13 November, 2019

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19th Amendment Will Correct Itself At End Of President’s Current Term

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

As his presidential term draws to its close President Maithripala Sirisena is making it clear that he is not ready to quit the political centre stage without a fight. The president’s thinking appears to be more in accord with the words of the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas who wrote, “Do not go gentle into that good night…” The president is reported to be on the verge of asking the Supreme Court for an advisory opinion regarding when his term of office actually ends. The question is whether it ends on the day he took his oaths as president or on the day the 19th Amendment, which reduced his term from six to five years, was signed. If it is the latter the president will be entitled to six months more to remain as president.

The president’s interest is extending his term as president is not new. It goes back almost to the beginning. Just a few months after he was elected as president, having said he would be a one term president, the president began to make pronouncements that indicated he could see the benefits of continuing longer in office. A mere ten months after his election as president, he felt sufficiently pressurized to deny reports that he was planning to go back on his election-time commitment. This was done most notably at the funeral of Venerable Maduluwave Sobitha who contributed greatly to his victory.

However, the warning signs continued to keep flashing. Other leaders in the polity, in particular leaders of government, ought to have taken these warning signals seriously and negotiated at the outset with the president regarding his second term. If they had, and done so successfully, Sri Lanka may have been spared much of the suffering it has been subjected to on account of political infighting within the government. The causes of two of the most serious catastrophes to have been inflicted on the country and its people came as a result of the tensions between the president and the prime minister who had failed to deal with this elephant in the room.

Systemic Weakness 

The 52 day constitutional coup, by which the president sought to sack the prime minister and eventually the entire parliament in violation of the constitution can be directly attributed to the president’s frustration with his inability to make his aspirations become national policy. If the Supreme Court had yielded under pressure and legitimized the president’s actions, the president would have been in a powerful position to make his aspiration of a second term come true. However, led by a Chief Justice who was upright and feared God more than he did men, the Supreme Court withstood all pressures and ruled against the president’s actions.

The failure of the prime minister and the rest of his government to be adequately accommodative to the president’s desire to continue in office beyond his first term has been one of the main factors that have led to the breakdown of relations between the president and prime minister. This has been a very costly experience to the country. The nearly two month-long period of the constitutional coup saw the near breakdown of the government with public officers not knowing which master to serve. In addition there were regular public demonstrations against the president’s actions which led to a message of grave political instability being sent out to the world.

In these circumstances, the economy took a severe beating. Both business investors and tourists from abroad decided to spend their money elsewhere and in more stable countries in the neigbourhood which have been the indirect beneficiaries of Sri Lanka’s political misfortunes. Today these countries, such as Vietnam and Bangladesh are speeding ahead in their development whilst Sri Lanka has only a modest growth rate. These misfortunes got multiplied manifold following the failure to stop the Easter Sunday bombings due to massive security lapses, whose root cause can be traced to the inability of the president and prime minister to work together.

It cannot be forgotten that in the immediate aftermath of the constitutional coup, the president took over the police from the Ministry of Law and Order, which had earlier come under the purview of the prime minister. He also kept out the prime minister, deputy defence minister and inspector general of police from meetings of the National Security Council. These can be seen as efforts by the president to strengthen himself politically at the expense of the prime minister despite the systemic weakness this introduced to national security. Now the president has launched an ideological campaign to justify his actions to concentrate more power in himself and the presidency.

Incorrect Assumption 

The president is presently distancing himself from the 19th Amendment to the constitution which is one of the major pieces of legislation that was enacted by the government soon after it was elected to power. At that time, in mid-2015, the president earned praise for giving political leadership to the campaign to reduce the powers of the presidency, which had been brought to an all-time high by the 18th Amendment passed by his predecessor in office, President Mahinda Rajapaksa and utilized to the full by him in a manner that could have been considered as abuse of power, most notably in the sacking of the then chief justice.

