Chasing a mirage
Both the UNP and the JVP, said even prior to
nomination that their main objective at the Presidential
election is the abolition of the Executive Presidency. The UNP
elaborated it by saying that in the new dispensation after their
victory there will be an executive Prime Minister instead of an
executive President. The JVP has boasted on several occasions
that the abolition of the executive Presidency has been their
main slogan at several elections and that the main purpose of
their search for a non-party common candidate is for the purpose
of abolishing the executive Presidency.
Several questions arise from the above premise. What is the
method that will be used to abolish the executive? Will it be
done by ways and means given in the existing Constitution? Or
will it be done by bypassing the existing Constitution? The last
option would mean a coup d'état. Much more down to earth
question would be could the executive President abolish the
According to the provisions in the present Constitution such
abolition would require a two-thirds majority in Parliament and
people's approval at a referendum. This is beyond the reach of
the executive President. It is the Parliament as the legislative
authority that could abolish it following the procedure laid
down in the Constitution. Hence, the talk of abolishing the
executive presidency on the result of the current election is
plain nonsense. It is an attempt to mislead the voters.
It is the UNP that introduced the executive Presidency. J. R.
Jayewardene who received a five-sixths majority in Parliament in
1977 introduced it in the hope that no single party would get a
two-thirds majority under the deformed proportional
representation system he had introduced in it. In fact, he did
so without any public approval. Neither was a referendum held
nor was a proposal for changing the Constitution placed before
the people at the General Election in 1977. There was also no
public debate on the constitutional reform. It was an
undemocratic autocratic act. Moreover the proposal of the PA
Government in 2000 was also sabotaged by the UNP by burning
copies of the draft new constitution and outvoting the
The JVP, it must be admitted bargained for the abolition of
the executive presidency with candidates at several elections.
In fact they even got written assurances and even deadlines from
the candidates. However, every time they were taken for a ride.
This time they do not have even a piece of paper where the
pledge is given. Is it naive to take the word of a political
novice? Well, the people are not so naive to believe them and
their so-called common candidate.
On the other hand, let us ponder on what the candidate
himself has said. At the beginning of the campaign he said he
would abolish the executive presidency. He even gave a two month
deadline. Next, he corrected himself by saying that he would not
like to be a ceremonial President such as William Gopallawa.
That means he wanted to retain the executive power. Now during
the latter half of the campaign he does not speak of abolishing
the executive presidency. May be his abysmal experience in
politics these days would have convinced him to retain it.
Meanwhile, the former Chief Justice, a strong adjutant of the
retired General has clearly stated that the executive President
cannot abolish it. He has told the media that the question of
abolishing it does not arise and the problem is to reduce his
What is evident is that the NDF candidate has lost his
enthusiasm for abolishing the executive presidency. On the other
hand, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has clearly stated in his new
Manifesto that the executive President will be made answerable
to Parliament. Clearly he is the only person with a personal
interest in abolishing or reforming the executive Presidency
since he would be entering the office for the second time after
victory at the election.
Those running after the NDF candidate expecting the abolition
of the executive presidency are just chasing a mirage.