13 August, 2022


NM & The Executive Presidency

By Vijaya Kumar

Prof. Vijaya Kumar

Prof. Vijaya Kumar

June 6th marks the Birth Anniversary of Dr. N M Perera. This year is a birth anniversary that should be especially celebrated as the passage of the 19th Amendment last month marks the beginning of a process which we hope would completely dismantle the Executive Presidency. NM, who foresaw the dangers of JR’s Constitution, led a campaign against it which included the publication in 1979 of his book, Critical Analysis of the New Constitution of Sri Lanka which made detailed predictions on what the future would be under JR’s constitution. Most importantly, he predicted the gradual move towards dictatorial rule and the weakening of democratic safeguards and institutions as a natural consequence of the JR Constitution.

NM was a political giant who dominated left politics in Sri Lanka since the 1930s. It was NM and the LSSP that provided the leadership for the struggle to win many of the hard fought rights of the people and the working class that we have been enjoying.

Many of these rights have been gradually eroded by a combination of World Bank/IMF pressures, pressures which NM as Finance Minister resisted but with dire consequences to his and the Party’s popularity, the changing balance of power resulting from the 1978 Constitution and the move towards dictatorial government inspired by it.

JR and NMNM’s prophesies that the JR Constitution would gradually transform our country into a dictatorship were proved correct. While JR took the first steps to consolidate dictatorial power in his Executive Presidency, it had to be left to Mahinda Rajapakse through his 18th Amendment to complete the process. Although the LSSP following NM’s legacy consistently opposed this move towards dictatorship, its two members of Parliament went against the party decision and shamelessly raised their hands to support the 18th Amendment in September 2010.

Although the LSSP should rejoice that the JR Constitution has been badly weakened by the 19th Amendment promoted by President Maitripala Sirisena, its two members of Parliament inexplicably seem to be yearning for a return to the rule of Mahinda Rajapaksa. They justify their positions by claiming that their immediate task is to prevent the resurgence of the Big Bad Wolf, the UNP, the representative of international capitalism. The usurpers to NM’s legacy who control the assets of the LSSP accepted quietly the neo-liberalism, crony capitalism and family rule of Mahinda Rajapaksa with hardly a whimper. They were indeed the first to announce their support for Mahinda Rajapaksa for a third term long before the election was called or his candidacy announced. So much for their private claims that although they voted for the 18th Amendment because they were unable to withstand pressures from Rajapaksa, they were opposed to the removal of the Presidential term limit and Rajapaksa’s attempts to strengthen the Presidency. The LSSP of NM would instead have actively supported Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero’s National Movement for a Just Society in its efforts to find a Common Candidate committed to abolishing the Executive Presidency.

Given a clear-cut alternative of a Mahinda Rajapakse clinging on to the Executive Presidency and a Maitripala Sirisena campaigning on a programme of opposition to the Executive Presidency, one would have expected the LSSP to have jumped at the opportunity to join the bandwagon to abolish the Executive Presidency, but it did not, apparently afraid of the Big Bad Wolf associated with Maitripala. Perhaps we may have a better idea on the background of the stance of the LSSP once investigations are complete on the fate of the Divi Neguma funds alleged to have been robbed by Basil.

The LSSP of NM was a party of independence and courage, unafraid of Big Bad Wolves, even those in sheep’s clothing, and prepared to confront them on their own turf. However, subservience to years of Rajapakse rule has transformed the party into a parasitic unit, unable to survive without playing a submissive role to more powerful political entities.

What other explanation can be there for its present alignment to the Mahinda Rajapaksa camp? The main instrument this camp is using to regain power for Mahinda is the hidden but now well-publicized crass communalism of Mahinda Rajapaksa, reinforced by even more extremist positions held by those of the likes of Dinesh Gunawardena, Wimal Weerawansa and Udaya Gammanpila. When the United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA) was formed in 2004, the LSSP and the CP deliberately decided against joining it as it did not want to be associated with such elements, preferring to continue with the arrangement of coming to an electoral agreement with it through the SLFP. NM who always stood for a fair solution to the national problem and opposed communalism tooth and nail must be turning in his grave seeing the strange bedfellows his party has been forced to keep to try to bring Mahinda back to power. Political memories are short indeed. Would anybody in his right mind who had experienced the dictatorial power, total disregard of human rights, widespread corruption and family rule that marked Mahinda’s last term as President work towards or even yearn for his return to power?

