24 May, 2022


Where Does Maithri Go From Here?

By Saliya Pieris

Saliya Pieris

Saliya Pieris

For the first time in the history of the Second Republican Constitution, a Parliamentary Election is being held without any political party having the express support of the Executive President in office. Indeed for the first time in the political history of this country one main political party, is going in for elections without the support of its leader, who some may even say is tacitly supporting the other party.

On the 18th of August 2015, when the results of the Parliamentary Election are declared, what are the possible outcomes where the Prime Ministerial office is concerned? Even after the 19th amendment, the President yet has the power to appoint as Prime Minister, the Member of Parliament- who in his opinion commands the support of the majority of the Members of Parliament
There are three possible scenarios. The first possibility would be that the United National Party led UNFGG would either win an outright majority or be close to an outright majority in Parliament which would enable the President to reappoint Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. The next scenario, which at present seems unlikely, would be that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s supporters within the UPFA will gain sufficient seats to demand that he be appointed as Prime Minister. A third scenario would be that both the UNFGG and the Rajapaksa led faction of the UPFA have more or less an equal number of seats, giving the JVP, TNA and the pro-Maithripala faction of the UPFA a bargaining power in respect of the choice of Prime Minister.

MaithripalaDespite the discretion given to the President to appoint the Prime Minister considering constitutional conventions and the fact that he himself has no grip over his own party- the President will have only two realistic options. Either to reappoint Mr. Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister (with UNFGG alone or with the tacit support of the TNA, JVP or the UPFA Maithripala Faction), or to appoint Mr. Rajapaksa to that office (which will be possible only if the pro Mahinda UPFA MPs are able to obtain close to 113 seats).

Although President Sirisena has gone on record as saying that there are other qualified members in the SLFP eligible for the Premiership, any comfortable UPFA victory would leave him with little Constitutional alternative than appointing Mr. Rajapaksa, given the fact that Mr. Rajapaksa is leading the UPFA campaign and that President Sirisena will hardly be able to take credit for any UPFA victory.

Either way, where does President Sirisena go from there? He would be the Head of an administration consisting of a major political party over which he has no effective control and in case of a Rajapakse administration which may be hostile to him.

To understand the way ahead, one must look at the new constitutional equation after the 19th amendment to the Constitution . Although even after the 19th amendment, the President remains the Head of State, Executive, Government and the Head of the Cabinet of Ministers, it has very subtly chipped away the President’s powers, creating for the Prime Minister a stronger role than before.
Most importantly, the President no longer is expressly empowered to sack the Prime Minister, whereas prior to the 19th amendment there was a specific provision to allow the President to remove the Prime Minister. This would effectively mean that convention will demand that the Prime Minister cannot be removed as long as he commands the support of the Parliamentary majority.
After the 19th Amendment the President continues to decide on the number of Ministries, Ministers, their subjects and functions and is not bound to consult the Prime Minister on those scores. However he nevertheless is bound to act on the advice of the Prime Minister in making appointments of Ministers to those Ministries from among Members of Parliament. Furthermore removal of Ministers too can be done only on the advice of the Prime Minister.

In the past Presidents expanded their powers by taking on Ministries and subjects and functions which are not part of the Presidency itself. For instance President Rajapaksa was Minister of Finance, President Kumaratunga also held Finance at one time as well as Education. President Jayewardene held onto several portfolios including Power, Energy, Higher Education to name a few.
Post 19A , the President no longer has the power to assign ministries, subjects and functions to himself. However the transitional provisions allow President Sirisena to retain Defence, Mahaweli Development and Environment as long as he is in office and as long as he wishes.

Finally the President cannot dissolve Parliament until four and a half years have lapsed, unless requested by a vote of two thirds of the Members of Parliament. Unlike President Kumaratunga in 2004, the present President does not have the option of dissolving Parliament, even if he feels he can no longer work with the Prime Minister in office. As long as the Prime Minister has a parliamentary majority the President will be compelled to work with the Prime Minister for the next fifty four months, a prospect which President Sirisena may not relish.

To add to this the President’s actions qua President are now open for challenge in Fundamental Rights actions in the Supreme Court – except his power to declare war and peace. This would technically mean that even his appointment of a Prime Minister who does not command a Parliamentary majority is open to a challenge in the Supreme Court, although it is very unlikely that the Court would want to interfere.

Thus whether Mr. Wickremesinghe or Mr. Rajapksa is appointed the Prime Minister, somewhat like in France, the Prime Minister would have a greater degree of freedom to run the administration than existed during the operation of the present Constitution. This is despite the Executive President being yet the Head the Government and Cabinet of Ministers.

