Constitution supreme document relating to country’s
People’s sovereignty supreme today
“The entire population in a country cannot take part in its
adminstration. That is impractical. Therefore, the civilized world
searched for a suitable system instead. In ancient times monarchies were
established for this purpose. It was the king who took all decisions.
His orders were considered divine rulings. We called it feudalism. Even
during the feudal era there were some procedures, laws, regulations,
customs and traditions.”
“We have passed that age. There were democratic and established
traditions of governance even during the feudal period. People revolted
against kings who ignored these traditions and deposed them. People
revolted against even a powerful king like Mahasen to protest against
the destruction he caused to the Maha Viharaya. Finally, the king had to
rebuild and restore the Maha Viharaya to its previous position.”
“The feudal system is not seen anywhere in the world now. Today,
everything is subservient to the people’s will and sovereignty. There
was a semblance of a monarchy in Nepal in South Asia but that too had
its downfall recently.”
“As such people’s sovereignty is supreme today. Under the democratic
system practised in the world today people elect a group to govern them
according to their will. They devise a special system for it which is
mostly written down in many countries. This is called the Constitution.
The Constitution is the supreme document relating to a country’s
governance. It is not written down in Great Britain. What they have is a
Convention. But we who have been enjoying universal suffrage for 79
years have a written Constitution.”
“It is also the supreme document which enshrines people’s
sovereignty. People are above it. Therefore, sovereignty is something
above the Constitution. Since Independence we had a Westminster system
until 1978. Thereafter a powerful amendment was added changing the
Westminster model. Thereafter our Constitution included an Executive
Presidency based on a Parliamentary system of Government.”
“Accordingly the adminstration was handled by these institutions, the
Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. The Executive and the
Legislature are elected through the people’s vote. Our country has been
governed according to an Executive Presidential system for 32 years.”
“Why did we need an Executive President in 1978? Till then the
country had experienced a level of development below four percent under
various Governments. Sometimes it was less than three percent. The
Westminster system failed to provide a supply according to demand in
keeping with people’s expectations. Instead what existed was an
adminstration subject to strikes and threats and reactionary systems.
“Lee Kwan Yew in his autobiography has said he decided to build the
Singapore harbour after witnessing strikes at the Colombo Port during
his stay in Colombo.”
“As such we needed a stable Government where we can march towards
accelerated development under a stable leader. Needless to say that the
election of the Executive President directly by the people leads to a
“After 1977 there was rapid development in the country than before.
It was under an Executive President that we achieved an economic
development rate of six percent for the first time. “It was due to the
Executive Presidential system that the 30 year Mahaweli Development
Scheme could be telescoped to six years. It was under this system that
five reservoirs were built concurrently for the first time after the
time of Sinhala Kings. Even today five harbours are being built
concurrently and 22 large scale development schemes are underway due to
the wonder of the Executive Presidential system.
“Everyone had to concede that there was accelerated development
during the 1977-1993 period than the previous era. No one can deny that
fact. What people need is a better tomorrow than the present. People
have the right to decide which type of Government is best suitable to
“There may have been shortcomings in the use of the Executive
Presidential system between 1977 and 1993 and thereafter. No one can
contest it. But let us try to correct them. Let us conduct a fruitful
debate to do it.
“But let us also agree that this system directed the country towards
speedy development. There may be shortcomings in our journey. But as a
whole the Executive Presidential system is progressive.
“There had been opposition to be Executive Presidential system from
the day it was established. That is a feature of our political system.
When one Government introduces a system those in the opposition oppose
“Therefore the opinion that the Executive Presidency should be
changed has become a defeatist slogan of groups which cannot come to
“It is only after gaining power that they understand the gravity of
acting with responsibility to the people. When you look at it no one
likes to set up an unstable government’s under the Westminster system.
Mrs Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge governed the country from 1994 to
2000 with a single majority vote in Parliament.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa who came to power in 2005 inherited a
Parliament with an opposition MP as Speaker. But the President won a 30
year war with the help of that Parliament. Who gave leadership to the
country in that accomplishment. It was an Executive President. If is the
same Executive President who has directed the country towards
accelerated development today.