The president has been saying that he was misled into giving his support to the 19th Amendment, and he did not realize at that time it set up two poles of power within the government that could make good governance difficult. The president is correct in pointing out the predicament that the country is in at the present time. There are two poles of power that make it difficult for either to operate if they choose to work in opposition to each other. The 19th Amendment was based on the assumption that President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, who had been close allies in the presidential election campaign of 2015, would continue to work together in a similar spirit of cooperation until the end of the president’s term.

As a special concession to President Sirisena who had taken great risks to contest the presidency, he was vested with more powers for this one term that ends at the end of 2019 than was intended in the long term for the presidency. He was given those powers just for one term, on the basis of his early commitment that he would be a one-term president. It should be noted that the abolishing of the executive presidency or the reduction of its powers have been at the core of constitutional reform movements for the past three decades. They have been promised by every president since 1994.

The president does not need to abolish the 19th Amendment in order to achieve the purpose of a single pole of power within the government. He has only to wait until the end of his current term for the powers of the presidency to be sharply reduced, and for the parliament led by the prime minister to take on the full powers of governance. This would be the end of one constitutional challenge. The main constitutional challenge that would remain for the new government to tackle would be the issue of power sharing to cope with regional and ethnic identity issues.

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Latest comments

  • 8
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    [edited out]

    Fact is that Bondscam Ranil must be impeached for looting the CBSL, and enabling and SOFA and MCC (for Turmpland to asset strip, land grab and ocean grab), before Sira goes because that would be no one to block the SOFA and MCC.
    Puppet Ranil and moron Mangala are part of the MCC project team to turn Lanka into a US colony and giant military base now that ICJ ruled that US-UK occupation of Chagos Islands and Diego Garcia base is illegal under international law.

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      Jehan Perera: BBS which was funded by USAID and set up by US citizen Gota is on the rampage again in Kandy. though your mandate was to work on religion. Please ask your buddy Alina Tep at the US embassy not to visit Buddhist monks in Kandy to sell SOFA and not to weaponize religion.

      Alina has been violating the US Constitution which seperates Religion/ church and State in Sri Lanka and weaponizing Buddhism so please ask her to take her Special Operations Forces (SOF) who organized the Easter Carnage to get SOFA passed and get out of Lanka. Sri Lanka does not need a paltry 450,000 USD after the Easter Carnage. 500 billion $$ from US would not be enough. Just ask them to get out of the Indian Ocean.
      Also ask teblitz what has happened to the FBI CIA investigation -cover up of the Easter crime by SOF??? Where did they take the suicide bombers phones, where did they destroy the US finger prints? What happened to the fake diplomats with bomb materials found at JAIC Hilton by police sniffer dogs?/Sri Lanka needs answers from the US for the Easter Carnage and FBI CIA cover up. Also dr. JP please read this report and educate yourself and stop taking US EU funds for fake NGO research work
      https://www.mintpressnews.com/u-s-special-operations-the-new-face-of-americas-war-machine/256431/

      • 4
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        The best thing is for the government and the opposition to get together and impeach Sirisena and throw him out of office. Why are they not doing it, is a mystery.

      • 0
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        ” Alina has been violating the US Constitution which seperates Religion/ church ”
        Dodo, don’t you suggest that Ambassador’s duty is implementing US constitution in Lankawe? I am with you on that man. But, instead starting with Religious issues, please ask her start with Language, that is, their Federal Structure, first. (Are you suggesting all your class , the Sinhala Buddhists, are fools or only you?)

    • 0
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      what an ignorat arseole

  • 1
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    Much overhyped 19A couldn’t reduce the president’s executive powers that much. As a result the president is still a very powerful figure. This will be remained true even after the 19A takes full effect at the end of the current presidential term. Problem with Maithreepala is that he is spineless and he fears if he acts against Ranil he might get impeached in the parliament. That’s why it appears as if there are two poles of power. If Mahinda was in the position of Maithreepala Ranil would be long gone. Mahinda wouldn’t tolerate Ranil’s BS.

