13 April, 2024

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New Mandates Before New Amendments 

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The interest in the electoral process has suddenly been sparked off by news that the government is contemplating holding a referendum on abolishing the executive presidency. The reported concern is that no candidate at presidential elections to be held next year will achieve the 50 percent mark to win the presidency at the first round of elections itself. This occurred in neighboring Maldives last month, where no candidate at the presidential election reached the 50 percent mark at the first round of elections. Since the first presidential election in Sri Lanka in 1982 every succeeding election has been won on the first round of counting. Going to a second round of counting would be a new experience, but the constitution provides for three rounds of counting to get the winner, and if no one reaches the 50 percent mark, the candidate with the highest number of votes will be declared the winner.

Apart from the proposal to abolish the presidency on this questionable basis for which no government leader has yet taken responsibility, there are also plans to change the electoral system. The Minister of Justice Dr Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe has taken responsibility for this proposal and said the reforms envisaged will see the election of 160 members to Parliament under the first-past-the-post system. The remaining 65 members from a 225-seat Parliament would be represented by the National list and District list depending on the number of voters under the proportional voting system. Both proposals present issues of epic proportions. They have been canvassed in the past, both individually and jointly, and by ad hoc means as well as part of systematic efforts to devise a new constitution as occurred in 2000 and again in 2015. But on each and every occasion there have been objections and challenges from different political parties and interest groups, and the electoral reform process has stalled.

There are two major elections on the near horizon of the election calendar that could be negated if the proposed constitutional maneuvering is successful. The first is the presidential election which is due be held before October 2024. The second are the parliamentary elections which are due by August 2025. The problem for the government is that it needs to ensure its victory at the presidential election if it is to carry on to the full term of the parliament. A loss at the presidential election would put the government into a very vulnerable position. It is likely that a new president, if from the opposition, would immediately dissolve parliament and call for early elections rather than let the present parliament continue for its full term until August 2025.

Government’s Apprehension 

The news about the bid to do away with the executive presidency and to change the electoral system in a hurry may be in the nature of exploratory statements to test the waters before plunging into them. The development of the concept and process therefrom have so far not been transparent and little is known beyond what has been reported in some news media. However, the possibility that the government is contemplating going ahead to ascertain the views of the people through a referendum, which is bound to be costly, seems to have reactivated the Election Commission. Election Commissioner RMAL Rathnayake has said that the fresh initiative had been taken as another effort to ensure that the long-overdue local council elections were conducted soon. He said they had also taken into consideration that the government’s financial position had improved now and that some of the court rulings related to the local council elections were due.

It seemed that the Election Commission had fallen to its nadir when a decision to cancel the nominations was agreed upon by the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils and Local Government on September 20. This was after repeated requests by the Election Commission to the government treasury to release the funds needed to conduct the elections were ignored. The basis on which the elections were postponed was that the country did not have sufficient money to spend on conducting elections due to the economic crisis the country. The government also went a step beyond in its decision not to hold the elections when it ignored a supreme court ruling that the funds allocated in the national budget for local government elections should not be withheld. The delay in holding the local government elections forestalled a defeat that would have delegitimised the government at a time when it was focusing on efforts to rescue the economy.

The government’s decision to ignore the supreme court ruling regarding the conducting of elections that had fallen due and were overdue indicates a democracy that is going off course. It is to be hoped that a similar disregard for the courts will not be shown by the government. The Election Commission’s attempt to get reactivated after its enforced period of hibernation and to hold the local government elections is a positive sign that the institutional integrity of certain core mechanisms remains intact. This would provide a positive feedback loop so that other government agencies could also act with similar creativity and integrity when the time is opportune and they are called upon to deliver. This would be particularly true of the judiciary which ought to be the equal of the executive and legislature in a well-functioning democracy.

Expired Mandates 

The interest of the government in conducting a referendum on the abolition of the executive presidency at a time when it has refused repeatedly to hold pending local government and provincial council elections gives rise to the surmise that it is the nature of a political strategy. Safeguarding the present parliament from early dissolution by a new president is not going to be an easy task. Neither is abolishing the presidency going to be easy either. The executive presidency is not only a central feature of the present constitution, the president is insulated from the “whims and fancies” of parliament as the first president of Sri Lanka, JR Jayewardene once opined. If it is abolished there would be a question about the future of President Ranil Wickremesinghe who is currently insulated from the whims and fancies of the parliamentary majority. It is significant that no one has yet claimed responsibility for putting out the proposal regarding the abolition of the presidency.

