Parliament to forward 20A to Attorney General


JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake hands over a copy of the 20 Amendment to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya and Secretary General of Parliament Dhammika Dassanayake on Friday (May 25). JVP MPs Sunil Handunnetti and Nihal Galappatti look on. Pic courtesy Speaker’s Office

By Saman Indrajith

Parliament will send the 20th Amendment (20A) to the Constitution to abolish the Executive Presidency presented by the JVP to the Attorney General and the Prime Minister.

Chief Opposition Whip and JVP Leader Anura Dissanayake handed over the 20A to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya and Parliament Secretary General Dhammika Dassanayake at the Parliament Complex yesterday.

MP Dissanayake, speaking to the media after the submission of the 20A as a Private Member’s Bill along with MPs Sunil Handunnetti, Nihal Galappatti and Dr Nalinda Jayatissa, said President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe must make known to the public their positions on the abolition of the Executive Presidency.

He pointed out that if the Government had a genuine interest in delivering its pre-election pledge of abolishing the Executive Presidency, it could have presented the Bill in Parliament and passed it within a period of 2-3 months. "The Government can procrastinate if it is not interested. We are ready for a broad discussion with all political parties and accommodate amendments as necessary. We are open for constructive criticism," he added.

 The Bill has to be gazetted after the approval of the AG before it is presented in Parliament.

Responding to a question by a journalist, the Dissanayake pointed out that their initiative to present the 20A came with the realization that the space for a new Constitution was fast shrinking with the latest developments in the political sphere. "Since the new Constitution is a distant reality, our effort is to push for more democratic reforms," he said.   

 "The Executive Presidency has created many unwanted problems over the years. Excessive Presidential powers have eroded all democratic institutions. Parliament is a mere rubber stamp and the Cabinet of Ministers are reduced to puppets under the Executive Presidency. Even the Judiciary could be influenced. Since the day the Executive Presidency came into being, there has been a strong voice against it. All successive Presidents, who came to power after 1994, pledged to abolish it in their election manifestos. This was one of the main election slogans of Common Candidate Sirisena. This Government cannot get away from this undertaking. We challenge the two leaders at the helm to say in public their positions on abolition of Executive Presidency" he told the media.

The JVP Leader pointed out that the JVP was not keen on engaging with groups having "servile mentality" who waned to retain the Executive Presidency for their own survival.

Under the proposed 20th Amendment, the President would be appointed by Parliament, instead of a Presidential Election. The President would continue to be the Head of State and the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, but he would no longer be the Head of Government and the Head of Cabinet of Ministers. The proposed 20th A would be implemented only after the current term of office of President Maithripala Sirisena.

As per the draft bill, the Head of Government and the Head of Cabinet of Ministers would be the Prime Minister. The President’s powers would be distributed among the Cabinet, Prime Minister, Constitutional Council and independent commissions, he said.

Dissanayake however said the President would continue to have the powers of appointing the Governors of Provinces as same as under the 13th Amendment. The President’s power to appoint Ambassadors and High Commissioners and grant pardons would be subject to cabinet approval as per the proposed amendment. It would also remove the President’s power to prorogue the parliament.


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