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The country requires a strong Executive Presidency to navigate the Post-Covid world says Milinda Moragoda

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Milinda Moragoda, former Cabinet Minister and founder of the Pathfinder Foundation spoke about the need for Sri Lanka to be fast and agile in order to face the economic, social and international challenges of the Post-Covid environment.
He stated that:  ‘there is no disputing the fact that the country benefited from having strong executive decision-making during the early stages of the pandemic. And as a result, many lives were saved.
Disappointingly, no major political party has yet put forward a coherent governance and governing structure for the nation in their policy platforms.
‘Each has been predictably very chameleon-like when addressing issues related to constitutional and governance-structure related matters in their manifestos. This is especially unfortunate in light of the dysfunctional relationship that now exists between the Executive and the Legislature and the proven potential for gridlock, both a result of the enactment of the 19th Amendment.’
Against this backdrop, without any coherent or credible proposals thus far having been presented by any major political  party, Moragoda proposes that all thoughtful Sri Lankans take up the following points for their consideration, discussion and if appropriate advocacy :
A. The establishment of a strong Executive Presidency that can act decisively and yet be ultimately accountable to Parliament. After all, the presidency is the only office elected by all Sri Lankan voters. Thus, the individual occupying this post will be implicitly accountable to all citizens, be they from Kankesanturai or Dewinuwara.

B.  An independent legislature that will promulgate legislation and act as a responsible check and balance to Executive excess. This legislature should be elected on a first-past-the-post basis with a small percentage of members being chosen through a proportional representation system.
This change should lead to a stable parliament where most members are directly accountable to their constituencies and citizens. The preference vote system which has only created chaos and in-fighting should be dispensed with.

C. The Provincial Councils should be abolished and empowered local councils set up to address the day-to-day issues of the citizenry.

D. An empowered Senate should be created to represent minority and regional interests.
Moragoda further pointed out that ‘Forty-two years have passed since the establishment of Sri Lanka’s Executive Presidency and that all those who criticize this form of government have still not been able to convince Sri Lankans of any better option. Notably, when the opportunity for abolishing the presidential system presented itself in 2015, the then government was unable or unwilling to conduct a referendum to abolish the presidency. And, as we are now on the verge of facing the most challenging period in our post-Independence history, the need of the hour is a strong executive.’
To lend further context to his point he noted that: ‘The first conception of a Presidential system was forged in the late 18th century after the American war of Independence against the British. Extensive debates surrounding the extent of the powers of an Executive Presidency took place during the drafting of the American Constitution. One of the founding fathers and authors of the US Constitution, Alexander Hamilton, argued for a strong Executive leader making the point that:

” ‘A feeble Executive implies a feeble execution of the government. A feeble execution is but another phrase for a bad execution, and a government ill-executed, whatever it may be in theory, must be, in practice, a bad government.’”

‘In the final analysis Sri Lanka cannot afford to have a crippled government especially at this critical juncture where a large number of lives and livelihoods are at stake.



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About Rs 3 bn paid as OT during past few months

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Overtime gravy train for CPC refinery workers:

By Saman Indrajith

About Rs. 3,000 million had been paid as overtime for the employees of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation oil refinery, during the past few months, Parliament was told yesterday.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said that he had asked for a detailed report as to whom and on what grounds the overtime payments had been made and it would be submitted to Parliament.

Fielding a question asked by Chief Opposition Whip, Kandy District SJB MP Lakshman Kiriella, Minister Wijesekera said instructions had been issued to regulate overtime.

MP Kiriella demanded to know why overtime had been paid to employees of an institution that had been shut down. “There are reports that over Rs 4,000 million has been paid as overtime to the workers of the refinery that was not functioning owing to the non-availability of crude oil. This is a crime,” Kiriella said.

Minister Wijesekera: “I made inquiries after I saw newspaper reports on payment of overtime to refinery workers. I inquired from the Finance Manager of the CPC. I was told that a sum between Rs 2.5 billion to Rs 3 billion had been paid as overtime. The refinery was not closed during the months of March and April. It was closed only during the last month. They had issued refined fuel on all seven days of the week continuously. When an institution operates full time in such a manner the employees would have to be paid for their overtime work. However, I admit that could have been done with some level of management in the payment process,” the Minister said.

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Wigneswaran claims RW accepted all his demands

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Head of the Thamil Makkal Thesiya Kuttani (TMTK), C. V. Wigneswaran told the media recently that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had agreed to all demands he had made, including the release of Tamil ‘political prisoners’, to secure his vote during last month’s Parliament election, to elect a President.

He made this statement following a meeting with the President in Colombo to discuss the establishment of an all-party government.

“We have made several requests and if the President is ready to comply with them, we will consider taking part in the all party government,” he said.

“We met him when he was Prime Minister. Before the parliamentary vote to elect the President, I made these demands and he agreed to them. That is why I voted for him. Now, it is for him to keep his promises. I am here to remind him of this,” Wigenswaran said.

Wickremesinghe, as the Prime Minister in the yahapalana government, vehemently denied that there were Tamil ‘political prisoners’ in the country. (RK)

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MPs are not immune from country’s laws – SJB

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By Saman Indrajith

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa told Parliament yesterday that the MPs were not immune from the Penal Code despite the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act.

Premadasa said Cabinet Spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardane had claimed that incidents in Parliament could not be dealt with under the regular law.

“This claim sends the wrong message to people. Aren’t the provisions of the Penal Code or the Offences against Public Property Act applicable to the MPs? There were incidents in this Chamber during the 52-day coup conspiracy; some MPs damaged public property. There were investigations by the CID and also by Parliament.

The Secretary General announced the cost of the damage. When the process was on to prosecute those MPs responsible for the damage, political influence was exerted on the CID not to file cases against the culprits. It is against this background that Minister Gunawardane, in his position as the Cabinet spokesman, makes this false claim. His statement is sending a message saying that there is one law inside the Parliament and another outside it.

“He also claims that the Speaker decides whether these laws are applicable to Parliament or not,” Premadasa said.

Colombo District SJB MP Mujibur Rahuman said that people were already against the MPs and this new wrong message would further exacerbate their anger against elected members. “The Cabinet Spokesman says that the MPs have a different set of laws while the people are dealt with by the country’s laws. That is wrong. We are also liable for criminal offences that we commit,” Rahuman said.

“The CID conducted an investigation and was prepared to file cases, but that was prevented through political influence. The Cabinet Spokesman’s statement is fueling public hatred towards the MPs. Please, request the Cabinet Spokesman to refrain from making such statements,” he said.

Minister Gunawardane said that he was only responding to a question raised by a journalist and the question was about fairness of cracking down on protesters for destroying public property, during anti-government protests, when MPs, who damaged Parliament, property under the former government, are yet to be apprehended.

Minister Gunawardane said as a public representative in Parliament for the last 33 years he had only explained that the law would be implemented against those engaged in violent activities during peaceful protests.

“I said MPs had Parliament privileges and the Parliament law. I also explained that MPs attending Parliament cannot be arrested as they are engaged in legislative activities,” he said.

Chief Opposition Whip, Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella, said that the MPs had no such legal immunity. and Parliament privileges only cover MPs from being arrested while they are on their way to attend and when they leave Parliament. “Therefore, there is no law that says they are exempt from other laws of the country,” Kiriella said.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, agreeing with Chief Opposition Whip Kiriella, said that all other laws in the country applied to the MPs.

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