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NJC sets preconditions for abolition of Executive Presidency

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The National Joint Committee (NJC) has said that the Executive Presidential system should not be abolished unless the 13th Amendment to the Constitution is abolished. The NJC also called for the introduction of ‘the first-past-the-post system.’ The nationalist group declared a set of preconditions.

The following is the full text of the NJC statement:

The SJB has proposed an amendment to the Constitution to abolish the Executive Presidential system without changing the current electoral system or repealing the 13th Amendment. The Bar Association proposal to abolish the Executive Presidential System is on similar lines.

The Need to Change the Electoral System.

The proportional representation system was introduced by the UNP to fulfil their political aspirations. Under the existing proportional representation system so introduced there is no space for honest and independent professionals and intellectuals to contest an election. Even though the popular demand is that all existing 225 members of Parliament should “go home”, with the expectation of electing honest men and women there is no way that an honest citizen can contest outside the existing party system at the next General Election. There is no internal democracy in any of these parties and only those who are supported by the corrupt leaders of these political parties could get nominations. The public have now unequivocally expressed the view that they have no faith in the existing party system. Therefore it is a sine qua non that we revert to the “First-Past-the-Post System” that existed prior to the promulgation of the present Constitution so that independent candidates not representing any political party could contest. At least 2/3rd of the Members of Parliament should be elected to represent electorates if we are to change the colour and culture of the legislature and ensure a cleaner Parliament.

Abolition of Executive Presidency

SJB and BASL proposes the abolition of the Executive Presidency, introducing a clause to the effect that the President should “always act on the advice of the Prime Minister” (not the Cabinet). What difference would it make by replacing the President with a Prime Minister? Although it may be said that when executive power is vested with the Cabinet of Ministers the Prime Minister implement the collective will of the Cabinet. We know however that the reality is that when a powerful party leader is appointed Prime Minister he runs the show. The Ministers of the Cabinet will be beholden to the Prime Minister for appointing them and it would be unlikely, that any Minister would go against the Prime Minister’s decisions.

In the seventies, over 20,000 youth got killed and, the country was governed under emergency without any press freedom not under a Presidential system but under a Cabinet form of Government. Many a country, particularly in East Asia, recorded remarkable economic and social advancement under various forms of Presidential systems. Therefore, it is evident that the autocracy, mismanagement and corruption in Government stem not from the Presidential system, but due to the lack of an appropriate legal framework to curb corruption, and concentration of power in one power centre, without appropriate checks and balances. The abolition of the Executive Presidency, in effect, is synonymous to concentrating all executive and legislative power in one power centre, namely the Parliament, which the NJC considers as inappropriate.

Besides, it is now obvious that, after the next General Election, it is likely that there would be a hung Parliament, with which, a future Prime Minister will be compelled to satisfy the political demands of his coalition partners and will not be acting in the national interest. This will be an ideal environment for extremists to flourish, and take control of the State as it has happened in the past. In this respect, it may be pertinent to underline that the Provincial Council System has given Provincial Councils powers with regard to 73 different subjects and functions of Government, including Police and Land powers. If any of these provincial administrators act in a manner detrimental to the national interest, it could not be possible to rectify any mischief with no Executive President and a hung Parliament manipulated by extremists.

Therefore, we are strongly of the view that the Executive Presidency should be retained.

A set of 13 proposals have been submitted by the BASL. We appreciate their initiative to bring the Opposition to the negotiation table to resolve the present crisis. We understand that at an emergency meeting of the Bar Council had been hurriedly called and these set of proposals, including the Proposal to abolish the Executive Presidency, had been adopted without adequate notice to the members. The proposals were issued under the signature of the President of the Bar Association Mr. Saliya Peries, President’s Counsel and former Chairman of the controversial office of missing persons established by the Yahapalana Government. Whether a country needs an Executive Presidential System or a Cabinet form of Government cannot be decided by the Bar Association. The general membership of the Bar Association had no opportunity of expressing their views on this question. Whilst we recognise that the Bar Association should be vigilant to safeguard the rights of the ordinary citizen it has no role to play in deciding disputed political issues in the country. We would not be surprised if the present management of the Bar Association would next agitate to convert Sri Lanka from a unitary form of Government to a federal form of Government, a project which the Yahapalana Government was carrying through so enthusiastically. The Bar Association should stop pursuing objectives of political parties their leaders sympathise with.

