While ‘Lawyers for Democracy’ congratulates the President and the Government for having removed the fear psychosis from society, to a great extend, for having done away with the white van culture, and the positive steps that is being taken to make the Right to Information a fundamental right, we are deeply concerned of the changes made to the original draft of the 19th amendment in the constitutional amendment bill that is gazetted. It is seen that the original draft is in keeping with the mandate that was sort at the presidential election to abolish the Executive Presidential System. The gazetted bill deviates from this mandate and in fact will lead to the continuation of the Presidential System with certain changes.
The essence of the demand for the abolition of the Presidential System is that the Executive Power has to be exercised under the supervision of Parliament which is exercised by a Cabinet of Ministers answerable and accountable to Parliament. In such a situation Executive Power will be exercised under the control of Parliament. This is plainly manifest by the fact that the Prime Minister and the Cabinet can function in there capacities only as long as they have the support of majority of members of Parliament.
So it is of importance that the Prime Minister should be the Head of the Government and the President be the Head of the State and the Commander of the Forces.
If the President is in addition is the Head of Government as set out in the Gazetted bill the question of accountability of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet to Parliament arises. The check on the exercise of Executive Power will be seriously affected by this arrangement. Further in a Parliamentary form of government that was envisaged in the 19th amendment, the President has to act on the advice of the Prime Minister on matters set out in the Constitution.
Certain powers being vested in the present President during his term of office since he is an elected President as interim arrangements are understandable. But what has to be enacted is the complete removal of executive powers now vested in the President.
It is distressing to see that these changes to the original draft are being made under pressure brought by persons who opposed the President at the Election and was the main force behind the Rajapaksa regime.
We call upon the President and Parliament to see that the mandate given by the people is not frustrated and to bring in the required amendments by removing obnoxious provisions when the 19th amendment bill is debated in Parliament.
Convener Lawyers for Democracy
‘Lawyers for Democracy’ (LfD) is a representative body of legal practitioners throughout the island. Conveners include Lal Wijenayake, Chandrapala Kumarage, J. C. Weliamuna, K. S. Ratnavale, Sudath Netthisinghe, Sudarshana Gunawardana. It was established on 10th December 2009.