The president also has a central role to play in the provincial council system as the appointing authority of the governors of the provinces. It may be no coincidence that parallel to the news emerging of a possible move to abolish the presidency, the constitutional committee appointed by former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa to draft a new constitution convened its own meeting. Speaker after speaker at the occasion spoke about the dangers posed by the provincial council system and the 13th Amendment to the unity and sovereignty of the country. The irony is that while the government is seeking to abolish the presidency, the constitutional committee appointed by the former president has advocated a further strengthening of the presidency. The indications are, therefore, that the abolition of the executive presidential system will be fraught with controversy.

The government’s plan to change the electoral system at the present time is also unlikely to materialize. The proposed new system is detrimental to the election of ethnic and religious minorities who will not wish to give it their support. It also evokes the nightmare possibility of a replay of the process that led to the provincial council elections scheduled to be held in 2017 to be indefinitely postponed even to the present day. Shortly before those elections were to fall due, the government proposed to introduce some positive reforms to the election law, including bringing in a women’s quota. But once the prevailing law under which elections to the provincial councils had been repealed, the government failed to enact the reformed law in its entirety with regard to the re-demarcation of electorates. This has led to the provincial councils being in a state of limbo ever since. A similar situation arising in the case of parliament would be a disaster for democracy in the country as it would have neither a president, parliament, provincial councils or local government authorities elected by the people. The country will have jaded government leaders with expired mandates. 

Instead of spending money on the referendum, the government should reactivate the democratic process by holding local government and provincial council elections without further delay. This would help to mobilize the energies of a younger generation of leaders in preparation for the presidential and general elections to come. The constitutional amendments and changes in the political system can be led thereafter by those with fresh mandates from the people.

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Latest comments

  • 6
    1

    “The reported concern is that no candidate at presidential elections to be held next year will achieve the 50 percent mark to win the presidency at the first round of elections itself.”

    Obviously 225 + 1 are already known as useless and nobody will elect them. There may be others who can get 51% +. So they want to get rid of EP and introduce E. PM. This does not do any good to the people of the country but for 225 + 1 remain usurping the treasury. People should not fall for these stupid tricks of the political parties.

    • 13
      2

      OMG, Lanka is yet again having CONSTIPATION. Though not a family member namesake WR is more like a member of Mafia family. The guy cannot say a sentence without exaggerating. Now that developed nation and reconciliation are not on Ranil’s horizon, he seems desperate like the rest. Back to good old SB politics. IMF withheld loans due to poor compliance, Lanka may have to go back to ever so willing China. ( tried pleading U.S, Germany, Japan ). Israel situation will make Lanka’s situation worse. Will we have allocated funds available at the time of elections ??

      • 11
        0

        Where is the purest of the pure ethical-brigade that was bashing the Rajapakses day and night …….. hiding these days? :)))

        Ethics ……. served hot, anyone?

        Dunno where the Rajapakses went to school …….. but even they had the “decency” to hold the presidential elections on time.

        Now you see the …… worth of an education at a “good school !”

        No Disce aut Discede ……. now it’s Esto Perpetua ……..

        They say the Greeks invented it, the Thomians perfected it ……. and the Royalists took it beyond perfection and blamed it on the Thomians!

        Native, wear a titanium chastity-belt in reverse ……. if you want to safeguard your virginity!

        Ranil is coming for you!

        And the country.

        • 4
          0

          nimal fernando

          “… wear a titanium chastity-belt in reverse ……. if you want to safeguard your virginity!”

          Not to worry too much it is being protected by my partner.

          By the way many of those who believe Sri Lanka is a 7 star democracy ought to read, especially SJ variety:

          Russian and Israeli aggression a lesson on “functional” democracy
          by Kusal Perera
          Published in Daily FT
          Wednesday, 18 October 2023
          https://www.ft.lk/columns/Russian-and-Israeli-aggression-a-lesson-on-functional-democracy/4-754174

  • 6
    0

    Does a mandate have meaning in ‘our world’ of Democracy?

    • 2
      12

      It has. at least in a court of law.

      • 13
        0

        SJ: When you say “Court of Law” – Do you mean the “Justice System” or the “Personnel” involved in dispensing the “Justice”?

        Recently the “SC”, a judgment was given upholding the termination of membership in a Political Party was “Right” and that resulted in that MP being unseated. Everyone cried in jubilation and started quoting that it would be a “Landmark” decision.

        Within two days another such case came up. What happened? That “Termination” of the membership by the respective “Political Party” was wrong and our “Rev.” Rathana retained the seat. Two more such cases are due to be heard in early 2024.

        One more interesting case is where another “MP’s” citizenship is challenged. Interestingly, of the two “Judges”, “One” says he is unable to make a decision and the case is “Postponed” for that reason.

        “Justice”; “Courts”; “Judges” – what is it?

        • 1
          9

          I said court of law.
          Is that not clear enough?

      • 9
        0

        It has. at least in a court of law.
        Does the court of law have meaning in ‘our world’ of Democracy?

