Connect with us

Opinion

Role of solar energy in overcoming Sri Lanka’s energy crisis

Published

on

We are writing this article after watching the Derana TV “Aluth Parlimenthuwa” – “Viduliya Mahajana Peminilla” on 26th January 2022, and after reading a newspaper item where the State Minister of Solar Power, Wind and Hydro Power Generation Projects Development, Duminda Dissanayake has stated in Parliament that the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) has not provided the connections for 40MW roof top solar panel systems for almost two years after they were installed on the roofs of homes. It is strange that the Minister has no power to take action against individuals in his own Ministry who block the entry of solar energy to the national grid and provide us with a way to overcome the current power crisis.

Duminda Dissanayake reminded Parliament that the project to supply power through solar panels for low-income earners had already been approved by the Cabinet. He stated that there is a project proposal to install solar panels on the roofs of 100,000 low-income Samurdhi beneficiary families. This is a laudable venture which will benefit both the Samurdhi families as well as the government since a 5 KW solar roof will provide Rs. 12,500 under the net-plus scheme. Out of this, even if the Government pays Rs. 2500 as the samurdhi allowance, Rs. 10,000 is available to pay back the bank loan. After the loan is paid in about seven years, this full amount of Rs. 12,500 is available for the betterment of livelihoods of these poor people. If each low-income household is provided with a five kilowatt solar roof this would amount to a power generation of 500MW, more than the capacity of the Victoria Hydropower Plant (300 MW) or half of the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant (900 MW), and provide more power than any of the diesel thermal power plants. If this 100,000-solar-roof programme can be implemented soon it will have considerable economic benefits since building extra diesel power plants to provide 500MW will cost much more. Furthermore, this solar project can be completed in about two years while building a thermal power plant will take at least five years.

The writers of this article have carried out research on solar energy for over three decades and organised several international conferences on solar energy from the 1990s. We, along with other academics, involved in solar and renewable energies, have had similar experiences to that stated by the Minister during their campaign to promote clean energy applications. From their reluctance to implement solar roof programmes, the CEB appears to love fossil fuels (Coal, Oil and Gas), and apply brakes and obstacles on projects with alternative and indigenous energy sources such as solar, wind and bio-mass.  One of the reasons for the CEB to block the incorporation of solar energy may be because of various other personal benefits which these officials get by purchasing extra emergency power from private diesel power plants.

During an energy conference, organised by the writers’ academic network in the early 1990’s in Colombo, a  CEB senior staff member presented their energy policy for Sri Lanka as “Coal, Coal & Coal”. We noted that some of the same CEB officials, during the “Aluth Parlimenthuwa” programme, saying that they have given full support to implement the renewable energy programmes in the country! This “double game” is the main reason we are heading towards a major power crisis in the energy and power generation sector in the country; saying positive things in front of the camera to satisfy the public and the government and implementing completely the opposite behind the curtain. It is imperative for the present Government to deal with these few senior individuals in the CEB who continuously obstruct the implementation of the solar energy projects and to demand that they work for the benefit of the Nation and not for personal gain.

Because of the colossal use of fossil fuel, global warming, climate change and other health- related issues have been created, and the whole world is working hard to move away from a carbon-based economy towards a carbon-neutral-economy and finally to a hydrogen-based economy. Sri Lanka is a signatory to the Paris Climate Agreement which came into effect in 2015 and one of the key features here is the total incorporation of renewables by 2050. This Government’s manifesto (“Saubhagye dakma”) too had an ambitious goal of achieving a target of 70% from renewables.  These policy decisions, at global level, were further enhanced and endorsed by the recent U.N. (COP26) climate summit held in Glasgow in November 2021 where representatives from about 200 countries agreed to shift away from coal and develop renewable energies to generate electricity in their fight against climate change. The summit ended with calls on governments to return next year with tougher pledges to slash greenhouse gas emissions. However, the CEB authorities still live in the past, talking about intermittency of solar and wind energy sources!  Even young schoolchildren understand the intermittency of solar and wind, but the CEB staff during the ‘’Aluth Parliamenthuwa’’ were spending so much time explaining these simple matters.  The whole world is working to produce hydrogen by ‘’water splitting’’ using solar and wind energy to completely remove this intermittency and decarbonise the world. Some decision-making individuals in the CEB seem to go in the opposite direction. Many countries in Europe where solar energy is more intermittent compared to Sri Lanka, are successfully promoting solar energy as a viable alternative. CEB engineers are always coming out with the excuse that it is not possible to balance the grid to incorporate more than 10% of the total energy but Germany is already using 50% of its energy requirement from renewable energy sources. Maybe the CEB has a fear of going for the latest technology on grid balancing. During a recent lecture at the Institution of Engineers, Prof. J.B. Ekanayake, an expert on power transmission, told the audience which had many senior engineers of the CEB on how this can be done. These engineers meekly listened to this lecture but when they go back to their offices, they continue to stick to their old habit of discouraging solar energy use.