The 19th Amendment which removed powers of the executive presidency was passed last month. However the struggle against JR’s constitution begun by NM cannot end because the 19th Amendment which was passed by Parliament still retains the basic framework of the JR Constitution. It does not provide a guarantee that a scheming future President cannot move the country back on a dictatorial track. While removing much of the bad effects of the 18th Amendment, the present amendment has not gone far enough to remove the powers of the Executive Presidency to the extent required to prevent the growth of a yet another dictatorship. Sobitha Thero’s dream of abolishing the Executive Presidency is still to be achieved. The galaxy of lawyers represented in the SLFP including the infamous Professor of Law who never once questioned the 18th Amendment or the impeachment motion against the Chief Justice found their collective voices to surmount an attack on several clauses of the original draft to effectively dilute the effect of the amendment on the Executive Presidency. Many of its powers still remain, the Right to Information clauses originally planned have been weakened and the independence of the Constitutional Council and thereby those of the other bodies appointed by it have been deeply compromised by insisting that its membership should have a majority of Parliamentarians.

The struggle to achieve the task which NM felt was necessary to safeguard the rights of the people of Sri Lanka – completely abolishing the Executive Presidency and drafting a new people-friendly constitution – remains ahead. An opportunity will be provided at the next election for the people to rid themselves of the parliamentary scum longing for benefits they have derived and hope to continue to derive by prolonging the powers of the Executive Presidency. The greatest honour the people of Sri Lanka can do NM is to ensure that the JR Constitution and its Executive Presidency will remain only in the history books when NM’s next birthday is due to be celebrated in 2016.

*Prof. Vijaya Kumar is Professor Emeritus of the University of Peradeniya and President of the Lanka Estate Workers’ Union

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Latest comments

  • 5

    Professor Vijaya Kumar,

    Wasn’t it NM, and the LSSP went that along with Srimavo to remove the protection for minorities(enshrined in clause 29 of Ceylon constitution) when they formed the new constitution?

    The LSSP, CP and the so-called leftists gradually gradually joined the Sinhala chauvinist regimes over the years. No wonder the they still want Mahinda back in power.

    Most of the so-called Sinhalese leftists became opportunists and joined the chauvinists to gain personal power, and money of course!

    The only exception I can think of is WIckramabahu Karunaratne, and hats off to him!

    • 3

      Professor Vijaya Kumar, RE: Thiru Comments

      “Wasn’t it NM, and the LSSP went that along with Srimavo to remove the protection for minorities(enshrined in clause 29 of Ceylon constitution) when they formed the new constitution?”

      Well, all these are part of the deal of shedding Socialist and egalitarian Principles in order to gain power and ministeriaL portfolios.

      You can LSSP and N M Perera as follows.

      Originally, he had good intentions. LSSP at its height got 13% of the popular vote. Unfortunately the Racists, the Sinhala Buddhists Chauvinists, The Tamil chauvinists and The capitalists got rest of the votes.

      So, he went on a strategy of If you can’t beat them join them.

      Join them he did, and the Socialism and Egalitarianism for a just society went down the drain.


      The party was founded in 1935 and emerged as a major political force in the Sri Lankan independence movement during the 1940s. It joined a coalition government in 1964, and was then expelled from the Fourth International. It peaked in political strength in the 1970s, but has declined gradually during the last 30 years.

      In the parliamentary election held on 2 April 2004, the party was part of the United People’s Freedom Alliance, which won 45.6% of the popular vote and 105 out of 225 seats. One of those 105 seats belongs to LSSP.

      In the 2015 Elections, LSSP will have No seats, courtesy of Vasudeva Nanayakkara, aka Baludeva Balukara of Pakaya Fame who is now a Shill and Dog of Mahinda Rajapaksa.


      Lanka Sama Samaja Party electoral results Date Candidates nominated Candidates elected Votes % of national vote

      1947 28 10 204,020 10.81
      1952 39 9 305,133 13.11
      1956 21 14 274,204 11.47
      1960/M 101 10 325,286 11.26
      1960/J 21 12 224,995 7.96
      1965 25 10* 302,095 7.90
      1970 23 19 433,224 8.68

      1977 82 0 225,317 3.61

  • 2

    I have a photograph from a book where NM is riding a Rickshaw. What struck me immediately was, man being exploited by man, the very principle he fought with his Marxist Philosophy to end. How ironic I thought. Giridara Mills added to his Hypocrisy only to be voted out of Politics in the end by the masses.

  • 2

    I wish NM also wrote another book critical of the 1972 Republican Constitution.He of-course fought shy to do so since the Architect of that was none other than his comrade Dr.Colvin.R.de.SILVA

    The first constitutional enshrinement of Sinhala Chauvinism,which had previously been limited to a statute Law.What was quaint was that it was the LSSP that was responsible for it.
    The LSSP is now in the dustbin of History.

  • 4

    Prof. Vijaya Kumar:

    I like to say something on the Subject only as a passing comment. As a Tamil I dont have a role in Policy Making and there is so much hysteria surrounding the Executive Presidency and let us not pretend that it was invented by the Sinhalese as a tool to deal with a problem which was the Struggle for FREEDOM.
    Executive presidency was needed to put down the Tamil Rebelion and MR used it to the maximum advantage and LSSP and UNP were all supportive of what it was intended to achieve.
    Now there are dangers by the way that was used by MR and people are trying to shed Crocdile Tears as if that was the problem.
    Frankly my friend it is the Mindset of the 5.8 million and beyond which is the Problem.
    MS who was elected by the Tamils is Ditching and Dithering and no doubt he has eased the pain a little by acting quickly by visiting Jaffna after the Murder of our ” Vithya”.
    But in my view these are purely cosmetic but what we need is major life saving Surgery but even MS and RW are not going to deliver Freedom to Tamils.
    Only outside pressure will bring that about.

