by Democracy Sri Lanka-
Opinions have been expressed and questions asked about how Maithripala Sirisena would fulfill his promises at the Presidential Elections. We spoke to a few experts and activists associated with his campaign.
What kind of Government would Maithri’s Government be?
An All-Party Government
As has been already announced, it would be an All–Party Government. No single party can raise the country from the depths it has fallen to. A combined effort is necessary for this purpose. The Opposition has agreed that there should be an All–Party Government for at least two years. It may be that more time would be necessary.
Ranil to be Prime Minister in the current Parliament
In agreeing to Maithri to be the common candidate, the United National Party, the main party of the Opposition, made a huge sacrifice. The best candidate against Rajapakse is certainly Maithri. Overcoming objections from some sections of the party, Ranil proposed Maithri as the common candidate. The biggest contribution to the election machinery at the forthcoming elections also comes from the United National Party.
In this situation, Maithri exhibited statesmanship in proposing Ranil as the Prime Minister. For Ranil to be named as the Prime Minister, he needs to have the support of the majority in Parliament. With the fall of the Rajapakse regime, a large number of MPs of the present Government are certain to support Maithri, the new President. Therefore, it would not be difficult to secure the majority needed to appoint Ranil as the Prime Minister.
Constitutional Amendment within 100 Days
Maithri has promised that the constitutional amendment would be made effective within 100 days of the Presidential election.
What are the Main Features of the Proposed Constitutional Amendment
- The Executive Presidency would be abolished and replaced by a Parliamentary form of Government
- Under the Parliamentary form of Government too, the President will be the Head of State. He would be the symbol of national unity and would be vested with other powers and responsibilities appropriate to his position. But unlike now, the Head of Government would be the Prime Minister, not the President. The Member of Parliament who has the confidence of the majority of MPs would be the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is responsible to Parliament. He loses his position as Prime Minister if the Statement of Government Policy or the Budget is defeated or if a Motion of No Confidence is passed against him. Then another MP who commands the confidence of Parliament would become the Prime Minister.
- A Parliamentary form of Government suits a country like ours much better than a Presidential form. Today, Parliament has become irrelevant and MPs are mere signal posts. Under the Parliamentary form of Government, the Prime Minister would have to be very responsive to the elected representatives of the people as he can hold the position of Prime Minister only as long as he commands the confidence of Parliament.
- It has been argued that the war could not have been won if not for the Executive Presidency and also that such a system is necessary for development. This is incorrect. Take the example of neighbouring India, which has a Parliamentary form of Government. India has been able to successfully manage its problems such as wars with neighbouring countries, border disputes, terrorism from outside and from within, separatist movements and conflicts between religious groups. Parliamentary forms exist in most European countries, Japan and many countries of the Commonwealth. Many countries have developed under a Parliamentary system. If Sri Lanka had a Parliamentary form of Government during the period of war, every step that was taken under a Presidential system could have been taken under a Parliamentary form as well.
- What are our experiences with the Executive Presidency, especially under the Rajapakse regime?
- There is no rule of law
- The judiciary has come under severe pressure
- The media has been tamed
- The country has never seen corruption that prevails
- The entire country is under the rule of the Rajapakse family.
All this was possible under the Executive Presidency which concentrates power in one individual.
How can the 2 earlier, Maithri is certain to have a majority in Parliament after his victory. He may even have the support of a 2/3 of the MPs. MPs like Basil Rajapakse would never join Maithri but they have no/3 majority necessary to abolish the Presidential System be obtained?
As mentionedthing to gain from opposing the constitutional amendment to abolish the Executive Presidency. If they do not support the abolition, they would have to suffer the might of the
Executive Presidency and be in the wilderness of the Opposition for a long time to come. On the other hand, if the country moves to a Parliamentary form of Government, such people have a fair chance of coming back to power through a Parliamentary General Election. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that MPs who will be in the Opposition after the defeat of the Rajapakse regime, would support the constitutional amendment for abolishing the Executive Presidency.
There is another subjective reason for MPs to support the constitutional amendment. In the present Parliament, nearly 50 MPs have been elected for the first time. They would complete the minimum period of five years to qualify for a pension on 22 April 2015. The constitutional amendment will be brought before Parliament by the end of January 2015 and if a 2/3 majority is not forthcoming, the Parliament would be immediately dissolved. In such a situation, the above mentioned MPs would not qualify for their pensions. The Opposition has already stated that the Parliament would be dissolved only after 22 April 2015 if a 2/3 majority is obtained. This would be another factor that would induce MPs to vote for the constitutional amendment.
Would Maithri Fulfill His Promises?
The main campaign promise of the common candidate and the Opposition is the abolition of the Executive Presidency.
Unlike on earlier occasions when promises were made for comprehensive constitutional reform, the issue this time is a more specific one. The details of the constitutional amendment would be explained to the people during the election period along with the road map of the amendment process. With such a specific promise being made, it would be impossible for any candidate to go back on the promise, having received more than six million votes. It is hard to believe that our politicians would descend to such depths.
In any case, Maithri has a clean record in politics. He is a person who can be trusted. On the other hand, if we continue to believe that no one would abolish the Executive Presidency, then we would be stuck with it forever. It is also necessary that the people involve themselves in politics proactively. That would be the best guarantee that the promise would be fulfilled.
Elections to the New Parliament and Thereafter
The present Parliament would be dissolved after 22 April 2015. The next general election would be held in June or July. With the conclusion of the general election, the term of office of Ranil Wickramasinghe as Prime Minister would also automatically end. The Prime Minister in the new Parliament would be the MP who commands the confidence of the majority. That could be Ranil Wickramasinghe or some other person. That is a matter that the people would decide. Whoever the Prime Minister is, it has already been agreed that there would be an All – Party Government for at least two years.