Incorporating renewable energy (RE) to the national grid definitely has certain technical challenges since we are not equipped with ancillary systems to support the grid in a high RE scenario. A strong ancillary system is required for a higher level of penetration by RE and grid balancing is presently done only through hydropower. A comprehensive ADB/UNDP report titled “100% electricity generation through renewable energy by 2050 for Sri Lanka” gives the technical details of procedures that should be adopted to achieve this 70% target.

Another ruse adopted by the CEB is that there is no legal provision in the SRI LANKA ELECTRICITY ACT, No. 20 OF 2009 to include solar energy projects. Solar Industries Association wants this rectified and gazette RE target of 70% by 2030 to give legal cover to fast track dozens of backlogged projects that could add 1.5 gigawatts to the national grid. To our amazement these projects are pending approval for the last four years and the Power and Energy Ministry is not doing anything to clear this backlog through an appropriate mechanism.

To reduce the huge fossil fuel import bill of Sri Lanka, alternative energy sources must be developed and introduced rapidly, and fossil fuel burning should be gradually phased out. In the transport sector, to reduce the burning of petrol and diesel, it is essential to encourage and provide incentives for the use of electric vehicles (EV) and to install charging units powered by solar and wind energy.  The President’s suggestion last week to introduce electric buses is a commendable move in this direction. Electric trains, at least in the Colombo suburban areas, is another viable possibility in this direction.

In the UK, it is government policy now, that as of 2030, there will be no newly manufactured/imported sale of vehicles fitted with combustion engines.  This does not mean that the UK will stop the availability of petrol/diesel as a fuel for existing vehicles.  To gear up to the 2030 target, the UK Government has provided tax incentives to the private sector to introduce EV charging points, as well as a 100% exemption from annual road fund tax for EV’s.  Furthermore, a cash grant has also been given to EV owners to fit rapid charge electric outlets in their own homes/garages, etc., so that the EV can be re-charged safely at home based on domestic electricity tariffs.

Similarly, in Sri Lanka, incentives can be offered to allow the import of EV only to impose a reduced vehicle duty and/or a reduction or full exemption from the annual Licence Fee.

In addition to the private sector involvement in adding EV rapid charging outlets, the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation/CEYPETCO and/or the SL Sustainable Energy Authority (SLSEA) can install EV rapid charging stations in the existing network of petrol filling stations, car parking areas, etc.

It is a shame that Sri Lanka with an abundance of solar power has to resort to more and more carbon emitters like coal, LNG, diesel and naphtha to supply the power needs of the country. The Government should take a firm stand on the future energy generation plans and provide both legal cover as well as financial incentives to achieve a greener Sri Lanka.

The writers:

Professor I. M. Dharmadasa, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, United Kingdom. Dharme@shu.ac.uk, Professor L. Dissanayake, National Institute of Fundamental Studies, Kandy,  makldis@yahoo.com and Professor O. A. Ileperuma, Emeritus Professor, University of Peradeniya,

oliveri@pdn.ac.lk



Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Opinion

Aragalaya to Alimankada with PM’s first mistake

Published

on

The Galle Face protests, dubbed an ‘Aragalaya’ by the left intellectuals, who gleefully interpreted it as the inexorable unfolding of the ‘process’ dictated by ‘historical materialism’, ended up in its very Hegelian antithesis. Surely, Ranil Wickremesinghe is the last ‘Aliya’ (the Elephant, the symbol of his party) of the free-market politics of JR JayEwardenE. He is the antithesis of the Aragalaya ideology. And yet, the Aragalaya made him the single-handed power behind the throne of the equally isolated Gotabhaya. He is today a patron of the ‘Aragalaya’ which is sheltered, fed and feted by Colombo businesses and Western NGO groups!

