By R.M.B Senanayake –
I was listening to the views expressed by the Minister Champika Ranawaka over the Sirasa TV program on Saturday. I am afraid the Minister seems to be confused about the two different forms of government. There is the Executive Presidential form of government and the Westminster system. The latter form of government which prevails in Britain is governed more by Conventions rather than by law. The alternative to the Executive Presidential form of government is the Cabinet form of government where there is no Chief Executive. It is a collective form of decision-making called the Cabinet with each Minister being responsible for the supervision of the departments under his control. The Prime Minister was never considered the Chief Executive in the Westminster form of government. In fact there is no formal Head of the Executive in the Westminster form of government. The Government is the Cabinet. The post of Prime Minister is considered as the first among equals not a Chief Executive.
But a collective body cannot be an effective Executive as pointed out by theorists of political science and management. So over time the Prime Minister evolved as the first among equals. Some British Prime Ministers were strong like Margaret Thatcher but their power depended on their control of the political party. She eventually lost control over the Cabinet. This situation was possible because there was no legal or constitutional provision that the Head of the Government was the Prime Minister. So those who drafted the 19th Amendment seem to have erred. They are constitutional lawyers’ not political scientists who have studied the evolution of the Cabinet form of government. Similarly Minister Champika is confused about the Westminster form of government. But nowhere in the British Constitution is the Prime Minister legally recognized as the Head of the Executive branch of the Government. As far as I remember he is not even recognized as the Head of the Government.
President J.R.J adopted a hybrid form of government and the present constitutional experts also seem to be confused into adopting a hybrid form of Constitution. Minister Champika opposes the abolition of the Executive Presidency. I thought the SLFP wants it abolished. So the political leaders must first decide between the two forms of government.
To meet the criticism of the Minister Champika I suggest that the clause about a Head of Government be deleted. The President is the Head of State and in the Westminster system it is the Cabinet which is the form of government. There is no legal provision for a Head of the Executive or a Head of Government in the British form of Government.