In view of this new role the Prime Minister is called upon to play and due to the fact that he has no effective control over either main political party, is President Maithripala Sirisena in danger of becoming irrelevant? Would he be compelled to only play a more or less ceremonial role-something like the role President D.B. Wijetunge played between August and November 1994, when the People’s Alliance was elected and Mrs. Kumaratunga appointed Prime Minister?

This need not be so. The President should use the very fact of his political neutrality to charter a new course for himself and the office he holds. When the Executive Presidency was first introduced it was thought that the Executive President would be a visionary, able to rise above partisan politics and act in the wider interests of the nation. Unfortunately every President from J.R. Jayewardene failed to rise above the fray and acted in a partisan manner detriment to the larger interests of the nation. These actions adversely impacted on the Rule of Law and the Independence of the Judiciary.

Now as a non-partisan President , Maithripala Sirisena should enhance his Constitutional role and to act as the moral voice of a nation, often tired of the partisan manner in which both main political parties tend to conduct the affairs of the State when in power. However for this to be done he will have to let go of his role in the UPFA.

With the new realignment of powers in mind the 19th amendment introduced Article 33(1) to the Constitution, specifying new duties on the Presidency including the duties to ensure that the Constitution is respected and upheld; to promote national reconciliation and integration; to ensure and facilitate the proper functioning of Constitutional Council and Independent Commissions and to ensure the creation of proper conditions for the conduct of free and fair elections and referenda.

The President should concentrate on these newly entrusted tasks, leaving the day to day administration to the Prime Minister and His Cabinet. He should use his Executive Powers to ensure that the new government keeps to the straight and narrow path. This would be easier when he does not exercise Ministerial office.

Thus in his new politically neutral role, President Maithripala Sirisena should strive to be a unifying force and to echo the voice of those who clamour to strengthen the people of this nation. He should ensure that his Prime Minister and Cabinet and officials comply not only with the law but also act ethically. He should compel them to be accountable in Government. He should ensure that the Constitutional Council, Independent Commissions are functional and empowered in the next five years.

By providing moral leadership to the nation Maithripala Sirisena can ensure that he and his Presidency will have a lasting legacy in the history of Sri Lanka.

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Latest comments

  • 8

    Thisaranee is so comprehensive and right that there, but I would like to add the following 2 cents worth of mine.

    One of MARA’s shortcomings was the inability to identify the local audience from the international one. He tried to apply the same type of thuggery on the other governments and other foreign leaders who seemed not to be agreeing with him. He brought disrepute to the country by his stupid behavior. Yet, as Kumar David has pointed out there is something in MR that still attracts the support of quite a significant number of people.

    It is such a shame that these people think that there is no one among the 20 odd million of us to replace MARA as our leader. What a self insult on all of us!!

    • 2

      The Sinhala Moda masses have been kept ignorant and stupid by their representatives – ALL the corrupt politicians of ALL the political parties except the JVP for a very long time.
      Political party leaders and so-called peoples representative are the most corrupt bunch of thugs and clowns per capita. These corrupt politicians have disproportionate access to resources and the media to keep telling lies and delude the masses, so that the masses keep voting in corrupt thugs as their representatives..
      Both Ranil Wickramasinghe and MR are corrupt and power hungry and have kept the Sinhala Masses stupid and politically ignorant..
      Today the biggest need is for the Moda masses to to be EDUCATED about rotten political culture and politicians in the Diyawenna Parliament, and asked to vote for a NEW GENERATION of clean people’s representatives..

    • 1

      Sisisena should have refused nominations to MR and rescued the SLFP from the grip of the corrupt and criminal Mahinda Jarapassa. But he did not and rather did another back stab! Sirisena has lost moral credibility for doing this because he failed to rescue his party the SLFP from corruption and lead from the front..

      Sirisena seems to lack strategic thinking and advisers capable of strategic thinking.

      At this time he needs to exert all his power and remove the corrupt clown Arjuna Mahendran who was appointed by the equally corrupt clown Ranil Wickramasinghe from the Central Bank Governor post..

  • 4

    Saliya Pieris

    Where Does Maithri Go From Here?

    May be he should ask the Cheshire Cat, the same way Alice in wonderland asked the Cheshire Cat.

    Where Does Maithri Go From Here? Which Road should I take?

    Alice In Wonderland- The Cheshire Cat



    Maitri to Cheshire Cat:: Which Road should I take or where should I Go?

    1951 filmEdit

    “That depends on where you want to get to!”

    “Then, it really really doesn’t matter, which way, you go!”

    “Oh, by the way, if you really like to know, he went, that way.”

