Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka says former President Mahinda Rajapaksa lost the Presidential poll despite wielding unlimited powers and resources, due to his ego that rendered him unwilling to implement the kind of political reforms that were demanded by the masses.
“Former President Rajapaksa spent Rs. 43,000 on every vote during the past election. Although his allies boast of the 5.7 million votes he received, each and every vote he obtained was won through heavy voter bribing. Now they blame that defeat on foreign spy services and conspiracies,” Minister Ranwaka said speaking at the JHU’s National Convention held this week.
In his speech, the Minister was also quite critical of the constitutional reforms, the 19th amendment and its contents.
“In President Sirisena’s manifesto, it has been very clearly stated that no tampering will be done on sections of the constitution that call for a referendum. Certain individuals are referring to a ‘schedule’ and various other documents but they are not what we approved. The manifesto is the ONLY document that received the unanimous consent of all the parties that were involved with the common opposition movement,” he said.
He said therefore those who formulated and presented the 100-day program should bear responsibility of implementing the necessary changes according to the schedule set in the program. “We are not answerable to that program – our only focus is on implementing the promises we made and doing justice to the mandate given by the people,” he said.
The Minister also noted that right from the commencement of President Sirisena’s election campaign, no promise was made to abolish the Executive Presidency as such an amendment would clearly require a referendum.
“The agreement was only to curtail certain arbitrary powers of the Executive Presidency and replace it with a system that is accountable to the parliament. . . It should also be noted that the constitutional reforms promised during President Sirisena’s campaign are not limited to curtailing executive powers of the presidency and establishment of independent commissions but also vitally includes constitutional reforms,” he said.
Minister Ranawaka said the JHU expressed their objection to the draft of the 19th amendment that was presented by the PM earlier this month as he demanded it to be gazetted on the very night it was presented before the cabinet.
“We set our eyes on the document only that very day. If that was allowed to be gazetted, it would have been a deadly blow to good governance since the document clearly required a careful study of its contents. Moreover, its content was in violation of the agreements made at the party leaders’ meeting in the days leading up to presenting the 19A draft,” he said adding it contained a ‘constitutional conspiracy’ to curtail some of the essential powers of the President required to ensure the stability of the country.
“According to the Constitution, the President is the leader of the state, the government, the Executives and the tri-forces. Unfortunately, today some of these legal experts who draft constitutional amendments haven’t been able to grasp the difference between the state and the government. These vital powers had been systematically scrapped and one section stated that the PM would be the leader of the government and the cabinet, which would then entitle him with the power to appoint governors,” he remarked while adding the mandate given by the masses to the President whom they elected into power, cannot be changed by a few figures who seek to implement constitutional amendments to suit their whims and fancies.
He said therefore they agreed for the following amendments to be made to the powers entitled to the Executive Presidency:
- The President shall not hold an unlimited number of portfolios – the number of cabinet ministers should be limited to 30
- The appointment of Ministers should be carried out by the President only upon consulting the PM
- The President must seek advice when appointing Ministry Secretaries
- In order to prevent interference’s with judicial autonomy, the power to make judicial appointments will be transferred to the judicial services commission
- The President’s right to dissolve the parliament within a year of being elected should be scrapped
- The President will be held accountable to the judiciary by allowing human rights cases to be filed against him/her
- The President shall remain accountable to the parliament not simply with concern to finances but also other aspects
- An individual already elected into presidency shall contest for a maximum of two terms
- The President shall seek advice before granting Presidential pardon to criminals
However, he added that they stressed on the need for the section that declares the President as the leader of the state, the government, executives and the tri-forces to be continue as it is.
“But this section still remains unchanged. Although the initial sections of the 19A draft states the President is the leader, this fact is not corroborated in the latter sections of the draft. . . The PM is stated as the Leader of the government. This is a constitutional mockery. We don’t know whether this is a deliberate conspiracy or whether it’s a flaw that was overlooked due to the haste to gazette it but we would like to warn those trying to tamper with the mandate granted by the people – if any attempt it made to disrupt the implementation of the true mandate or tamper with it, we will take steps to ensure they do not remain in power!,” he added.
Watch the full speech;