Colombo (PTI): Sri Lanka’s communist party JVP Saturday said the time was right to bring in the 20th amendment to the Constitution to abolish the all-powerful executive presidential system of governance.
The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), the main mover of the motion seeking abolishing of presidency, held a series of discussions with the main opposition leader and Sri Lanka’s former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to seek his support to bring in the 20th amendment to abolish the executive presidency.
“He (Rajapaksa) was for the idea of abolishing it,” senior JVP leader Bimal Ratnayake said.
He claimed that all current leaders Rajapaksa, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesimghe were afraid of facing another presidential election.
“All of them know they can’t win it. So they all will support it,” Ratnayake said.
He said it was an opportune time to abolish the executive presidency which has been in existence since 1978.
Rajapaksa, who is constitutionally barred from contesting again to become president, has supported the proposal. His supporters, however, have expressed public opposition to abolishing the presidency.
They want Rajapaksa’s brother Gotabaya to contest it as Rajapaksa will be constitutionally barred from running for president again.
Ratnayake said both Sirisena and Wickremesinghe want to dodge holding the provincial elections which have fallen due.
“If we can adopt 20th amendment then there will be no need to hold another presidential election. A parliamentary election can be held thereafter,” he said.
The Sinhala-majority political parties, however, will face stiff resistance from the minority Muslim and Tamil parties for abolishing the presidency.
Sri Lanka Muslim Congress leader Rauff Hakeem said his party would strongly object to abolishing the presidency.
“When the whole country is considered as one electorate to elect a president, the minority vote will become important, so we will be politically valued. That is why we would not allow JVP to change it,” Hakeem said.
Since the introduction of the presidential system in 1978, every election which ensued was fought on the promise to abolish the presidency.
However, once elected all presidents chose to ignore the election promise.
Rajapaksa was elected twice as President. In 2010, he adopted an amendment to the Constitution allowing him to contest any number of times to be president.
Sirisena’s current government in 2015 through the nineteenth amendment to the Constitution restored the two term limit. This means Rajapaksa cannot become President again.
With his new party’s unexpected win in the local council elections held February, the former strongman presses for an early parliamentary poll ahead of its 2020 August schedule.
However, the next election which is due is the presidential election which must be held by January of 2020.