24 May, 2019

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Mr. President: Enact The 20A Through A Referendum

By Nagananda Kodituwakku

Nagananda Kodituwakku

Nagananda Kodituwakku

Mr. President: Enforce Articles 85 & 86 of the Constitution to enact the 20A through a referendum

Watchful and concerned citizens are witnessing as to how the President Sirisena’s proposed 20th amendment to the Constitution is being effectively hijacked by the Rajapaksa clan, demanding more MPs under the Proportional Representation System to the Parliament.

Historical background

When the British left this country, a time-tested democratic system of governance, was established in this country, based on the British Westminster style that prevails untouched even today in the UK. Under this system all members to the House of Commons are directly elected by the people and but not a single member is appointed or elected by any other means. Under Westminster democracy, all candidates are required to prove their worth to their respective constituencies and are required to win a clear mandate over all other opposing candidates.

JRJ removed the Westminster Democracy for a private benefit

When JRJ was elected to office in 1977, this truly democratic system was abandoned and relying on the voter-base the UNP enjoyed countrywide, the current proportional representation system was established. This invariably permitted all undesired people, including ethanol smugglers, drug dealers, murderers, sexual offenders and many other anti-social elements to enter into mainstream politics. As a result the legislature was heavily burdened with social liabilities, who have entered the Parliament after aggressive and expensive election campaigns. And it is sad to note that it has been customary for the Executive to abuse the office of the Attorney General to have the indictments, served on such criminals who have become MPs, withdrawn.

MaithripalaPeople have lost faith in the PR system

Fed up and disgusted with the character and conduct of such people dominating the legislature, the people have given a clear mandate to President Maitripala Sirisena to revert to the Westminster style of governance that offers only a very slim chance for the cheats to become MPs over their opponents who are with a high degree of integrity and social stand.

Corrupt politicos want PR system to continue

It is apparent that Rajapaksa clan in the UPFA is busy and do their utmost best to resist the changing of the electoral system that would inevitably reject most of the anti social elements now enjoy the status of an MP. Rajapaksa clan has now indicated that they would only support the 20 A that would provide more members to the legislature elected through the PR system and it appears that President Sirisena has been rattled by their demands.

Inalienable sovereignty of this country is in the people

Amending the electoral system – is clearly a matter of ‘national importance’ affecting the democratic rights of the citizens of this country. Under the prevailing scenario, it is certain that in the event the 20A is placed before the people, they would surely reject the proportional representation system altogether and would endorse, the return to the Westminster Style of governance.

Respect the people’s sovereign rights and their power to make laws

The Constitution itself asserts that sovereignty of this country is in the people. This inalienable right includes all powers (Article 3), including Legislative, Executive, and Judicial power – Article 4 [a], [b], [c] – that is exercised through the Parliament, the President and the Cabinet of Ministers and the Judiciary. This is purely a social contract with the people. And once people lose the trust and confidence in these institutions, those who administer these institutions, effectively lose their right to remain in office.

The Chief Justice, Sripavan, in his ceremonial address made on 09th of Jan 2015, clearly gave way to this constitutional norm with the following remarks.

“…The administration of Justice draws its legal sanction from the Constitution, its credibility rests in the faith of the people. Indispensable to that faith is the Independence of the Judiciary. Public confidence in the administration of Justice is imperative to its effectiveness, because ultimately the ready acceptance of a judicial verdict gives relevance to the justice system. We should always try to see that our Courts of law should be the Temple of Justice and it is our proud privilege to work together in order to make democracy of our country to be the best symbol and emblem for the whole region…”

Let the people use their power (Article 85 & 86) to enact the 20A

The constitution provides, that the President is empowered to submit any matter to people by Referendum, which in the opinion of the President is of ‘National Importance’ (Article 86) and any such bill submitted to the people for a Referendum to become law if approved by an absolute majority of the valid votes cast by the people at such a referendum (Article 85 of the Constitution).

Right-thinking people of this country are at a loss to understand as to why the President is not given the correct advice by his advisors, when the President enjoys ample power under the constitution to bring about the necessary changes to the electoral system. There is absolutely no need for him to plead for support of the corrupt politicos to change the electoral system. Plainly what he should do is to refer the 20A to the people at a referendum in terms Article 86 of the Constitution.

Introduce zero tolerance of election propaganda

It is also pertinent to introduce a new law with drastic changes to the existing electioneering system that permits corrupt politicos to spend billions of ill gotten to win over the people.

Proven examples can be drawn from the British Election System that forbids election propaganda altogether, encompassing both electronic and print media. This would enable the honest people who truly wish to serve the nation to enter into mainstream politics, denying the undesirable elements to abuse the system with scant respect to the Rule of Law.

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Latest comments

  • 3
    0

    This is a good idea but people are hallozinated by the forces being stablized by MR and his goons. So the outcome of a referendum could be misguided.

    See what happened at the time JRJ called for a referendum… ? This time, people would react even worst.. that is what I feel… every 2nd of the society has no idea about good governance… no matter even their lovely ones would have been abducted by Rajapakse made society, people would not get it easily. As if injected mice have been set for radiation reactions, those 5.8 mio would stay / indifferent.

    Those 5.8 mios that voted for him and his supporters will take much more time to realize the gravity ofthe problem of the society- made by Rajapakshe.

    • 0
      4

      ha ha this is awesome. ban election propaganda all together. this president won thanks to great propoganda and lots and lots of money. I wonder where he got all that money?

  • 3
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    Mr. Kodituwakku is absolutely right when he says that the president should refer 20A to a referendum.

    But he is wrong when he purveys the British Parliament as the ideal model for Sri Lanka. He completely ignores the anachronism called the House of Lords (the Upper House), a most undemocratically constituted body that no country should emulate.