        • 1
          0

          Yours is a pointed question.
          Yours is to the point.
          Yours is brief and yet thorough.
          You could be so every time, Mallaiyuran.
          (I cannot be kinder than this. Sorry!)

        • 1
          7

          People still go to court and it has that much meaning.
          Do we ever appreciate it when the court has refused to bow to political power?

  • 1
    0

    New Mandates Before New Amendments

    Whatever the policy in place President will say I am not elected by the people I am from the parliament
    I will apply what is good for the country as representing global discussion and I signed many contracts for that case to do what I want. The President’s ownership over the decision to receive feedback makes it less defensive

  • 12
    1

    If the provincial council elections were held …….. even the little claim Ranil had for “legitimacy” ……. would’ve been blown to smithereens ……


    “the government is contemplating holding a referendum on abolishing the executive presidency.”

    Ha ha ha haaaaaa …………. that’s another ………. that’ll never be held …….. cause ……. Ranil is sure to lose.

    The “intention/aim” of the “referendum” ……… is not to garner/heed the citizens/public opinion ……… but to placate the loud hue and cry that’ll emanate from the “democratic forces” around the world; especially the Western bloc …….. when the presidential election is “postponed” next year.

    Ranil thinks, the “referendum” gives a valid reason to “postpone” the presidential election. And dangle that excuse in front of the Western-bloc as a valid justification.

    He might just pull it off!

    Cheap trick ………… but brilliant manoeuvre!

    I would’ve been Ranil’s enthusiastic disciple if he taught me how to pull these trick on gals ………. not on hapless starving ……. even the worst dregs have limits.


    Only salvation for Lanka, Ranil is 74 going on 75 …………. 1 .. 2 .. 3 .. 4 .. 5 .. 6 .. 7 ……………. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwK_WOXjfc0 …….. none of those place are actually there to visit except the nunnery …… most were just movie sets …….

    • 12
      0

      might’ve got truncated

      I would’ve been Ranil’s enthusiastic disciple if he taught me how to pull these trick on gals ………. not on hapless starving ……. even the worst dregs have limits.


      Only salvation for Lanka, Ranil is 74 going on 75 …………. 1 .. 2 .. 3 .. 4 .. 5 .. 6 .. 7 ……………. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwK_WOXjfc0 …….. none of those places are actually there to visit except the nunnery …… most were just movie sets …….

    • 10
      1

      This might be a ploy orchestrated by the US themselves to prolong Ranil’s tenure by hook or by crook.

      Ranil was lured to MIT (or Harvard?) and given an office and plotted with the department of state to topple Mahinda. Hilary/Obama crew is still there with Biden.

      So, good ol Donald is the answer!

      Those who love Lanka and hate America ……. pray for a Trump victory ……. you can kill 2 birds with one stone!

      Save Lanka ……… and destroy America.

      Prayers answered!

      • 13
        0

        Nimal, one Gemenu , leader of Lanka private bus owners association suggested exactly that. He said ” re-electing Trump is answer to all world burning questions, including ours”. Few days ago he said ” one rupee of each Lankan is contributed daily to ISIS / LTTE ????? Trump will be very happy to know he has plenty supporters in Lanka. When can we expect him to write an article in CT.

        • 11
          0

          Nimal, do you think Gemunu , a potential Presidential candidate, who knows what best to say to Lankans and Trump together can bring peace to whole world.?????
          Not sure about “Prosperity and Splendor”, because Trump cares only about ” making U.S great again”, doesn’t care much about others ( he may not be even aware of a country called Lanka , existing).

          • 11
            0

            The rate our governments keeps making changes we may have a new constitution by 2048.We can then get rid of Democratic …. Socialist …. Republic … blah …. blah making it simple as prosperous splendor SB Lanka like no other.

        • 1
          2

          “Trump will be very happy to know he has plenty supporters in Lanka. When can we expect him to write an article in CT.”
          Trump? Most unlikely.

      • 3
        0

        Save Lanka ……… destroy America.
        Lanka cannot be saved!
        America is destroying itself, – even without Donald!!

        • 1
          8

          America is destroying itself, – even without Donald!!
          Why DT for the job?
          Is not Biden doing it very effectively?

        • 0
          9

          America is destroying itself, – even without Donald!!
          Why DT for the job?
          Is not Biden doing it very effectively?”

  • 4
    0

    Ranil or Wijedasa have no mandate to bring any amendment to the elections act as Ranil as the head of the government was not elected by the people but by a party where the then President and the PM were kicked out of their posts.

    As we all know most of the important bills other than a few not-so-important bills were considered by the Supreme Court as violations of the Constitution. This alone should be enough for Wijedasa either to resign or to be removed from his post. The decisions of the Supreme Court clearly prove that the Attorney General and Wijedasa do not know the constitution of the country or do not care about the Constitution.

