Next President will be less powerful -Dr Nihal Jayawickrema | Sunday Observer

Next President will be less powerful -Dr Nihal Jayawickrema

The 2020 President will be devoid of most of his power, irrespective of who is elected to the high office later this year, under the provisions of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, former Secretary to the Ministry of Justice and legal scholar Dr Nihal Jayawickrema said.

In an interview with our sister publication Silumina this weekend, Dr Jayawickrema emphasised that while President Maithripala Sirisena could retain the ministries of Defence, Mahaweli and Environment because of specific transitional provisions included in the 19th Amendment, that would pertain only to the remainder of his presidency, the next President would have no constitutional authority to hold any ministerial portfolio.

“When the next President is elected, he will not be able to hold any ministerial portfolio. Only a Member of Parliament can be a Minister. Under the 19th Amendment, the President would appoint ministers and deputy ministers on the advice of the Prime Minister. He will still be a member of the Cabinet, but he will hold no portfolio,” the former Secretary said during the interview. He explained that even though the next President would be the head of the Cabinet of Ministers, this did not offer any special privileges. Dr Jayawickrema recalled that under the 1946 and 1972 Constitutions, the Governor General was the Head of Cabinet.

The President could still appoint Secretaries to the ministries without consulting anyone else, even under the 19A, he said. He could also nominate Ambassadors, but the deciding authority would be the Foreign Minister.

Therefore, Dr Jayawickrema said that if the President was not a member of the party in Government, a crisis between the Executive and the Legislature would be likely.

The legal scholar also debunked the idea that the powers of the President would be conferred upon the Prime Minister instead. “The Prime Minister will enjoy less powers than those enjoyed by the Executive President as it stood before the 19th Amendment was enacted,” he noted. “If the Executive is so powerless one may entertain doubts whether we need such an Executive at all. We should not be pessimistic but the fact remains that a country needs a President as in UK, India, Pakistan, Malaysia and Singapore. I believe an independent person of course a non-party candidate, such as former Indian President Abdul Kalaam should be appointed as the President,” he added.