19th Amendment Parliamentarians take wait and see attitude

The 19th Amendment is a much discussed and debated topic currently, with certain parties and individuals having conflicting views on the crucial elements in the Amendment. In this context, Dailymirror  sought the views of several politicians from different parties on their views of the controversial 19th Amendment. 

We need a new constitution but froma new Parliament- Dew Gunasekera

When this constitution was brought in 1972, we were the ones who opposed it even though we were not in the government at the time.  It was brought as an urgent Bill even though it was a new constitution and it was passed in Parliament by a 5/6th majority. We held a protest at Hyde Park with other leftist leaders at the time and we have presented the removal of the Executive Presidency as a promise at every election thereafter.

When we joined the government the SLFP agreed to abolish the EP but it was not acted upon.This constitution is different when compared to the previous ones and we have all suffered one way or another from it up until 2015. This is a time that every political party has come to a consensus that the executive presidency should be removed, even the UNP, who were instrumental in bringing in the Executive Presidency, want it gone.

Both candidates promised to either abolish the executive presidency or curb its powers, during the Presidential Election. President  Maithripala Sirisena was elected to abolish the EP.

We will support the amendment completely as we feel there will not be another chance to curb the powers of the executive presidency nor the consensus to do so.

I’m for the Prime Minister being the head of the executive, a system like in India with the President being given some powers.We think the government would agree with the recommendations of the Supreme Court and it is quite possible that a referendum, in addition to a 2/3rd majority, would be recommended. We don’t see the necessity for a referendum. We need to implement as many of the changes as we can without a referendum. A referendum would mean time and money.

Appointments to the councils and committees would become a reality with this amendment.  We never expected to be here. I think we need a new constitution but that needs to come from a new parliament. The people’s mandate should be there. A new parliament would mean there is no need for a referendum as the people’s mandate would be there.

Parliamentary Elections should not be held under the existing system. It is part and parcel of the executive presidency. If you’re tinkering about with the EP then you should change the electoral system as well. We are working with the Prime Minister and the President to change the electoral system. Discussions are being held and we hope to push forward the reforms soon. It would take 2 to 3 months for the system to be put in place and parliamentary elections would be delayed until then.

The issues we have can’t be resolved with reforms alone- Anura Kumara Dissanayake

sh(4)When Maithripala Sirisena was elected it was with the promise that the executive presidency would be abolished. I can’t say anything about the new draft because that was not tabled in Parliament. What I can say is that we want the Executive Presidency removed, that is our stand.

We are ok with President Maithripala having interim powers, but it should not be available to successive presidents. These powers should only be limited to him and the executive presidency should be abolished by him.

We think the new amendment is the right choice for democracy. It gives public servants the necessary legal frame to work independently.  The issues we have can’t be resolved with reforms alone. It’s a problem with the system. Our politicians are used to taking over the police, judiciary and everything in the government when they come to power.

The problem with the current electoral system is the problem with the preferential system. When this was implemented it was just the proportional representation system and the addition of the preferential system has caused too many issues within parties.

What’s the use of bringing it into parliament if most people don’t agree with what’s in it?-Wimal Weerawansa

Before anyone else can talk, criticize and comment about it, the government should be on the same page about it. What’s the use of bringing it into Parliament if most of them don’t agree with what is in it?

We don’t see the need to comment on it or talk about it. Some people in the government want to go ahead with it while the others are against it. It’s like a drama. If they make a common stand on it then we are ready to talk about it.

We are looking favourably at the changes- Mavai Senathirajah

We can’t say anything about it now because we don’t know the changes that were made to it.  We support the general idea of it but we can’t make a comment on it until we know the full content of the drafts.

The electoral reforms are before the committee and we too are looking into it. We will talk about it after we have read through that as well.  We are looking favourably at the changes.  However, we will make a full comment on it once we have studied the amendment that has been presented.

We are not in a position to support this- Champika Ranawaka

Most of the powers have been vested with the Prime Minister. We do not support the amendment that has been presented. We are not in a position to support this.

There are several reasons behind this. This does not have the people’s mandate and it goes against the sovereignty of the people. A president is elected with the people’s votes and he is vested with the powers of the executive presidency.  The people did not give him the mandate to shift the powers to the Prime Minister. If the constitution is to be changed it can be done through a referendum.

The second is that a mandate was not given to change the Constitution. It is stated very clearly in the manifesto that the powers of the executive presidency would be pruned not that it would be abolished.  But this change they are proposing is a complete change.  Therefore abolishing the executive presidency cannot be done without a mandate given by the people.

The government needs the support of the SLFP to pass the 19th Amendment and it doesn’t seem like they have it now. There is no consensus in Parliament.
Lastly, this goes against the concept of good governance.  We weren’t consulted and the amendment was presented and approved on the same day.When the 19th Amendment was presented we opposed it and a meeting was called which was attended by the President and the Prime Minister. We discussed the matter and agreed on several factors, one of which was that the presidential powers should not be touched and that the president should remain the Head of State, Head of Cabinet and the Head of the Army.

What we propose is that the presidential power to appoint anyone to commissions and ministries arbitrarily should be removed as well as his immunity to be prosecuted. Any appointments that are made should be done in consultation with others.

We will make our proposals and ensure that the changes to the amendment are implemented.  We don’t see the need to dissolve Parliament on April 23 without passing this amendment.

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