    Executive Presidency is practised by the Majority not by a Single Individual.

  • 0

    What is important task we are face ongoing Bourgeois Revolution or Reform that is to make our national capitalism system with Sri lanka features more correct path new model to re-established by national and progressives classes by united front government. This is a grand Republic of political democracy, different from so-called Westminster model of colonial democracy. Any type Republic Constitutional changes we do not want to be dismantle present Republic state power by Separatist or Federal or Secessions agenda of undermine unitary character of Nation survival.

    We are not here to accomplished dream of LSSP Dr NM’s Trotskyist- Tamil base anarchist political projects come into true.

    NM has short sight political vision and on left political movement is concern that he betray in 1964 Join coalition Govt. join the SLFP of Srimavo Banadarake(Mother of CBK) the very led by Dr NM LSSP ,that betray 21 demand of Trade Union put forwarded by the Largest alliance all island, wide Trade unions.

    The so-called leftist become renegade of working class movement, which NM led LSSP-Trotskyist end with beginning to doom to fail after 40 years in working class movement. What they gain for betray 21 demand? Dr NM in return Three Ministerial ships in SLFP-Siromavo Govt.

    Our present urgent task is different from NM era.
    No doubt this era in the reality that cover the whole by National Bourgeois democratic reforms and its leadership provide same class a set of more complete and stable; in while effective reorder and revitalized for the national economic development of Sri lanka urgently need today.

    Since 2005 under the leadership of SLFP of Mahinda Rajapakase being an initiative and undertake such task of the well being of the people, social harmony and stability that guarantee prosperity, unity, sovereignty and Territorial integrity of Island.

    End of defeated Tamil LTTE Ruthless Terrorist 2009 May, MR and national alliances had liberated from clutches of the Tamil Terrorism, that whole Island of Sri Lankan nationalities, including Tamils in North-East, Muslim in East; the result of the national salvation WAR led by SLFP leadership Mahianda Rajapakasa brought forward Range of Democratic Rights, norms and valued to entire an Island.

    People of Sri lanka, now enjoy Democratic Freedom and Rights of fair Justice since 2009 May peacefully environment every nook and corner of an Island.. In fact that whole nation that could give gratitude to MR led SLFP alliance by back right to votes of their exercise the sovereignty to the PEOPLE. Republic of Sri lanka democracy norms has been that reenergized by MR leadership of SLFP since 2005.

    History has witness that MR play vital role of democracy after lost 30 Tamil terrorist ruthless war led by Separatist and Secession of TNA and LTTE.
    That is part and parcel of Sri Lankan way of National democracy path of Parliamentary Republic.

    Head of state by President retain power of executive, and People chamber of Parliament share with elected represtaitaive of law making power.

    PM has committed to carry out certain executive power granted by 19A newly Amend Republic Constitutional changes that discharge on behalf People Majority mandate of total members of Parliament.
    We agreed democracy governances system and capability are major barometer of Republic system’s governing rule of law. Last 30 years war that Tamil Terrorist undermined democracy government that laid environment Lumpenisation of Democracy by UNP leadership and CBK rule 27 years from 1977 to 2004.

    The national governance system has certain improvement during MR led SLFP alliance 2005 to 2014. Again MS elected by votes one mandate has Republic turn into weak that undermine by Junta rule of UNP-RAIL.W…& CBK which MISDEED OF POLITICAL HIPOCRACY OF DEMOCRACY. Republic and Rights of democracy in danger under the MS ruling Junta ruling pattern basically violated democracy governance system.

    NM dream of Republic is not suited current context of ongoing Bourgeois revolution. We have take into account ours historical heritage and Sinhalese-Buddhist traditions and ours level of social economic, political and cultural development, at last decided by Majority of people of the country.
    What we want modernize democratic republic and its capability ,we should foster economic development, which promote the principle value democracy and the relevant system.
    We do not want go back to NM system weak and colonial democratic is not that suited to contemporary sprite of democracy.
    We are radically changing world order, we and India are new emerging countries.
    We no longer depends on WEST, US,UK and Germany their lop-sided democracy serve for US led hegemony. Ours mindset diversity democracy at different level we urgent want to Replace new Sustainability of Capitalism.

    Democracy is a gradual reform of Republic Constitution.
    We have make bold breakthrough new model Republic process advancing step by step that ensure the realization of political-democracy and economic- prosperity and social-harmony.
    NM policies of constitution is now outdated.

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