No Attempt to Seriously Address Corruption

The SJB through their proposed Constitutional Amendment has proposed the reintroduction of the provisions in the 19th Amendment. We have not forgotten the mess it created. The National Procurement Commission created by the 19th Amendment had no teeth they have no power to stop a corrupt deal. Corrupt deals continued under the 19th Amendments. The Hambantota port was handed over for 99 years without competitive bidding.

The conduct of the Election Commission and the Bribery and Corruption Commission was equally repulsive. Although allegation after allegation is made against the Rajapaksa administration not a single successful prosecution was done. The reason for its failure is because the 19th Amendment in fact created politically motivated Commissions replacing Public Officers from the SLAS. Their sole objective was to satisfy the political needs of their masters and not to address corruption.

Therefore the National Joint Commission wish to reiterate the following;

(i)

The Presidential System of Government should not be changed. Any constitutional reform to abolish it, should be adopted only if

(a) The 13th Amendment is abolished and

(b) The “First-Past-the-Post System” introduced to enable a Member of Parliament to represent an electorate. However not more than 1/3 of the Members of Parliament can be accommodated under the proportional representation system to accommodate minority interest.

(ii)

Police and Land powers should be removed from the Provincial Council List

(iii)

Provincial Statutes should be subject to laws enacted by Parliament.

Parliament should be able to repeal Provincial Statutes if they so wish.

(iv)

Alienation of State land to foreigners, foreign states and foreign companies should be prohibited.

(v)

No Government contract or agreement relating to strategic enterprises and land should be permitted without approval of the Supreme Court and the Parliament. However, when such contracts or agreements on

strategic assets or lands being considered would have effective duration beyond the unexpired legitimate tenure of an incumbent Government, such contracts or agreements should also obtain 2/3rd majority of the Parliament, in addition to the approval of the Supreme Court, where the latter may even instruct to refer the matter for a referendum, if the said deal/contract/agreement could possibly have national (economic or political) sovereignty implications.

(vi)

All Government procurement contracts which fall within the categories, referred to under (v), should be based on competitive bidding, but with a transparent margin of local preference given for Sri Lankan bidders, stipulated to encourage domestic industrialization and national economic value addition.

22nd Amendment of 11 Parties

We also observe that the 22nd amendment proposed by the Group of 11 parties (submitted on their behalf by Mr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse) fortifying the 13th Amendment and to ensure that the Provincial Police Commissions introduced by the 13th Amendment is untouched. The PHU, JNP and Yuthukama

Sansandaya was against the 13th Amendment. It is unfortunate that they have forgotten these principles in such a short period.

Therefore, we urge the proponents of the 21st and 22nd Amendments to reconsider these proposals without taking this country towards further ruination.

In an address to the Nation yesterday the President said that he will take necessary action to abolish the executive presidency. However as for the present Constitution he does not have the mandate to do so.



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Govt. allows private operators to import fuel for industries – minister

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ECONOMYNEXT – The Government has allowed private bunker fuel operators to import fuel for industries, Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said on Friday, in a bid to reduce the burden on cash-strapped state-run fuel retailer Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC).

The move comes as a severe dollar shortage has reduced CPC’s ability to import fuel and meet the demand as earlier amid long motorists’ queues for fuel.

“Approval was given to all the private bunker fuel operators to import and provide diesel and fuel oil requirements of industries to function their Generators and Machinery,” Wijesekera said in his Twitter platform.