    “Can you stand on your head?”

    “Oh, you can’t help that. Most everyone’s mad here.”

    2010 filmEdit
    “What do you call yourself?”

    “The Alice?”

    “I never get involved in politics. You’d best be on your way.”

    “All this talk of blood and slaying has put me off my tea.”

    “What happened that day was not my fault.”

    “I do love that hat.”

    “Goodbye, sweet hat.”

    “You do have very poor evaporating skills. I should be the one.”

  • 0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 4

    Where Does Maithri Go From Here?.

    He may not worry about all those, the Executive Presidency, The constitutions, Party Politics, and Commissions.

    If he Continued Without any Kachaal from RW and MARAYA the cheater, He will complete his term Humbly,
    and First he will go to ancestral Home at Yagoda and the proceed to Polonnaruwa Home as he knows the Roads very well with out Security!,
    to live in a peace of mind.

    • 2

      Lets us hope for the best. One matter to remember – Mara and family are bound to
      take revenge, as it is their trait. MS ruined his Dynastic Dreams. MS may not have a peaceful ending, as long as MR is out doing what he pleases is my guess.

    • 2

      Everyone will be able to find out in 5 years time whether JULAMPITIYE AMARAYA’S prediction is right or wrong. According to the recent news items appearing in some newspapers the President is very keen to serve two terms like MARA. There is no harm in doing so as long as he did not make a (false)promise on the 9th of January 2015.

      • 0


        “According to the recent news items appearing in some newspapers the President is very keen to serve two terms like MARA.”

        This is indeed good news. MARA will be older, 80 years old, and his Labu Balls will be hanging closer to the ground, and he will be grounded.

        MaRa MaRa Chatu MaRa Amana MaRa Grounded MaRa…

  • 4

    “Parliamentary Election is being held without any political party having the express support of the Executive President”

    Is it? The other day President Sirisena got on to the stage of Duminda Dissanayake, the son of the former rogueBerti Premalal, who left the SLFP with MY3.

    Where Does Maithri Go From Here?.

    Surely, he needs another term in office and that is the reason he made sure that the executive presidency is not completely abolished. His buddies have sounded this out recently that the president want give a crack at another term. Sirisena is a normal ambitious man who can not be trusted.

  • 1

    Moot point. Your pal from Varatharajah days , Dayan Jayatilleke DeSilva will be sobbing on August 18th by 1:00pm when most results will be tabulated. MR 3 million votes or less; resounding victory for Ranil and UNP. 117 PLUS seats for Ranil and less than 65 for MR. 10 to 15 for JVP, 2 only for Fonseka . Amongst those who will lose face and embarrass themselves include Ravi K, Champika Patali, Namal baby, muthuhettigama, Danuna tillekeratne (former son in law of Field Marshal and man who made money during the war), MKDS, Duminda, SB, Hirunika etc. They’ll not win.

    • 1

      Your U.N.P. numbers may be right, but MaRa will not get many more than the JVP, whom we older folk are not taking seriously enough.

      As for those who will definitely win (but who you think will lose)I would place Champika, Hirunika, Duminda Dissanayake and even Ravi K. As for MKDS, he’s not contesting a traditional seat: he’s on the “National List” of the UNP, and I’m sure they will appoint him. The rest in your list may well lose.

      But let’s forget the details; this has ceased to be a contest between MaRa and the rest (if it ever was): he will, without doubt, end up being a backbencher in parliament, but these elections will reveal how little support he has among the silent majority.

      There’ll be many interesting developments in politics, but MaRa will not figure in them.

  • 1

    Mahinda will retain 5.8 million votes. Further those SLFPers who left him, but who are fed up with current slide in Sri lankan economy, security, bank bond robbery and Ravi Karunanayka’s MANAPE shooting will go back to Mahinda. Those UNPers who are fed up with Bank bond robbery will vote for Mahinda. JVP voters who are mad at Anura Kumara for joining UNP, JVPers who are Somawansa supporters and JHU who hate UNP will come back to Mahinda. UPFA should gain 120 seats and UNP 70, JVP 10 and Minorities and Fonseka 25.

  • 2

    Ranilis due to unveil a foundation stone of the Central Expressway — Mahinda’s Northern Expressway simply renamed — this week. The Central expressway as proposed by Ranil will be 1/3 smaller, but will cost Rs. 30 billion more. Apparently the infrastructure will be funded by the same Chinese banks which the UNP condemned as creating a “culture of corruption” during Mahinda’s presidency. However, we have no official announcement and no confirmation from the Chinese side, and Rajiva Wijesinha has exposed how this is probably another blatant lie by Ranil.

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