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Calls for full implementation

Willing to consider the further pruning of Presidential powers; provided the Executive is in charge of defence and remains the commander-in-chief of the tri-forces

With constitutional reforms in the pipeline, the Government constituent the Sri Lanka Freedom Party in relation to the contentious question of the devolution of power announced its decision to support the full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

On the similarly divisive issue of the abolition of the Executive Presidency, the SLFP further announced that they were principally opposed to the existence and presence of an Executive President vested with excessive powers, a fact which had been raised by the people and a matter which had since been rectified to a degree through the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

Media Spokesman of the Party and Member of the Steering Committee of the Constitutional Assembly, State Minister of Higher Education and Highways, Dilan Perera said while they were willing to consider the further pruning of the powers possessed by the Executive President if such were deemed excessive by the people, they however insisted on the existence and presence of an Executive President as the leader elected by the people of the country at a vote, and one who would be in charge of the subject of defence and also remain the commander-in-chief of the forces.

He further added that they were of the view that electoral reforms, in particular the conducting of Parliamentary Elections under the new mixed electoral system, was the priority. The SLFP is of the view that a two thirds majority would be sufficient to approve the said electoral reforms and that a referendum would not be required.
The same new system is to be operative for future Elections involving the Local Government authorities and the Provincial Councils.

Perera said that the Party had taken the 5-4 verdict in the Supreme Court determination in re the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, a majority opinion penned by then Chief Justice Suppiah Sharvananda, which had stated that the existence and presence of an elected President was one of the reasons as to why the 13th Amendment did not affect the unitary status of the country, which Perera opined was a “strong decision,”, into consideration in arriving at their own decision in this regard.

Plus, Perera said, since the 13th Amendment is already part and parcel of the Constitution, there would not be a requirement for and of a referendum.
“It is better for us to have an Executive President. We feel that what the people did not want is a President with excessive powers. Excessive powers of the President were taken away by the 19th Amendment,” he said.

“The Executive President that existed prior to Sirisena becoming the President, the Executive President of the time of former Presidents such as J.R. Jayewardene, Ranasinghe Premadasa, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and Mahinda Rajapaksa is no more,” he pointed out.

In the wake of the recent submission of the Interim Report of the Steering Committee of the Constitutional Assembly, which Perera said was “not an interim report but a provisional report cum discussion paper for the purpose of debate”, Perera explained that at this juncture the leaders of the political parties represented in the Parliament would have to sit down and fix dates for a debate regarding the said report.

“During the debate, there will be additions, omissions, chopping and cutting. Subsequently, the Steering Committee will take all that has been debated and discussed and draft the so called interim report and submit such to the Constitutional Assembly. A process similar to the initial debate will ensue, following which the writing of the permanent draft of the Constitution will begin chapter by chapter, section by section,” he said.

He added that the draft will then be submitted to the Cabinet for approval after which it will be sent to the Supreme Court for its constitutionality to be checked.
“The Supreme Court will state as to what particular clauses or provisions require only a two thirds majority and what would require a two thirds majority plus a referendum, based on which the Constitutional Assembly would have to accordingly vote chapter by chapter, section by section, once again taking into account during the process as to whether referendums are required or not,” he emphasized.