“This will ease the burden on CPC and fuel stations providing in bulk. The meeting was held yesterday.”

Approval was given to all the Private Bunker Fuel Operators to Import and provide Diesel and Fuel Oil requirements of Industries to function their Generators and Machinery. This will ease the burden on CPC and Fuel Stations providing in bulk. The meeting was held yesterday. pic.twitter.com/dhAonet10J

— Kanchana Wijesekera (@kanchana_wij) May 27, 2022

In April, Sri Lanka cabinet has agreed to amend the Petroleum Products Act making provisions to issue licenses to “properly identified parties” to import fuel which will end an import monopoly held by the CPC.

There was a push to make the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) to import its own oil as the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation was unable to get foreign exchange and the power utility ran out of cash due to lack of a price increases.

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Protesters ask PM to serve justice for May 09 attack

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ECONOMYNEXT – Hundreds of anti-government protesters agitated in front of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesighe ’s office Colombo demanding justice for May 09 attack by the supporters of previous prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and immediate measures to overcome ongoing economic crisis to prevent a looming social unrest.

The youth-led groups which had been protesting near presidential secretariat and prime minister’s official residence in the heart of commercial Colombo shifted neat the prime minister’s office and shouted against the new government’s inaction against the brutal attack at unarmed and peaceful protesters by Rajapaksa supporters on May 09.

They demanded the new Prime Minister Wickremesinghe to implement the rule of law without being biased to any parties and serve the country.

Rukshan, a 25 years old protester said, as per the initial demands of their protests, former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned from his position, but his successor should do his duties towards the country and the people without trying to protect corrupt politicians.

“When we started the protest back in April our main demand was to bring all Rajapaksas before justice and get all the wealth they have stolen from the common people of this country,”  Rukshan told Economy Next.

The protest started around mid-day on Thursday (26) and protesters’ route was blocked by police barricades on the main road in front of the prime minister’s office.

The protesters, however, withdrew from their positions and regrouped at a nearby road to go towards the Wickremesinghe’s office.

However, by the time the protesters regrouped, a court order was issued by the Fort Magistrate to stop the protest due to inconvenience to the public.

“Ranil Wickramasinghe should remember why he is here now. We’re not asking him to resign. He is here to do his duty towards this country and its people,” Rukshan said.

“On May 09, we were attacked but no justice has been served yet. That is the main reason we came today to the prime minister’s office,” he said.

“We still see queues for medicine, fuel, and gas. To be honest, there is no medicine in the market. No medicine for cancer patients. If you get bitten by a dog, then there is no medicine for you. They (the market) don’t have any of that.”

Wickremesinghe has been working over a new budget and discussing with international partners to ensure uninterrupted supply of essentials, officials close to him have said. However, it will take time, they say.

Rukshan said the country is running due to the state workers, who are working as they are being paid salaries after the government’s excess money printing.

“When that stops, then there will definitely be a revolution in this country,” he said.

“When a person goes to office in the morning, there is no fuel for the vehicle, or no public transport available. They get late and the salaries are being cut because of that. And when they come home, they don’t have gas to cook a meal.”

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Weerawansa’s wife gets two years for passport offence

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Her lawyers file appeal challenging sentence

Colombo Chief Magistrate Buddhika Sri Ragala on Friday sentenced Shashi Weerawansa the wife of former minister Wimal Weerawansa to two years in prison. Shashi was found guilty of using falsified documents to obtain a passport.

The Magistrate also ordered the accused to pay a fine of Rs. 100,000 in addition to the imprisonment and an additional six months of jail if she does not pay the fine.

Sashi Weerawansa is found guilty by the court for obtaining diplomatic and general passports by submitting birth certificates with forged names and dates of birth.

She had applied for a diplomatic passport in 2010 by submitting false personal information which was different to what appears in her previous normal passport that expired on May 24, 2009.

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