Cognisant of the political deadlock within the country, and as a means of ending it, President Maithripala Sirisena has referred to the need to abolish the 19th Amendment to the constitution. This as the landmark legislation that reduced the powers of the presidency and increased the autonomy of state institutions. Both of these measures have had a positive impact on governance in the country. Despite the reduction in the powers of the presidency it continues to remain a powerful institution. Unfortunately, when the president and parliamentary majority are from two different political parties, it can generate political deadlock, which is the present situation in the country.
The ongoing political crisis in the country, the political deadlock, the weak governance, and the shocking security lapses that led to the Easter Sunday bombings are evidence enough of the disastrous impact that partisan politics can have, especially when played out at the highest levels of the polity. Accordingly, the National Peace Council is of the view that the presidency, being a foremost national institution, voted for by the entire electorate, should be unfettered from partisan party politics and not be mired in it as at present.
In the context of the ongoing debate in parliament on the vexed topic of constitutional reform, we urge our lawmakers in parliament to consider a constitutional amendment that would further build on the 19th Amendment’s commitment to the de-politicising of key national institutions. We deplore the use of presidential powers for narrow and partisan purposes. While the president needs 50 percent plus one votes of the national electorate to be elected, the president needs to govern the country with all 100 percent of the population in mind and in heart.
The National Peace Council, therefore, calls for a 20th Amendment to the constitution by which any person elected as the president would be required by law to step down from all party political positions and be a non-partisan president who works for the wellbeing of all. With presidential elections due within the course of this year, and concerns about the re-establishment of an over-powerful presidency being high, we affirm that the need for this constitutional amendment is particularly urgent.