That Convenient Escape Clause

Prior to the enactment of the 17th Amendment (17A) to the Constitution in September 2001, sins of commission and omission, committed by the Executive, were passed on to the Cabinet, as, “collective responsibility,” a convenient escape clause.

17A was passed when President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga was in power. However, her successor President Mahinda Rajapaksa got 18A passed in Parliament in October 2010, thereby regained the lost Executive Presidential powers caused by 17A.

But, in a game of musical chairs played by successive Governments, vis-à-vis the Executive since 1994, first, from threatening to abolish it, to diluting its powers, the regime change that took place in January 2015 made Parliament once more ‘supreme’, by passing 19A in April 2015.

However, after the present regime came to power in November 2019, this tragicomic round of musical chairs was once more enacted with the passing of 20A in October 2020, thereby reinforcing Executive Presidential powers once more.

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