In converting the ‘Aragalaya’ into an Elephant Pass (‘Ali-mankada’), Gotabhaya achieved the one political master-stroke. As the government was already at the IMF and the World Bank, to redress the bankruptcy that Basil Rajapaksa and his economists had refused to acknowledge, Ranil was probably the perfect person for regaining the confidence of the Western Shylocks. The lost election had shorn him off his visible links to shady financial associates. To that extent, he is a cleaner man and destiny has given him a final chance to vindicate his remarkable political career.The new PM should have formed a Cabinet without the use of the same old pack of discredited MPs loathed by the public. He should have asked the President to demand that each party (other than the UNP!) get rid of a proportionate number of ‘National List MPs’ to clear up twenty seats. He could use the empty seats to appoint recognised professionals with administrative experience into the Cabinet. That would have enabled Sri Lanka to have, for the first time in history, a group of technically competent people with good track records of administration to run the country.

Instead, we see essentially the same old faces back in power.

The old elephant has made an elephantine mistake in formulating the new Cabinet. The PM should have insisted that just as the SJB, the JVP, TNA etc., remain out of the Cabinet, so should the SLPP. The respective parties should have been ASKED to nominate various suitable experts, men and women. The PM and the President could have selected those individuals that they felt were optimal for their team.As the GR government has established a reputation for gazette notifications that are annulled with equal ease, the new PM can easily cleanse his current list of appointed ministers and go for new names. It is still not too late.Let us ask how the political crisis unfolded to get some insight into what is relevant.When three Ministers, Gammanpila, Vasu and Wimalawansa (GVW) revolted against a midnight fuel contract given to a dubious US company, they hardly expected to trigger the fall of the SLPP itself.  They, like the bureaucrats of SriLankan who were happily leasing new aircraft, probably thought that Lanka’s red balance sheet will soon get corrected ‘when tourism revived after the end of the pandemic. Their protest was against Basil Rajapaksa, the Finance Minister who ran every ministry.They, like the majority of the Cabinet ministers and party leaders, believed that ‘going organic’ was ‘good in principle’, and that the ‘initial teething problems can be solved’, so that they would soon have food ‘free of agrochemical toxins’.  Given their adeptness at rackets, the MPs claimed to ‘save money’ by banning imported fertilisers, and looked forward to new racketd from the organic fertiliser bids.

Some of the well-fed upper-classes busy themselves in ‘environmental’ NGOs, while others, depending on their political colour, engage in various forms of ‘Chinthanayas’ or in political ‘dialectics’. However, there was remarkable consensus among these groups to ‘go organic’, just as there was clear scientific advice against it. The agricultural scientists were easily dismissed as ‘paid agents of multinationals’.  Even those who claimed to talk with the Gods, be it the late Ms. Senanayake or ‘Gnanakka’, strongly supported the banning of agrochemicals. Powerful news media as well as Chamal Rajapaksa, the head monks of influential temples, Christian and Hindu prelates, all supported it. A ‘Hiru Govi Sangramaya’ heralded the expected dawn of the shift to ‘hela govithena’ done without the use of agro-chemicals  (see Island, 13-March-2020; http://archive.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=220219).Furthermore, President Gotabhaya had got rid of the main-stream technical advisors and got himself a ‘ViyathMaga’ made up of intellectuals espousing various types of untested ‘Vikalpa’, a Sinhala word which could also mean ‘crazy ideas’.  But the President’s error of judgment was in falling into such traps, debilitating the nation’s food security, while oblivious that his country was already in an economic free fall.  So, the call for GOTA to go home was a natural and logical one, since even the misdeeds of his Finance Minister are the responsibility of the President.