  • 1
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    Let me comment point by point. The heading: Will there be a self correction when there is greed for power and the fact that Ranil Wicks is eyeing for the Presidency indicates that even a very diluted presidency has a lot of powers. The real issue is NEITHER the creation of a dictatorial setup arising out of the President and his party controlling the Parliament NOR the serious fighting between the President and the Parliament arising out of the President not commanding a majority in Parliament. Both the evils can be addressed upon mandating that a President directly elected by the people should not be some one from a political party. Leave the politics and policies to Parliament. President’s responsibility is to ensure the smooth functioning of the state machinery facilitating the implementation of the policy formulated by the Parliament. President also shall be the watchdog and prevent abuse by a Parliamentary majority and shall be the voice of the people. The second para under the heading of “systemic weaknesses”: Yes! The fight between the Prez and the PM costed the country. Is it because the UNP was not accommodative of Presidential desires? NO! knowledgeable sources indicate that the UNP was collecting the dirty linen of Sira’s good for nothing son. That is something that affects at a personal level. So Sira hit back with the appointment of a Commission to probe the bond scam. Last para of the same heading: The real issue is “some intelligence” has informed of a possible murder of Sira by Ranil. This is not some idle talk and a DIG is still in remand over this. It is the “same intelligence” that informs him of a possible assassination attempt by the drug cartel.

  • 1
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    the problem will not end with the presidents term of office it will continue unless the constituition is changed and that wont happen

  • 2
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    President Maithripala Sirisena has forgotten how destructive Ranil was becazuse Mahinda Rajapakse is hostile and he is taking the MAithripala eating HOPPERs from him and MR losing the election (MR initially blamed it on Basil Rajapkse and Namal made Basil run back to USA, Then Mr blamed CIA and RAW. then blamed Tamils and Muslims. Finally he came back to Ms.).
    How ever, CBK fired Ranil after 1994, because Ranil doe snot believe in becoming the president via an election. For Ranil, the best method is help CBK or Maithripala to become the president and then push him out of the chair and become the president.
    Remember, during the first three years of the Yahapalanaya govt, Maithripala was just a minister and Ranil was the President and then Finally, Maithripala Woke up and was trying to fire Ranil who locked himself inside the Temple Trees, in case, Mahinda Rajapakse come and settle there. Ranil has not stopped his antiques of chasing Maithripala and taking the PResident’s chair. Maithripala Still I think feel guilty because it is Ranil who helped Maithri to become the president. On the other hand, Ranil and his International community local chapter will not stop bad mouthing Maithri.
    What Sri lanka needs is abolish all the election related portions of the constitution and minorities should understand they are minorities. Sri lanka should have only a sinhala buddhist president.
    with the 20th amendment Srilanka should become a powerful Sinhala buddhist country. Even JVP and LSSP are supported by the International community and Wahhabis.

  • 2
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    The last para is a joke.
    The 19 Amendment, which only received 2/3 majority, has no power whatsoever to transfer the power of the Executive President to Parliament. In order to do that, as clearly stipulated in the Constitution, the Parliament should call for a Referendum
    It is the people who will decide whether they are in support of 19A or not.
    Until the 19A receives people’s approval, the President shall enjoy Executive powers.
    The executive power shared with Parliament and the PM at President’s own personal will, will come to an end with the election of a new President who will enjoy his executive powers in full.

  • 0
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    ” The question is whether it ends on the day he took his oaths as president or on the day the 19th Amendment, which reduced his term from six to five years, was signed.”

    obviously it is from the date he took his oaths.He must be thinking oaths and oats are the same.Once a farmer always a farmer they say.Does he think oath is just a joke.From that day he was the president of this country.If he had any amendment to his presidency,the date he took the oaths does not change.I am a finance man,not a constitutional expert,but fortunately not of a farmer background.i don’t blame sira for loving oats.The queen eats it every breakfast and must be a secret for her longevity and good health.It is full of fibre and vitamins.Srilankans also eat a lot of oats.

    ps.Sira is dying to be knighted i heard.I will give him a tip.If he goes and meets the queen and says he loves oats and eats it everyday and loves thoroughbred horses and dogs especially corgis,she will definitely say “arise sir sirisena”.

    • 0
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      made a mistake.It should be sri lankans also should eat a lot of oats.

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        shankar

        “made a mistake.It should be sri lankans also should eat a lot of oats.”

