the President does not want to work with him and this is not a personal issue. These are some of the policy issues the President faced in governing the country.

Q. The absence of Mahinda Rajapaksa and his SLPP stalwarts at the SLFP special convention was conspicuous. Is this not a setback for the SLFP’s unity at a future election?

A. No, there is no issue. The former President Mahinda Rajapaksa is no longer a SLFP member as he obtained the SLPP membership after being appointed Premier. No sooner he was appointed Prime Minister by the President, they wanted to go for an election. That is what they aimed at. There is a need to have a good party for the moderate and educated people who want to vote at the next election. We can develop the SLFP as a moderate party. At international level, democratic socialist parties are now emerging all over the world. Likewise, the SLFP too can come up to the level of a social democratic party. Like the Labour Party came up under the leadership of Tony Blair, there is a huge space in the political arena for us to come up as a party to consolidate power at the next election.

My view is that the SLFP and the SLPP should contest separately. After that we can join hands with the SLPP and form a Government. Otherwise, the SLFP will be in trouble if a coalition will have to be formed with the SLPP.

We had a very good experience at the last General Election. Many SLFP MPs were defeated and pushed out. We believe the same thing will happen at the next General Election. As soon as the Parliament was dissolved by the President, the SLPP started their campaign. My view is that we should not fall into their trap. I am trying my level best to convince the SLFP Central Committee about this.

Q. UNP MP Mangala Samaraweera says an impeachment against the President is the only solution to resolve the current political stalemate in the country. Is it feasible?

A. If they want to bring in an impeachment against the President we will see how they can go ahead with it because other political parties don’t want to be a party to such an impeachment. Four or five UNP MPs, merely because of their personnel issues want to impeach the President but the majority of the UNP MPs and other parties in the UNF are not in favour of it. The President wants to sort out this problem in a reasonable manner as he wants to run the country efficiently.

Q. While the political tug-of-war is going on, the economy of the country is in perilous straits. Can you elaborate on this?

A. This is a very sad situation. Two things have happened since October 26 - a new Government and a new Prime Minister was appointed but the UNP didn’t go to courts to get an enjoining order against it.

From November 14 there were problems and the President dissolved the Parliament on November 9. Subsequently, they went to courts which resulted in the Presidential order of dissolving Parliament being suspended by the court.

There was hardly any other problem because we held Cabinet meetings and all secretaries were working in their respective ministries as usual. The court decisions aggravated the situation. We have to settle this situation as early as possible. Otherwise, it will affect the economy and entrepreneurs very badly. That is why we always advise that issues should be resolved as early as possible to get rid of this dilemma.

Q. There is an Opposition allegation that the Government group does not have a majority in the House and is boycotting Parliament. Is there any truth in this?

A. When Parliament was summoned on November 14 the Government actually had the majority. The Government had 104 MPs and the UNP had 98 MPs. But you cannot say the majority vote in Parliament is with the Opposition so that they can run the day today work as they wish. We have to follow the Standing Orders of Parliament.

According to Standing Order 114, although all Parliamentary Committees have to be appointed yet they did not appoint them. So, how do you run the day to day Parliamentary business without recognising that there is a Government? If the Opposition wants to present a No Confidence Motion (NCM) against the Government there is a proper way of doing it. First, they have to recognise the Government and after that they must follow the Standing Orders. Even if the Opposition wants to present a properly constituted NCM, they should not touch the President’s powers because in the two or three NCMs it was mentioned that the President had violated certain clauses of the Constitution.

How could they maintain it as legal in courts? If they had the majority and came with a proper NCM, we could have gone ahead and there would have been no more issues.

It is not a problem of accepting the majority vote in Parliament. If they didn’t challenge the President’s powers in court, how can they come to Parliament and say the President has made wrongful or illegal appointments.

If this kind of thing didn’t happen, Parliament and the Government can go on. Only if we present a Bill in Parliament would the question of majority or the minority arises. As there was not a proper system, we could not go to the Parliament and function as a Government party. That is why we boycotted Parliament.

Q. Has the 19th Amendment created more problems as asserted by many politicians?

A. Yes. The concept is very good. When we deal with Ranil Wickremesinghe, we know how he manipulated his party Constitution. Now, he is manipulating the Sri Lankan Constitution as well.

When you compare the draft of the 19th Amendment and the real amendment after the Supreme Court decision, there are many things that the Prime Minister wanted to grab from the President.

The President wanted to give his powers over to the Parliament and that was his wish. That is why he didn’t dissolve the Parliament as soon as he assumed office.

As he promised the 6.2 million people who voted for him, he wanted to give back some of his powers to Parliament. Former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe wanted all powers from the President and become an Executive Prime Minister in Parliament. We always say there are some problems with the 19th Amendment because some powers of the President had been taken over by the Prime Minister.

We have to sort out this problem. Otherwise, this type of problems will occur again and again in the near future as well. That is why we always say we should have a proper 19 th Amendment where powers of the President, Prime Minister, Parliament and the Judiciary need to be defined clearly.

Q. What is the impact of the recently concluded UNP-TNA pact on the country, specially its future?

A. The UNP wanted to come back to power and they wanted to show their majority. To show their majority, they wanted to go with anyone under the sun.

That is why they promised the TNA that a new Constitution would be introduced and all terrorist suspects and lands held by the Army will be released.

We do not know what other hidden things they have agreed to with the TNA. Similar agreements had been signed by Ranil Wickremesinghe in 2001 as well.

The country should know what kind of a person and party we are dealing with. We have to be very careful with this.

With regard to the new Constitution to be presented in Parliament, as the SLFP we have given our draft. Up to now, the UNP has not given any of their proposals on the new Constitution.

It says that the TNA and all other parties have agreed to a Constitution and the UNP has also joined hands with them. This is why we always advocate that there should be a clear and transparent system when you are going to sign an agreement with any party.