However, the farmers who rose in protest were angry at all the MPs and wanted all 225 out. The public sentiment of disillusion was such that ‘THEY’ were all declared to be ‘crooks’.  The banning of agrochemicals, selling of organic manure, biofilm-biofertilisers, nano-urea,etc., were all rightly judged as rackets by the common man.The Galle Face protest was launched by Marxist leaders to take advantage of the farmers’ discontent, and the division in the ranks of the government caused by the GVW trio. The urbanised middle class, inconvenienced by the lack of medicine, cooking fuel and petrol, willingly joined the protest that was launched, copying the model used by anti-vaccine groups in the West.It was this hijacked protest of the farmers that became known as the ‘Aragalaya’, ‘GotaGOgama’. The Aragalaya ignored the limited, realistic objective of the GVW trio, which was to get rid of Basil Rajapaksa’s domination. The Aragalaya ignored the general belief among the public that ‘all 225’ must go as they are ‘all corrupt’. The Aragalaya‘s demand that ‘Gota must Go’, was very similar to the unworkable demand of the anti-Vax anti-mask Truckers’ Convoy that set up a ‘Protest Village’ in Ottawa and demanded that ‘Justin Trudeau must Go’. The Truckers’ Convoy was tolerated for about a month. Then the Canadian authorities took steps to freeze bank accounts of the protest leaders, passed emergency legislation and called in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, with the armed forces waiting in the wings.

Gota’s government could have used the law against misuse of public spaces to control the protest but failed to do so, once again establishing its inability to govern. That SLPP thugs would eventually move in, only to be attacked with disproportionate violence by the hidden hand of the Aragalaya, was an expected outcome.The unexpected result, i. e the ‘black swan’ of the escalation was the rise of Ranil within the political isolation of a President, humbled by bankruptcy and political violence. The President had to resort to the standard constitutional steps of offering the premiership to every appropriate candidate in forming an interim government. This was when the leadership qualities of contenders would be tested. Ranil was the clear winner, while Sajith proved as pusillanimous as ever. His conditions for acceptance, if they had been taken seriously, would have taken weeks of haggling and are inappropriate when the ship is on fire.PM Wickremasinghe can still reconstitute his Cabinet by cleaning out national list MPs, and bringing in unsullied professionals. He still has the upper hand, but perhaps not for long. Instead of launching 21A and such ad hoc constitutional amendments, he should call for the recently drafted constitution, formulated by a panel of eminent lawyers and scholars, and legislate it. After that, the country should go for elections in accordance with the new constitution.

CHANDRE DHARMAWARDANA

Canada

Continue Reading

Opinion

An abomination at Museum

Published

on

When the Museum’s work was completed, the British Governor of the day was very pleased with the building. While congratulating the contractor for the excellent work, he asked him if he had a request. The contractor was a devout Muslim and requested that the Museum should be closed on Fridays. This request was granted, and since then, all National Museums have been closed on Fridays. The best architects executed the building design, and it was holistic in all aspects. This included the perimeter walls, the gateposts and the gates as well.The museum is over one hundred years old and therefore is protected under the Archaeological Ordinance; it is a protected monument, and nothing could be done without the specific permission of the Department of Archaeology.

Today, the landscaping has been changed and the flag and flag post that should be flying at the central axis of the building, unfortunately, has been moved to a side.Even more disastrous is that the original gate has been removed and replaced with a hideous one, unimaginable and certainly qualifies to be regarded as the worst example in Colombo, or anywhere in Sri Lanka.In dealing with period buildings, there are basic principles to be followed. It is imperative that authenticity be preserved and maintained as an internationally-accepted principle. If one does not understand that basic principle, then the conservation of period buildings is not within one’s understanding. It is not easy to understand why the original gates have been replaced and on whose advice it has been done. The old gates worked perfectly.

In the conservation of period buildings, the old gate should have been repaired or if replacement had been necessary, another could have been made of the same material type, size, design configuration and working arrangement.Visitors to the Museum are now confronted with a set of gates that have no connection to the original period of the building. This crude first impression downgrades the quality of the exhibits within the Museum. It seems to be a figment of someone’s warped imagination, and qualifies as the most unfortunate and hideous gate in Colombo. Did the Department of Archaeology permit this atrocity? If not, who decided, and was there money to be made? This gate should be removed and the original gate repaired and reinstalled.

ASHLEY de VOS

Continue Reading

Opinion

Comments on President’s address to the nation

Published

on

By Neville Ladduwahetty

Following the resignation of former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Cabinet of Ministers, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa addressed the Nation, during the course of which he is reported to have stated that “a new constitutional amendment containing provisions of the 19th Amendment would be brought in” and furthermore, “some people have asked for the abolition of the Executive Presidency. I will make room for that after discussing with all stakeholders” (The Island, May 12, 2022).What is intended herein is to caution the President that while there are provisions in the 19th Amendment that are noteworthy, certain provisions need to be deleted and others completely revised, and still others included as fresh provisions.

