18 May, 2022


Abolition Of Executive Presidency Becomes Imperative Following Easter Sunday Attacks

By Javid Yusuf

Javid Yusuf

With the Easter Sunday attacks and the fallout of terrorism holding the attention of the country in the past few weeks, a critical aspect of the country’s Governance has once again been relegated to a footnote in the discussions that relate to Sri Lanka’s future. The issue of the Executive Presidency which occupied centre stage in the 2015 Presidential Election campaign and figured on and off in the national debate thereafter is once again off the National Agenda.

The main argument by the proponents of the Executive Presidency that it is required to ensure the protection of the security of the state and the safety of the people was blown sky high by the Easter Sunday attacks. The terrorist attacks once again demonstrated that the Executive Presidency is utterly incapable of ensuring the protection of the day to day lives of the people.

The Easter Sunday attacks only confirmed what the country knew and had experienced in the past. 

When the seeds of the LTTE insurrection manifested itself in 1975 with the killing of  Jaffna Mayor Alfred Duraiappah there were only 13 members in the LTTE. Under the Executive Presidency which was introduced in 1978 the LTTE grew exponentially and became a powerful terrorist movement that wrought havoc on the country and on all sections of  society.

It was during the Executive Presidency that the attacks on the Central Bank, the Dalada Maligawa, the Sri Mahabodhi as well as  the worshippers in the mosques in Eravur and Katankuddy took place. Even the Army headquarters was infiltrated and a suicide bomber attempted to kill the Army Commander Sarath Fonseka. The then Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa too narrowly escaped an attack by the LTTE.

During the period of the Executive Presidency several political leaders were killed including President R. Premadasa, Lalith Athulathmudali, Gamini Dissanayake, Appapillai Amirthalingam, Sam Tambimuttu and M. H. M. Ashraff to name a few. President Chandrika Kumaratunaga was another victim and was badly injured in the terror attacks of the LTTE. The list is endless and is a further testimony that the Executive Presidency cannot ensure the safety and security of even its leaders let alone the people.

The final defeat of the LTTE in 2009 could in no way be attributed to the Executive Presidency and was due to a multitude of other reasons unconnected to the Executive Presidency. The international climate against terrorism after the 9/11 attacks in the USA and the LTTE’s own failed strategy of over extending themselves were two of the many reasons that  helped the Government to defeat the LLTTE. This could even have been achieved by a Parliamentary form of Government and did not require an Executive Presidency.

There are many similar achievements of Governments with a Parliamentary system in world history. The example that immediately comes to mind is the victory achieved by Great Britain in World War 2  under a collective Parliamentary system of Government headed by Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Another factor that is problematic in the Executive Presidency is that it creates two centres of power namely the President and the Prime Minister continuously creating conflicts in Governance. April 21, 2019 proved this at an unfortunate cost to the country.

The Executive Presidency becomes strong only if both the President and Prime Minister are from the same party. In such a situation the position of Prime Minister  is superfluous because he will have no powers. One recalls the lament of Prime Minister  R. Premadasa under President J.R. Jayewardene when he complained that he did not have the power of even a peon. On the other hand if a strong Prime Minister emerges from a party other than that of the President it will be a national catastrophe. 

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Latest comments

  • 2

    JAVID YUSUF: Your Article si just rubbish. Your title says because of the 4/@1 wahhabi attack, EP need to be abolished. But, What you write is all about LTTE killings, Winston Churchill’s somethings. all BS. Need a Poweful and responsible EP who can take control of Minorities who are going out of control and are becoming the Cat-paws of the foreign countries. Whether it is PM or President people should be able to select the most prominent politician. It may be PM, but he should be elected by People and not by the Parliament or the Carcass. Who ever the executive should be able to take control of the govt because right now many things are under the control of foreign powers via ministers working as the foreign agent.

  • 1

    Sri Laznka doe snot need, a humongous parliament and then President, PM, speaker and the Carcass head and they are completing to complete the foreign needs. At present, the president is not that powerful and he can not control the foreign agents inside the parliament. EP, should be restructured taking into consideration the corruptions of every president engaged upto now beginning from JRJ now MS. Even president was corrupt and worked for their families. Even though JRJ began the corruption, his corruption was nothing compared to what others do.
    Muslim are not banned to practice their religion. But, Sinhala buddhist culture is being destroyed because of Other Religions’ aggression and Foreign powers interpret democracy and buddhist – cooperation wrong way because of the geo-political demands.

  • 7

    So long as the executive presidency exists, this country will not be able to extricate itself from the hole in which it is wallowing now. Along with it, the system of proportional representation must also be abolished, and the first past the post system re-introduced.

    The provincial council system, which is eating up a huge amount of money daily, and is nothing more than a legalization of local thuggery, should also be abolished.
    In sum, the 1972 and 1978 constitutions have pushed the country down the precipice, and we must restore the best constitution we ever had, the Soulbury Constitution, with appropriate revisions.

    The existing political culture of corruption, nepotism and total dysfunction is beyond reform so long as the country still functions under the present constitution. We do not need a parliament of 225 members — a house of 60 would do, as would a cabinet of 12.

    Parliamentarians should be paid an allowance according to need, and all car permits, pensions and other perks should be abolished. They should not be paid an allowance for attending parliament. They should not be entitled to a car at the country’s expense. Instead, they should learn to use public transport. No one without a degree from a recognized university should be eligible for election to parliament. MPs who fail to attend parliament without reasonable excuse should be disqualified.

    Without the above reforms the same old feudal and criminal political culture will continue and hasten the country’s march towards a failed state.

    • 2

      HL you are right of course but this is Sri Lanka. Nobody cares enough, or has the power, to make the necessary changes.
      The sort of democracy that is found in the West has never flourished in the former colonies in Asia and Africa. Our attitude is still one of King and people. Very few of us understand or value democracy or comprehend the terrible alternatives.

  • 2

    Executive Presidency works under a strong leader like Mahinda Rajapakse. Mahinda was able to end a 25 year war in only 5 years. He let the military do its job, while keeping the human rights champions to one side. The author is incorrect when he says, “The final defeat of the LTTE in 2009 could in no way be attributed to the Executive Presidency and was due to a multitude of other reasons unconnected to the Executive Presidency.” There were many cases against Gothabaya, even Fonseka. It was Mahinda who shielded them. LTTE wanted to negotiate at the last minute; Mahinda refused. Because of EP, dissent against Mahinda, either from society or the civil service, amounted to nothing. So, people saw him as a strong leader, which boosted the morale of the armed forces. What a difference from CBK, who almost lost Jaffna to the Tigers.

  • 1

    There is nothing intrinsically wrong with the Executive Presidential system of government. Problems arise only when petty characters worm their way into that office. As this is quite inevitable given the caliber of our politicians, we can only conclude that the E.P. is not suitable for this country.

  • 3

    We need a executive president for Sri Lanka elected by the people more than ever. People have no trust on parliament. Govt has to depend on parties from minorities. Every body can see the effects of that.

  • 2

    Yes, we understand. It will make establishing the caliphate a lot easier, if we don’t have strong rulers.
    Pull the other one Yusuf.

    • 0

      You mean a strong ruler like Mad Sira?

  • 0

    What we need is an EP who can keep the sovereignty of the country in tact despite all internal and external influences by way of terrorism, economic or otherwise. It is not the EP position that is the problem but to have the ccorrect person for the job.

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