        You mean Quaker Oats!!

  • 0
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    “negotiated at the outset with the president regarding his second term. If they had, and done so successfully, Sri Lanka may have been spared much of the suffering it has been subjected to on account of political infighting “

    jehan,jehan,jehan you are a brainy chap,why don’t you use your brains.If we allow everyone to say one thing before the election and then do exact opposite after the election,we might as well tell the people to wait at home and not go and vote.And also you are forgetting that the infighting started with the bond scam.You have to blame ranil for that.The suffering we have endured is due to these 2 jokers and you want sira to have another term.are you mad.I would be greatly relieved to see the back of him this year and the back of ranil as PM next year,grobr of the two jokers.

  • 1
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    It should be fun to see how a freshly and directly elected Executive President, coexisting come February with a Parliamentary majority, Cabinet and PM from the party he supports and which supported him at the election,makes nonsense off all these predictions of a seismic power shift from Presidency to legislature!

    • 1
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      Dayan,
      I don’t see a potential for huge policy or personal conflicts if both institutions represent the same party. However, there will some conflicts if the two centers are represented by opposing parties. But, since the PM & the cabinet is far too powerful than the president, those differences will have no effect on the operation of the Gvt. If it can be managed now with a hostile president holding some exe power, It would be much easier come February. By the way, one thing certain: Unless you can get Putin to bargain on behalf of you, you will have to come back home to regurgitate the same old crap at Sirasa by Feb next year.

    • 0
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      UNP is going to win in the next February? Is that a Sumanadasa’s prophecy?

      Even if Vaalaiththodam Jr wins, for another 6 month Hakeem is the only one will be ruling the Lankawe. He is waiting to re-grab the power after resigning in support for Hezbollah’s blood river.

  • 0
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    DJ, I can see you gloating. A self created political disaster, by our self serving crooked politicians, over years has mutated to a much virulent form and now uncontrollable. When forefathers of countries got together in writing a constitution they anticipated these risks and came up with “checks and balances”. Where as in our Shit Hole, one man,s delusions of grandeur is good enough to change the constitution at will. Our constitution is not even worth the paper it is written.

  • 0
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    Jehan PhD wrote in 2014 that Old Brother Prince wanted to work with NGOs, but he was targeting to arrest Nimalka Fernando. In Dubious, writing Jehan is the PhD holder. The major change to take place after election is the New EP cannot hold any ministry. But he is still the leader of the cabinet.

    But let us see what the current situation is.

    Already he cannot hold other than defense and Mahaweli. But he is holding four ministries. How has it become possible? Because, Ranil is not ready to take legal action, because, that would weaken EP on UNHRC issue (War Crime).

    As Ranil will be the PM, if the New EP takes up with him any ministry, Ranil will not take action. That is certified. Suppose police and defense came to Ranil without any issue, yet if EP violates the constitution without cooperating with PM, is Jehan PhD is saying Ranil will be sending the Rapist Army to demolish the Presidential Palace or Police to arrest him and produce at Supreme Court?

    He can allocate ministries for anyone he likes. It needn’t be ruling party MP. So, for any ministry he wants to keep under his control, he can leave with his wife. Further, Ministry stripping or bloating, Department allocation and State Corporation allocation can compensate loss of most of the ministries. That is what he is doing, now too.

  • 1
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    19A will survive is a good amendment for the constitution 18 was a nightmare even with 19A MS is violating the constitution MS should be impeached and his civic rights should be removed .

  • 0
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    Dr. Jehan
    All your problems will be solved if you get Ranil W to contest for presidency. How come this simple solution does not occur to you at all?

    Soma

  • 0
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    The Constitution is but a tool to ‘Check & Balance’ the government of the day. It has to do with the heart and mind of the government rather than the flesh.
    Majority of Lankan silent majority know that changes to our Constitution were aimed at improving the personal wealth of a handful. LayLankans can only watch extremism proliferating.
    Jehan Perera has consistently said that our political leaders must self-clean
    .
    We now have JP-bashers who read JP’s words but not the message.

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