For instance, Article 33A, which requires the President to be responsible to Parliament, and Article 42 (2) should be deleted because they contradict the very core principles of the separation of power enshrined in Presidential Systems. The provision contained in Chapter VIIA establishing “the Constitutional Council”, responsible for appointments to high posts and Independent Commissions needs to be replaced with a fresh arrangement for setting up Independent Commissions because it failed to comply with the specified constitutional obligations. A fresh provision is the one that relates to Article 42 (1) which states, “There shall be a Cabinet of Ministers charged with the direction and control of the Government of the Republic”. However, there is no constitutional provision to ensure how this all-important provision works in practice.

Another issue addressed herein is the abolition of the Executive Presidency. The choices are between been referred to as semi-presidential. Each system has its merits and demerits. Therefore, it is critical that the choice between the two takes into serious consideration the context within which the system operates. For instance, the political structure in Sri Lanka is made up of a multiplicity of political parties representing a variety of interests, ideologies and communities. As such, it could be assured that the formation of any government is inevitably a coalition, which by its very nature is not known for stability. Therefore, in the particular context of Sri Lanka’s political formations, a presidential system should be the preferred option because the Executive and Parliament are elected separately by the people, thereby ensuring that at least, one branch – the Executive – is free of Parliamentary instability.

ARTICLES 33A and 42 (2)

Article 33A states: “The President shall be responsible to Parliament for the due exercise, performance and discharge of his powers, duties and functions under the Constitution ….” AND Article 42 (2) states, “The Cabinet of Ministers shall be collectively responsible and answerable to Parliament.”

Both Articles were first blindly incorporated into the 1978 Constitution that was drafted for a presidential system of government, and later into the 19th Amendment, notwithstanding the fact that they are provisions applicable to a parliamentary system of government. Such serious contradictions reflect poorly on the drafters of the 1978 Constitution and the 19th Amendment.A Supreme Court bench of seven judges unanimously stated in (SC FR 351- 3612/2018), that “the first rule when interpreting Constitutions is that words in a statute must be given their ordinary meaning.” Based on this rule, while Article 3 states, “Sovereignty includes powers of government ….” and Article 4 (b) states, “The executive power of the People including the defence of Sri Lanka shall be exercised by the President of the Republic elected by the People”, how could one organ of government be responsible to another organ of government – the Parliament, which is also separately elected, but by the same People?

Commenting on how the Cabinet of Ministers derives its power, the Supreme Court in (S.D. No. 04/2015) stated, “The Court in the Nineteenth Amendment Determination came to the conclusion that the transfer, relinquishment or removal of a power attributed to one organ of government to another organ or body would be inconsistent with Article 3 read with Article 4 of the Constitution. Though Article 4 provides for the form and manner of exercise of the sovereignty of the people, the ultimate act or decision of the executive functions must be retained by the President. So long as the President remains the Head of the Executive, the exercise of his powers remain (sic) supreme or sovereign in the executive field and others to whom such powers are given must derive the authority from the President or exercise the Executive power vested in the President as a delegate of the President.”

It is therefore crystal clear from the determination of the Supreme Court that the President or the Cabinet of Ministers cannot be responsible to Parliament, and that the Cabinet of Ministers derives its authority from the President and exercises its power as delegated power of the President. Therefore, if the intention is to incorporate provisions of 19 A, the above provisions should be deleted. The fact that they continue to exist despite the SC determination is because of flawed practices resorted to by Parliament.

CONSTITUTIONAL COUNCILS and INDEPENDENT COMMISSIONS

The Constitutional Council (CC) consists of 10 members with the Speaker as its Chairman. Of the 10 members in the CC, seven are members of Parliament and three are outsiders nominated by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.Article 41 B (1) states, “No person shall be appointed by the President as the Chairman or a member of any of the Commissions specified in the Schedule to this Article, except on the recommendation of the Council”.

Article 41C (1) states, “No person shall be appointed by the President to any of the Officers specified in the Schedule to this Article, unless such appointment has been approved by the Council upon a recommendation made to the Council by the President.” However, prior to the establishment of the Constitutional Council all appointments of public officers and the judiciary were made by the President in keeping with Articles 54, 55 and 107 of the 1978 Constitution.

