Abolish executive presidency: Ranil backers


The proposal, made by the Prime Minister’s allies, did not find many takers at Cabinet meeting

Backers of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Thursday proposed abolishing the country’s highly-controversial executive presidency, but with few takers in the Cabinet it was thwarted, according to those present at the discussion. The move comes a day after Sri Lanka’s Election Commission announced that presidential poll will be held on November 16.

President Maithripala Sirisena convened an “emergency Cabinet meeting” at the Presidential Secretariat on Thursday afternoon, where Minister Rajitha Senaratne and Ravi Karunanayake, both known to be supporting Mr. Wickremesinghe’s candidacy, made a case for abolishing executive presidency, sources told The Hindu.

However, other Cabinet ministers, including Mangala Samaraweera, Kabir Hashim and Mano Ganesan, have opposed the idea, arguing that it was not the right time for such a move, given that the poll date has been announced. “Several of us voiced the opinion that this must not be done now, it will seem like we are afraid to contest the polls,” Mr. Mano Ganesan told The Hindu.

The issue of executive presidency has dominated Sri Lankan elections since 1994 with several candidates campaigning on the platform for abolishing it, but none keeping the promise. The leftist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) representing minority Tamils have consistently demanded the abolition. Mr. Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) in 2014 adopted a motion to abolish executive presidency.

More leverage

However, other minority parties argue that an executive presidency gives minority communities more leverage in influencing national policy. Thursday’s development comes in the wake a heightening clash within the UNP on the candidate for the presidential race. Party leader and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, deputy leader and Minister Sajith Premadasa, and Speaker Karu Jayasuriya are contenders.

Many of the Ministers who opposed the proposal on Thursday are known to be backing UNP deputy leader Sajith Premadasa for candidacy. Mr. Jayasuriya recently announced that his candidacy was contingent on possible support from progressive forces for the abolition of executive presidency, while Mr. Premadasa has said there has been no “scientific survey” confirming that the people of the country were for abolition.

TNA spokesman M.A. Sumanthiran tweeted on Thursday: “Disappointed with the “Yahapalanayas” [good governance, as the ruling coalition pitched itself in 2015] who oppose the move to abolish EP. Selfishness and opportunism at its worst. Abandoning your promises and mandates got over quarter of a century? @TNAmediaoffice will support abolition at whatever time based on policy and not expediency.”

Sri Lanka will go to polls in less than two months. The controversial former Defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, brother of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, is contesting from the SLPP, and the JVP is fielding its leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake. All eyes are on the UNP for its choice of candidate.

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Printable version | Dec 14, 2019 2:31:39 AM |

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