    Its time the people of the country protest to remove these two individuals from their posts.

  • 2
    0

    PC elections were not held , people didn’t react . Local Council elections were
    not held and instead people were deceived and even the court decision was
    disregarded . Again , people , the general public , the Voter , didn’t care . Now ,
    the president election , another game is in the making . For me , the message
    is clear . The Govt is now challenging the people with the support of the Army
    and Police on their side . No elections but the Govt has the Election Results in
    their hands and challenging the results that THEY ARE NOT READY TO GO .
    We ae heading towards a trouble the GOVT itself is creating against its people .
    CBK recently was reported to have hinted ‘ next Aragalaya could be deadlier ‘ .
    Another possibility is , reducing the cost of living burden next month for not
    demanding an election . Bone Eating People with Empty Talk Leaders might
    again , like before , find another excuse to hide their faces with all sense of
    shame gone to dogs .

    • 1
      1

      ww
      “Another possibility is , reducing the cost of living burden next month for not demanding an election .”
      If RW can only do that, he will win the election hands down!

      • 1
        0

        SJ ,
        Elections for RW are nightmares , that is the point I made here .
        He knows the art of Trapping the Intelligent People of His
        Bankrupt Paradise . He and his Men’s priority has always been
        Politics coupled with their Traditions . Economy and Prosperity
        can wait even till they die ! Nobody cares . All what they care is ,
        ‘ No scarcity ‘ and even price doesn’t matter because in most
        cases , Foreign Remittances pay the price and why worry about
        the rest ? Is this new to anyone ? Mahinda has been kicked out
        and been forced to prop up Ranil until further notice by a third
        force and this is my calculation . My point is , why an election
        if they get what they want ? 2500 year olds will forgo anything
        for a price !

        • 0
          0

          ww
          I do not know RW’s psychology and I am not into soothsaying.
          However, I can safely add that if does not contest for any reason he certainly cannot win.
          I that if he could only perform that near miracle, he will win the elections hands down. I will add the condition that “if he dares to contest”

          • 0
            0

            SJ ,

            Facts , Experience and analysis based predictions , not
            soothsaying .

  • 4
    0

    The Minister of Justice Wijedasa Rajapakse says: “My Cabinet Paper is not to do away with the Presidency; but to Revise the electoral system”.

    The Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardene has summoned all the Political Leaders to discuss that proposal.

    These “TWO” along with the “Goons” must be thinking that the people living in this country and in this century are “Konde Bandapu Cheennu”. Anyone will smell the rat and all now know the difference between the “Dore Sadde” (the sound of the door) and the “Pade Sadde” (the sound of the Fart).

    This is nothing but to “Postpone” the elections. If not what is the “Priority” for this move, other than to address the most urgently needed “Economic Issues” of the country? This is WELL-CALCULATED MOVES to circumvent the elections. Hasn’t the “Boralugoda Lion” become the “Boralugoda Nariya”?

    • 1
      3

      “These “TWO” along with the “Goons” must be thinking that the people living in this country and in this century are “Konde Bandapu Cheennu”.”
      Is that not what quite a few regulars on these pages say all the time.

  • 6
    2

    Why are Ranil’s lips on the front page so pink? ……. Is he wearing lipstick? ………. spending babies’ milk-money on lipstick and rouge?

    Even Ramona is not so painted-up in OC’s pics!

    Native, have you ever been at kissing-distance to your idol …….. and yet not noticed?

    • 3
      0

      nimal fernando

      “Native, have you ever been at kissing-distance to your idol …….. …….”

      Why would I?
      Give me one good reason I should.

      I am not in the business of embracing men or women except ….

  • 2
    2

    the so called president who was selected by few fellows from the paliment thinks that he can win the election. He has a world record for being the worst politician running his own party and himself intoa record defeat at democratic election. Now he like to talk as if he is Biden’s shoes absolute idiot. He does not talk about death of civilians he talks about jewish voter base in the US, from this you can see this fellow attitude, he has a mental issue

  • 1
    0

    roger ,

    Not only Ranil , the whole country must see psychiatrist for not wanting a
    dignified life . Mostly women are responsible for leaving the country in
    search of money to maintain Husbands and children which is not mainly
    their responsibility . Traditionally Husbands look after the family and now
    Husbands stay home and wives have taken over . This has made life of
    Rogue Politicians easy to earn much wanted foreign exchange for non –
    essentials imports and foreign tours . Burden the life of the poor as hard as
    possible and get their women out of the country . About a few days back ,
    two women were arrested by Israel forces at one of their borders , for trying
    to cross into their country illegally , at a time a war is going on with heavy
    death tolls on both sides . And some time ago another woman from our
    country , 60 year old died at an Israel border while trying to cross it . It is
    not only Ranil , the whole lot is Rotting and Stinking .

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