Based on the SC Determination cited above, the establishment of a CC is a clear and deliberate attempt to remove and transfer power from one organ of government – the President – to another organ that is predominantly from Parliament. Therefore, the establishment of the CC should have warranted a referendum. However, the SC determined otherwise, based on a determination made by a previous Court in connection with the 17th Amendment.Notwithstanding such contradictions, the fact remains that at the end of the day, appointments to high posts and Independent Commissions are made either by the Executive or by Parliament. If the intention is to foster an independent Public and Judicial Services that is free of political influence, ALL appointments to Administrative and Judicial institutions should be made either by a Public Service Commission or a Judicial Service Commission, as was the practice prior to the politicisation of these institutions.

The need to politicise Administrative and Judicial institutions arose in order to politically control the manner in which these institutions functioned, because those who manned them became a law unto themselves. To overcome such possibilities, instead of attempting to exercise control by directly getting involved in their appointments and how they function, a more effective proposition would be to make the appointments to high posts by independent Public Service and Judicial Service Commissions, and monitor and review regularly their performance through Constitutionally strengthened Parliamentary Oversight and Sectoral Committees.The recommendation therefore is to delete Chapter VIIA that contain provisions for the establishment of a CC incorporated in the 19th Amendment. What is recommended instead is that a Constitutionally empowered Public Service and Judicial Service Commissions recommend for appointment by the President, ALL appointments to high posts stating with Secretaries to Ministries and Heads of Departments. Such a Public Service and a Judicial Service Commission should be vested with executive powers to promote, transfer, exercise disciplinary control and dismissal of public officers, including addressing grievances of the public. An arrangement close to what is recommended already exists with the Police Commission that handles only public grievances. All other functions of the Police Department have already been transferred to the Public Service Commission.

PARLIAMENTARY OVERSIGHT and SECTORAL COMMITTEES

At present, Parliamentary Oversight and Sectoral Committees function under provisions set up under Standing Orders. What is recommended is to make provisions for these Committees to function under provisions of the Constitution, thereby empowering them to fulfil the primary function of reviewing the performance of the policies of the Cabinet of Ministers in respect of the direction and control of the government and the administrative performance of the administrators implementing the policies. Such an arrangement permits Parliament through these Committees to review executive action since the Presidential system does not permit the Cabinet of Ministers to be responsible and answerable to Parliament as stated above. Furthermore, such empowered Committees should have the authority to review the performance of the administrators, notwithstanding the fact that they are appointed by independent Public Service and Judicial Service Commissions.

A significant fact overlooked is that it is the Separation of Power between Parliament responsible for Legislation and the Executive responsible for executive action, that permits the review of executive action by Parliament. However, it must be noted that the review of executive action by these Committees does not mean that the Cabinet of Ministers are collectively responsible and answerable to Parliament. Such a feature where executive action is reviewed by Parliament does not exist under a parliamentary system, because the latter does not recognize separation of power between Parliament and the Cabinet of Ministers.

ABOLITION of the EXECUTIVE PRESIDENCY

Does the slogan of the protesters calling “Gota-go-home” mean for the incumbent President to be replaced by another, or the abolition of the Presidential System? On the other hand, the Executive Committee of the Bar Association is very specific. They want the Executive Presidential System abolished. Having so stated, the President of the Bar Association during the course of an interview stated, “I think the abolition of the Executive Presidency and the reinstatement of the 19th Amendment are the key constitutional changes that should be dealt with” (The Sunday Morning, May 15, 2022).There is a contradiction in the above statement. Since the 19thA is an Amendment to the 1978 Constitution, which for all intents and purposes is a presidential system, how could its “reinstatement” exist if the Executive Presidency is abolished? If 19A is perceived as a weakened Executive Presidency, as some do, the fact remains that 19A has to function within a presidential system, weakened or not.

The perception that 19A weakened the executive powers of the President could be challenged because although the President “shall” act on the advice of the Prime Minister (Article 43 (2), Article 43 (3) states that the President “may at any time change the assignment of subjects and functions and the composition of the Cabinet of Ministers”. This means the President “may at any time” undermine the “advice” of the Prime Minister. As for appointment of State Ministers and Deputy Ministers, 19A states that the President “may” on the advice of the Prime Minister make such appointments. Such discretionary provisions cannot amount to a weakening of Executive Power. On the other hand, the establishment of The Constitutional Council is a clear instance of transfer and removal of the executive power that should have required a referendum. Under the circumstances, the perception that reinstating 19A amounts to abolishing the executive presidency is seriously flawed.If the attempt is to abolish the executive presidency, what is it to be replaced with? If it is to reinstate a parliamentary system, it is absolutely critical that hard realities that currently exist in Parliament be recognized. For instance, the present Parliament is made up of 15 political parties. This means that the formation of any government must necessarily be a coalition representing a variety of interests, ideologies, and communities. The stability of such a conglomerate is tenuous, and since the executive and the legislature are represented by a coalition under a parliamentary system, the inevitable outcome would be the instability of the whole government. For instance, between the years 1948 to 1972, only one out of eight governments successfully completed the five-year term (Daily FT, January 30, 2018).

