No candidate vying for the presidency has announced plans to abolish executive powers – President


President Ranil Wickremesinghe participating in the “What’s New” dialogue on legal reforms with young legal professionals at a workshop held  at the Presidential Secretariat.on Tuesday (28) reiterated that none of the candidates aspiring to run in the presidential election have announced their intention to abolish the executive powers associated with the position.

Elaborating further the President said:

“Sri Lanka boasts multiple governance systems. One resembles the English model, epitomized by the cabinet, while the other adopts the executive presidential system, where the President wields executive authority. The legislature holds legislative powers. Notably, the President and the legislature may hail from different political parties. Examining the Swiss parliamentary setup, parliament appoints seven individuals to the federal committee, granting executive authority to the Federal Council.

In adherence to a customary practice, the two primary parties receive two seats each, while the remaining parties are allocated one seat each. Subsequently, these councillors convene to discuss the distribution of responsibilities among institutions, collectively exercising executive authority. Additionally, the Prime Minister holds the authority to appoint and dismiss ministers within the cabinet. Annually, one of the seven councillors ascends to the Chairmanship.

Alternatively, the Donoughmore system, once employed in Sri Lanka, involved dividing the executive structure into seven components. Among these, one served as the speaker, while another was elected as the chairman, simultaneously assuming the role of minister. Further, a minister was designated as the Leader of the House. The governor appointed three additional secretaries, resulting in a council of ministers comprised of ten individuals. Among these, the chief secretary chaired the council, where decisions were deliberated and finalized.

Following the previous systems, the French model emerged, where the executive president is elected via popular vote and members of Parliament are chosen by the electorate. This approach is predominantly adopted in Sri Lanka, possessing both advantages and disadvantages. During President J. R. Jayawardena’s tenure as Executive President, significant strides were made for the country, marked by the implementation of major projects such as Mahaveli, Samanala wewa, and Lunugamvehera. Additionally, Kotte was elevated to the status of a capital city, and two trading zones were established. Notably, these developmental endeavours were executed amidst an eleven-year-long war.

Similarly, President Premadasa initiated the establishment of around two hundred garment factories. The presence of the executive presidency was pivotal in Sri Lanka’s victory in the war, thwarting foreign hopes of inducing crisis and government collapse. The ability to apply executive power, exemplified by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, facilitated the deployment of the military and eventual triumph in the conflict.

During the tenure of the good governance government, there was a notable disconnect between the Executive President and the rest of the government. The presence of executive powers was crucial in maintaining stability during the ‘Aragalaya’. This was evident when there was no clear successor for the premiership. On a particular occasion, when the President departed for Trincomalee, some individuals urged me to resign from my position as Prime Minister.

However, I asserted that I could only resign if there was a parliamentary majority, and even then, the resignation letter would need to be submitted to the President. Resigning under external pressure or due to personal reasons, such as threats to my residence, would risk the ascension of someone outside the democratic process to power.

In the future, we will hold the presidential election. None of the candidates vying for the position have announced plans to abolish its executive authority. It’s imperative that we develop a program geared towards reinforcing the parliament’s role and capabilities.

Currently, some executive powers have been delegated to the Provincial Council, while others have been assigned to various commissions. Furthermore, parliamentary oversight committees are operational. As more bills are introduced and debated in parliament, there will be a gradual shift of presidential powers to the Parliament, the legislative body.

Enacting laws that render the President accountable to Parliament is imperative. The government’s agenda for the next four years should be outlined through the newly introduced Economic Transformation Act. Progress on implemented programs each year ought to be reported to Parliament annually. Mr. Karu Jayasuriya’s proposed Jana Sabha system appears highly feasible. Additionally, it’s worth noting the practicality of the forthcoming gender equality law.”

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