Published on: May 29, 2024

No candidate vying for the presidency has announced plans to abolish executive powers

  • Sri Lankan economy was developed and the Thirty Year War was brought to an end due to the executive powers vested in the presidency.
  • Urgent Need for Legislation Holding President Answerable to Parliament.
  • Portions of Executive Authority Allocated to Provincial Councils and Parliamentary Oversight Committees- The President.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe emphasized that none of the candidates aspiring to run in the presidential election have announced their intention to abolish the executive powers associated with the position.

The President highlighted the dual nature of the executive presidential system, noting its advantages and disadvantages. He emphasized that the executive power vested in the presidency played a pivotal role in the economic development of Sri Lanka and the resolution of the 30-year war.

President Wickremesinghe made these remarks while participating in the “What’s New” dialogue on legal reforms with young legal professionals at a workshop held yesterday (28) at the Presidential Secretariat.

President Wickremesinghe emphasized the importance of enacting laws that render the President accountable to Parliament. He noted the decentralization of certain executive powers to Provincial Councils and Parliamentary Oversight Committees, highlighting forthcoming divisions in this regard.

Moreover, President Wickremesinghe affirmed the inevitability of future Presidential elections, stating that financial provisions for this purpose have already been allocated.

The President further stated,

Sri Lanka boasts multiple governance systems. One resembles the English model, epitomized by the cabinet, while the other adopts the executive presidential system, where the President wields executive authority. The legislature holds legislative powers. Notably, the President and the legislature may hail from different political parties. Examining the Swiss parliamentary setup, parliament appoints seven individuals to the federal committee, granting executive authority to the Federal Council.

In adherence to a customary practice, the two primary parties receive two seats each, while the remaining parties are allocated one seat each. Subsequently, these councillors convene to discuss the distribution of responsibilities among institutions, collectively exercising executive authority. Additionally, the Prime Minister holds the authority to appoint and dismiss ministers within the cabinet. Annually, one of the seven councillors ascends to the Chairmanship.

Alternatively, the Donoughmore system, once employed in Sri Lanka, involved dividing the executive structure into seven components. Among these, one served as the speaker, while another was elected as the chairman, simultaneously assuming the role of minister. Further, a minister was designated as the Leader of the House. The governor appointed three additional secretaries, resulting in a council of ministers comprised of ten individuals. Among these, the chief secretary chaired the council, where decisions were deliberated and finalized.

Following the previous systems, the French model emerged, where the executive president is elected via popular vote and members of Parliament are chosen by the electorate. This approach is predominantly adopted in Sri Lanka, possessing both advantages and disadvantages. During President J. R. Jayawardena’s tenure as Executive President, significant strides were made for the country, marked by the implementation of major projects such as Mahaveli, Samanala wewa, and Lunugamvehera. Additionally, Kotte was elevated to the status of a capital city, and two trading zones were established. Notably, these developmental endeavours were executed amidst an eleven-year-long war.

Similarly, President Premadasa initiated the establishment of around two hundred garment factories. The presence of the executive presidency was pivotal in Sri Lanka’s victory in the war, thwarting foreign hopes of inducing crisis and government collapse. The ability to apply executive power, exemplified by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, facilitated the deployment of the military and eventual triumph in the conflict.

During the tenure of the good governance government, there was a notable disconnect between the Executive President and the rest of the government. The presence of executive powers was crucial in maintaining stability during the ‘Aragalaya’. This was evident when there was no clear successor for the premiership. On a particular occasion, when the President departed for Trincomalee, some individuals urged me to resign from my position as Prime Minister.

However, I asserted that I could only resign if there was a parliamentary majority, and even then, the resignation letter would need to be submitted to the President. Resigning under external pressure or due to personal reasons, such as threats to my residence, would risk the ascension of someone outside the democratic process to power.

In the future, we will hold the presidential election. None of the candidates vying for the position have announced plans to abolish its executive authority. It’s imperative that we develop a program geared towards reinforcing the parliament’s role and capabilities.

Currently, some executive powers have been delegated to the Provincial Council, while others have been assigned to various commissions. Furthermore, parliamentary oversight committees are operational. As more bills are introduced and debated in parliament, there will be a gradual shift of presidential powers to the Parliament, the legislative body.