Such instability is not inherent under presidential systems because the sovereignty of the people is exercised separately by a President responsible for exercising the executive power of the People and a Parliament elected separately to exercise the legislative power of the People. Therefore, even if Parliament is made up of coalition governments that inherently are unstable, at least the Executive would continue, thus ensuring the stability of at least one branch of the government. Therefore, the Executive Presidential System should be retained. Furthermore, the attempt should not be a towards a weakened Presidency or one that is responsible to Parliament, but one that functions well under constitutional checks and balances exercised by Parliament.

CONCLUSION

The President during the course of his address to the nation following the resignation of former Prime Minister and the Cabinet of Ministers, stated that a new Amendment would be presented “containing the provisions of the 19th Amendment”. Furthermore, he stated that he would consider abolishing the Executive Presidency.The need to contain provisions of 19A in a new Constitutional Amendment is because of the popular belief that 19A diluted the executive power the President enjoyed under the original 1978 Constitution. How realistic is this belief? The claim that the executive power of the President was diluted under 19A is because Article 43 (2) states the Cabinet “shall” be appointed on the advice of the Prime Minister, whereas the original 1978 Constitution stated that the President would appoint the Cabinet “in consultation with the Prime Minister where he considers such consultation to be necessary”, which indeed is less obligatory than the wording in 19A. However, the 1978 Constitution as well as 19A contains the provision that the President “may, at any time change the assignment of subjects and functions and the composition of the Cabinet of Ministers….” Since this provision overrides the intended compulsion to dilute executive power, there is in fact no removal or transfer of power from one authority to another. If the interpretation is that power was in fact transferred, relinquished or removed, it would have required a referendum since it would be inconsistent with Article 3 read with Article 4, as determined by the Supreme Court cited above.

Other provisions that should be deleted from 19A are Article 33A, which states that the President is responsible to Parliament, and Article 42 (2), which states that the Cabinet of Ministers “are collectively responsible and answerable to Parliament” because they are inconsistent with Article 3 read with Article 4, that separate legislative and executive powers into two organs of government that are separately elected by the People. Therefore, one organ cannot be responsible to another of equal standing. Furthermore, since the Cabinet of Ministers operates on the delegated power of the President, it cannot be responsible to Parliament either. How such misreading of separation of power could have survived from 1978 and continue to exist in 19A reflects poorly on the framers of the Constitutions.A key provision that should be deleted is Chapter VIIA in 19A, which establishes the Constitutional Council. Prior to 19A, the Executive headed by the President was responsible for ALL appointments to high posts. In order to dilute the power of the President, 19A transferred the responsibility of recommending officers to high posts and Independent Commissions to the Constitutional Council, seven of whose 10 members are from Parliament. It is therefore apparent that appointments are subject to the influence of either the Executive or the Parliament.

Since such arrangements are not conducive to the independence of administration, what is recommended herein is to scrap the concept of the Constitutional Council making recommendations for appointment to high posts and Independent Commissions, and pass on such responsibilities to the Independent Public Service and the Judicial Service Commissions. The performance of personnel so recommended and appointed by the President would be subject to the review of Constitutionally empowered Parliamentary Oversight and Sectoral Committees. Furthermore, the reviews would also enable such Committees to oversee executive action. Thus, since such Committees would be fulfilling two functions, it is absolutely vital that the provision is constitutionally empowered so that these Committees are incorporated into the new amendment to the Constitution.As for abolishing the executive presidency and reinstating 19A, it is a contradiction because 19A cannot exist after abolishing the Executive Presidency; 19A exists within the framework of a Presidential System, weakened or not.What is intended herein are recommendations that should be given serious consideration if the intention of a new Amendment is to introduce a new and improved 19th Amendment.

Continue Reading

Trending