By Rusiripala Tennakoon –
Country is on the verge of a Presidential Election to be held in November 2O19. This is the first Presidential Election to be held after the (last} constitutional amendment, the 19th, to reduce the powers of the Executive. We had to face many puzzles leading to critical situations during the 15th Parliament, inundated with controversies, complications and uncertainties which arose after the new Amendment. Parliament is scheduled to end in five years after the date of the first meeting unless dissolved sooner, ie. after a period of four and half years from that date, under the powers of the President as provided for in the amended Article 7O of the Constitution. Parliament met for the First time after the General Election (17th August 2O15), on 1st September 2O15. Hence according to the Constitution the term of the Parliament terminates on 1st September 2O2O or on any date after the expiry of 4 years and 6 months from the first meeting date if the President decides to dissolve it. The earliest it can happen is on 1st March 2O2O.
The term of the new President could commence on any day in November 2O19 or in early December.
The new President shall be the Head of the Cabinet of ministers and will have to appoint a Prime Minister and determine the number of Ministers of the cabinet of ministers and the Ministries and it is the President who will have to assign the subjects and functions to such Ministers.(Articles 42 and 43 of the Constitution)
Further the President Shall on the advice of the New Prime Minister, appoint Ministers to be in charge of the Ministries so determined.(Article 43 )
This is the course of action we can expect to take place following the Presidential Election irrespective of who wins.
In respect of the UNP there is no guarantee whether Mr. Sajith Premadasa will appoint the former PM or he will decide on fresh blood to replace him. He has been asked several times in Public Forums by media representatives about this matter but he has not provided a clear answer. He has always replied them evasively stating that this is only a Presidential Election and such matters do not arise now. But he has made a clear announcement about his Minister In Charge of Defense affairs by naming Sarath Fonseka, during his ceremonious first Campaign rally. This leaves the UNP quarters in a Dilemma. Are they going to get a new PM in the event of a Premadasa victory! If the sitting PM , RW is going to be reappointed why is it difficult for Premadasa to state so. Or is it due to other reasons such as the controversies surrounding RW on various fronts that he is unwilling to name him now for fear of reprisal by the voters.
This incomprehensibility is further aggravated due to other statements made by Mr. Premadasa more often in his campaign trail. He keeps on stating that he will introduce new policies, plans and schemes in all spheres of thought and action pronounced by him. Is he declaring that all plans and strategies of the UNP have to go down the drain? His PM, RW has already announced more than 3 Economic policy plans running into future periods projected till 2O25. Some of these plans have been prepared at huge costs by renowned International Bodies such as Harvard Universities Centre for International Development (HCID). Mr. Premadasa’s contemplations to replace them with his oriental doctrines although hitherto unannounced, is a virtual no confidence on the POLICIES PUT FORWARD BY HIS OWN PARTY. Has he got a mandate from his party or the political envoys grouped with him representing several other organizations to declare completely new policies which tantamount to a virtual denouncing of what are being currently pursued? It sounds rather rude and awkward for a candidate put forward by a Party to publicly depredate their own policies and plans currently in force by pronouncing deficiencies.
This position is worse confounded due to his stating that he worked his way up with the help of the people. Which means in effect if the people did not demand the party would have put forward someone else as the candidate. So he appears to be one person on his own and even the policy plans are going to be so therefore. This situation is damn too serious for the future of the country. It might even lead to a repetition of the state of affairs that prevails currently between the President and the PM. Country needs a well guided path beyond amateurish second rate applications to take it out of the mess it is now in. Rhetoric filled with flowery language will not take us anywhere near our goals. Some of the pledges and statements made by Mr.Premadasa appear to be without any basis or backed by any planned programs.
It is extremely interesting to pay some attention to various views expressed about the recent Local government election result of the Elpitiya Pradeshiya Saba. It is indeed a resounding victory to a new born Party. This election would have been held with the other local bodies held in 2O18. Court released a mandamus order directing the returning officer Galle District Elections to hold the election. Accordingly the election was held on the nominations received in 2O18.The election result is considered by many as an indicator and a precursor of the current political trends.
This election was held on the day following a mammoth rally of the UNP held in the Galle Face Green. The large crowd that was mustered has not impacted the Elpitiya voters much. If not for the boost up it gave the voting percentage would have been much lower.
Under such circumstances and the failed and unsatisfactory performance of the UNP governance with several other debatable and suspicious happenings involving leading characters of the party, Mr. Premadasa will have to present an extremely powerful and credible plan of action both to contain the ranks and to win any new voters. His speeches with full of rhetoric, big talk and flowery language will do much less to deliver the expected results. In the context of a candidate presenting a serious policy backed vision Mr. Premadasa’s empty utterings may not receive any valuable response other than scorn and dismay.
As a candidate Mr. Premadasa sounds heavily confused rather than being able to inculcate any feeling of security and confidence in the minds of the voters. He stated in Public while his PM was present that he had to work his way up in a hard way to win the candidature. In the same breadth he thanked the PM for accommodating him. He was indirectly apologetic to his audience when he had to say that he will try to secure the national security after he becomes the President by handing over the portfolio to Sarath Fonseka. He owes an explanation as to why his government failed to do it all this time. The Government he was in as a cabinet Minister tried out many other characters long before a controversy developed from the President about Fonseka being given that responsibility! At the Galle face meeting he unhesitatingly called upon those who wish to continue their corrupt activities to quit immediately. He declared that there will be no room for such persons in his government. Certainly for any type of national leader that was not the forum to cast aspersions of that nature. In very many forums he was invited to speak it was seen that he was only planning to plan. He gave an impression that his conceptualization may take a long time to see the light of the day and some more time for their gestation.
All these indicate that the UNP may have had other reasons for baptizing Premadasa as their Candidate. The people who appeared in the revolt for his emergence could hardly be regarded as conspirators disloyal to their leader. So are we to conclude that the whole affair was staged to avoid some other humiliation! There was a foregone conclusion in the UNP circles for some time that its leader is not suitable to stand for elections on behalf of the Party. However his descend had to be carefully maneuvered. So the episode we saw appeared on stage.
Proven ability, experience and strong commitments are essential factors in a leadership formula. According to what is emanating now unless UNP engages itself in a course correction exercise before it is too late, the drifting may result in heavy damages.