Enacting laws that render the President accountable to Parliament is imperative. The government’s agenda for the next four years should be outlined through the newly introduced Economic Transformation Act. Progress on implemented programs each year ought to be reported to Parliament annually. Mr. Karu Jayasuriya’s proposed Jana Sabha system appears highly feasible. Additionally, it’s worth noting the practicality of the forthcoming gender equality law.

The queries posed here and the responses provided by President Ranil Wickremesinghe are delineated below.

Q:
In your experience, what factors contribute to the failure of national action plans?

A:
The core issue lies in the absence of comprehensive policies among many governments. This deficiency has persisted for seventy-seven years. Until 2015, the prevalence of war overshadowed policymaking efforts, resulting in the lack of adequate preparation. Consequently, our economic structure remained stagnant, leading to significant challenges in recent years.

The impact of the war on the economy was profound. Economic collapse ensued in 2001, followed by the devastating tsunami. Despite the war’s end, there was a conspicuous absence of post-war strategies.

Upon assuming office as Prime Minister in 2015, I prioritized rectifying this situation. Efforts were made to achieve budgetary surplus and limit dependence on imports. However, our economy remains reliant on imports.

There was a notable absence of agricultural policies in place. Despite our historical success in exporting commodities like cinnamon, tea, rubber, and coconut since the Anuradhapura era, there was a failure to formulate a comprehensive agricultural policy post-1948. Although initiatives like the Mahaweli and Gal-oya land development projects were launched, a cohesive agricultural strategy was lacking. As a result, it’s clear that modernizing agriculture and fostering an export-oriented economy are imperative for our nation’s development.

Until 1977, our focus was on attracting investments and establishing free trade zones. However, after that period, our interest in these endeavours waned. Consequently, countries that were once behind us surged ahead. Thailand, which was once on par with us, progressed significantly. Similarly, nations like Malaysia, Vietnam, and Bangladesh surpassed us. Hence, it’s imperative that our political attention shifts towards policy studies to rectify this.

Additionally, reforms are essential in the education sector to provide our youth with opportunities to attain degrees locally, reducing their reliance on expensive foreign education.

Furthermore, it’s crucial that we embrace modern technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) to propel us forward. Drawing from my extensive 75 years of life experience, I emphasize the importance of this to the younger generation, who belong to Generation Z. It’s imperative that you excel in this rapidly evolving landscape and consider your future prospects. Our goal must be to construct a developed nation capable of competing on a global scale.

Q:
I truly admire your focus on climate change and your compassion towards animals. I would like to know your opinion on the proposed animal welfare bill and if you can expect it to be passed or enacted anytime soon.

A:
The discussion on the Animal Welfare Act is currently underway in the Oversight Committee. However, it’s uncertain whether it will be adopted in this session due to the numerous bills slated for passage by August. Consequently, its consideration may be deferred to next year. We have prioritized the enactment of several new laws aimed at safeguarding women, followed by amendments to the Penal Code and the introduction of the Economic Transformation Act.

Additionally, the introduction of the Proceeds of Crime Act is likely. The Anti-Corruption Act has already been passed, along with the presentation of the Proceeds of the Crime Bill. The remaining legislative agenda is expected to be addressed after the presidential election, indicating a heightened workload for the legislature.

Meanwhile, the Agriculture Oversight Committee is examining the Animal Welfare Act, primarily due to concerns regarding crop destruction by peacocks, wild boars and deer. Consequently, efforts are directed towards finding a balanced approach to address this issue.

The event was attended by Member of Parliament Premanath .C. Dolawatta PC, former Parliamentary Secretary General Dr. Priyani Wijesinghe, Presidential Director of Youth Affairs and Sustainable Development Mr. Randula Abeyweera and others.

Mission

The Presidential Media Division is fully responsible for socializing the views, actions, decisions and statements of His Excellency the President through the media. Electronic, print and new media will contribute to this through a credible and engaging approach.

The media department works as a source of information on the subject of the President’s vision and mission by maintaining good coordination with public and private media organizations and journalists.

National policies, plans and measures are explained to the people through the use of high quality media. Identify the fallacies and reveal the truth.