‘Nothing wrong in President consulting Prime Minister’

* 19A: UNP Chairman dismisses JHU allegations as baseless


By Shamindra Ferdinando

Dismissing resistance from the JHU to the 19th Amendment to the Constitution as baseless, the UNP yesterday emphasised that the President having to consult the Premier in matters relating to the government, other than those he/she was constitutionally empowered to act on was a strong democratic feature.

UNP Chairman Kabir Hashim, MP, yesterday said that those who had been campaigning against the 19th Amendment had made an issue of that particular feature.

JHU parliamentary group leader Ven. Athureliye Rathana thera, MP, yesterday lambasted the UNP for a government move to stage what he called a constitutional coup with judicial intervention. Appearing on a live Rupavahini programme the Ven. Thera vowed to thwart Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe’s bid to arrogate to himeself ‘dictatorial presidential powers’.

A deliberate attempt was being made to block the 19thAmendment in an obvious bid to retain the executive presidential system in its present form, the UNP Chairman said, alleging that the Opposition could be pursuing a destructive strategy in view of the next election.

The top UNP official said that those working overtime against the government initiative had deceived the public by claiming that the 19th Amendment would create an executive Prime Minister at the expense of democratically elected President.

The Prime Minister would function as the head of the Cabinet as well as the government in accordance with the Westminster system while the President would be the head of State as well as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, MP Hashim said.

The President retained the power to appoint the Prime Minister, he said, adding that the ongoing wave of protests had no basis.

The UNP Chairman warned that the country wouldn’t get another opportunity to repeal dictatorial features in the executive presidential system if political parties represented in Parliament blocked the 19thAmendment to the Constitution.

UNP Chairman Hashim urged those who had been campaigning against the 19A to extend their support for the President Maithripala Sirisena-Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe initiative to restore democracy.

The MP warned of a catastrophic situation in case political parties sought to advance their agendas instead of paving the way for abolition of dictatorial powers as promised by the new administration.

He said that with the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, the 18th Amendment would be automatically abolished and independent commissions envisaged in the 17thAmendment restored. As appointments to independent commissions would be made by Constitutional Council, the process would definitely strengthen democracy, MP Hashim said.

Responding to Opposition accusation that the proposed 19th Amendment would transform Maithripala Sirisena to a namesake president, the top UNP official said that the incumbent would hold defence, mahaweli and environment portfolios, though his successor wouldn’t have the same privilege.

MP Hashim said that those spearheading the on-going campaign against the government initiative had conveniently forgotten that the proposed Amendment would also guarantee the right to information.

The UNP emphasized that contrary to claims, the JHU hadn’t played a significant role in either the campaign to abolish the executive or formation of the joint Opposition. The UNP official said that the JHU had absolutely no responsibility as regards post-presidential election condition that the executive presidency should be repealed. Commenting on the JHU and a section of the SLFP adopting a common strategy, MP Hashim pointed out that the majority of the SLFP at the last presidential election stood for the continuation of executive presidential system. However, the vast majority of people overwhelmingly voted Opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena into power as they desired an end to the existing dictatorial system, he siad

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