    Let the people decide. Pundits should cease to bray.

    • 0
      0

      You may be right.

      AMong the parliamentarians public secret, there are over 80 there wihtout Olvels.

      So how can we rely on them ?

      Not uttering a single word about this but to react other way around has been the nature of Rajapakshe. SO why those 5.8mio to further support the bugger. I really dont know.. anyways.. this is the reality.

  • 3
    1

    Thank you for your input on the 20th amendment.

    Dharisha Bastians in a very perceptive write up today warns us the renaissance of the pro-MR elements. She however does not aver to a possibility of electoral triumph by MR-led forces.

    As she says the present electoral system may favour the retrograde MR-cronies to enter the new parliament. Further, a delay in holding the election after the September UNHCR session, may also favour the MR-faction which will bring its pseudo-anti-national ‘Nationalism’ into greater play. The prolongation of the life of the present parliament is also expected to play into MR’s hands. The government is being pushed into a defensive posture and partial paralysis by MR-schemed antics. If the General Elections are inordinately postponed how will it impinge on the electoral fortunes of the Maithri-Ranil led forces?

    http://www.ft.lk/article/431451/Paving-the-way-for-Rajapaksa-renaissance

    An election based on a new electoral system and soon, seems a necessity. However, is it possible? How feasible is the idea of the referendum you propose, in view of the time factor? Is the 20th amendment a priority, when all the factors are considered?

    I hope the government weighs all factors and options and makes a wise decision to cash-in on the advantages it currently has.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  • 1
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    Excellent idea Nagi. The recent UK elections killed two birds with a single stone (sorry, I am against any sort of killing, ‘Panathipaatha’). They appointed voted for MPs & Council members at the same time. Look at the positives, savings & productivity etc.. The ‘Yahapalanaya’ will if they dissolve the parliament and hold an election for both, Govt. & 20A. while the kettle is still warm. I am pretty sure the 62 million and more will vote for it.
    By the way, keep up the good work Nagi. Metta!!

  • 1
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    In my opinion a constitutional amendment could not be enacted by the President through a referendum unless the bill is previously passed by a two third majority in parliament.

    Any issue brought in by the President and passed in a referendum without two third majority will not become part of the constitution but it will be only a public opinion poll.

    The president has no way of bypassing Parliament.

    Sri

  • 1
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    I am surprised that the first-past-the-post (FPP) electoral system as practised in the UK is being promoted over proportional representation. The UK system is considered deficient by many.

    The UKIP gaining one seat for the 3.5 million votes cast for it in the recent election, and the SNP gaining 50+ seats for one million votes, illustrates the problem well. If we revert to this archaic system, only the SLFP headed alliance, the UNP headed alliance, the Tamil National Alliance and the Muslim Congress in the East will make it into Parliament. The JVP, the JHU and possibly the parties representing Indian-origin Tamils will be shut out.

    In addition, we are likely to see Parliamentary representation unreflective of voting, such as the 5/6th majority gained by the UNP with 50 percent of the vote in 1977. The Sri Lankan discussion on the electoral system is much more advanced and seeks to blend the best aspects of PR and FPP, where the overall result will be determined by PR, but who actually occupies the seats gained by each party will be mostly determined by who won the FPP races.

  • 0
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    Is Mr Koditiwkku saying that even if the Supreme Court determines that a referendum in not necessary, the President should call a referendum for some moral reason? Unless he is saying this, let us leave it to the SC to determine.

  • 0
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    First and foremost we should understand that all organs, including the Supreme Court get legitimacy to function from the people who possess all powers.

    All three organs (Legislature, Executive and Judiciary) only performing a social contract purely on trust [Article 4 of the Constitution. And once trust and confidence is lost or violated, these organs cannot function any more.

    Supreme Court enjoy no power over what bill should be referred to the people at a Referendum.

    The President may in his volition submit to the People by Referendum any Bill which has been rejected by the Parliament. [Article 85 (2). This includes any bill to amend the Constitution which has not been rejected by the Parliament.

    20A has not been rejected by the Parliament and therefore, there is nothing prevent the President from referring the 20A direct to the People.

  • 0
    0

    Mohan,

    I promote the first-past-the-post (FPP) electoral system for a reason. As you correctly said the PR is good, but it is good for a society where the people are educated and knowledgeable of their constitutional rights.This is not case in Sri Lanka.

    In my view, the best way to prevent cheats and criminals from occupying office as a MP or Minister is to made them to contest one against another (FPP) like in the UK.

    Under PR system, any crook who spends more ill-gotten wealth and gets preferential vote over the cut off point, becomes eligible to enter the legislature, that is the danger in this system, whereas if they are made to contest one against another it becomes hard to qualify, if the opponent is a person with good character and integrity.

    However, for this to work effectively, like in the UK, there has be a law imposing blanket ban on any form of electioneering.

  • 0
    0

    Nagananda,

    I disagree.

    The legislative power is vested with the Parliament and the Parliament has to exercise this right in terms of the provisions in the constitution.

    Two conditions have to be satisfied in the case of amending or repealing entrenched clauses in the constitution.

    Firstly it should be passed by two third majority in parliament and secondly by the people through a referendum.

    A constituent assembly process may be an alternative.

    Sri

  • 0
    0

    The writer is glorifying a cut throat. Sirisena has all the right to move on his own and contest the elections. But as now we understand the under hand work has happened for more than three years. The apparatus they selected a cabinet sub committee of UNP MPs to charge opponents is misguided. They should have tried them under the normal laws of the country if they were wrong doors. None of them are charged on the mega frauds the UNP was blaming when they were in the opposition. These opponents are tried on petty crimes on unbaliable offences and taken to custody. I know this will lead to a bitter political repercussions in the future.

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