“There are different opinions and view points. But to the ordinary
people who deserve development the Executive Presidency had not been a
problem. If it was a problem they would not have visited the polling
booths to register 75 percent votes to elect a President.
“When Prabhakaran denied the voting rights of the people in the North
and East and banned them from voting, votes polled by all Presidential
candidates totalled only 73 percent of registered voters. But this time
it was 75 percent.
"Therefore the abolishing of the Executive Presidential system is not
a problem to the common masses. However it may be an appetizer for
middle class arm chair critics. The desire of the common masses to
preserve the Executive Presidential system has almost doubled or trebled
after President Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected to power.
Therefore, the majority of people want him to continue in banner. No
other political leader has bettered his popularity at the hustings for
the second time. That is the truth. J R Jayewardene mustered only 53
percent of votes while Chandrika received 62.25 percent by votes.
Mahinda Rajapaksa received 50.4 percent votes during the first time
but he obtained 58 percent during the second time. The total number of
votes was 1.8 million.
This shows that his popularity increases with each year. President
Rajapaksa cannot abolish the Executive Presidency because the people
have not given a mandate to do so. The 'Mahinda Chinthanaya' has not
held out a pledge to do so either.
"But the President was amenable to an idea about an Executive Prime
Minister expressed by the Opposition Leader recently. But at the
Government Parliamentary group workshop held in Beruwala Government MPs
spoke in favour of the Executive Presidency described in the Mahinda
Chinthana vision for the future accepted by the people. Therefore, the
Government cannot shelve that system as it was subject to the most
recent mandate received from the people which is a fundamental
"Politics is not static in the modern world. Policies have to get
updated and change from time to time.
Certain political parties change their policies due to their long
stay in Opposition and the inability of their leaders. It is regrettable
to see the UNP in such position today. This is like the story of the fox
and the bunch of grapes for them. I challenge the Opposition to find a
strong Presidential candidate who can give a tough fight at elections.
Try to build a strong leader without trying to hire retired generals.
"Today both the Government and Opposition have only one leader. That
is President Mahinda Rajapaksa. That is why there is a long line of
people crossing over to the Government from the UNP.
"If a leader brings victory to the country the country in return
makes him victorious. If there are term limits on it such limitations
should be removed. That is the people's wish. It is this impediment that
is being removed by this amendment.
This amendment will also transform the Presidency to one that is
answerable to Parliament.
Politics provides arguments for both sides. The Opposition argument
is that this will create a dictator. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has
been in office for the last 5 years. Had he ever tried to be a dictator?
He only destroyed the terrorist dictator Prabhakaran and liberated the
country. He also defeated another person with dictatorial tendencies by
people's votes at the election. On what basis is a person who liberated
the country presumed as a dictator? There is no basis for it.
The argument is that this amendment has powers to make a dictator. We
can remember the shooting of those who participated in a Hartal in 1953.
There were Ministers who sat on the OICs chair at Police stations and
conducted elections. Some people proscribed demonstrations from Moscow.
Dodampe Mudalali had a fall from the fourth floor. But there was no
Executive Presidency during any of those instances.
During another era underworld thugs were freed from prison and made
JPs. Some underworld thugs were in the PSD. Houses of artistes were set
ablaze. Their hair was cut and kerosene oil poured on their heads. There
was nothing wrong with the system or the power then. That shows the
excellence of those who held power. What happened under the incumbent
President was the liberation of the country and directing it towards
speedy development. There hadn't been a higher rate of development as at
present anytime before. Per Capita income has almost doubled in
comparision to the period between 1948 and 2005. Had their been a
constant rate of development amounting to 6 percent for 3 to 4 years
anytime before. Undoubtedly this happened only during the tenure of
President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
"Therefore opposing views expressed must be just and fair. They
should have an acceptable basis rather than a malicious basis. What is
important is not the term limit of the President elected to power. What
is important is whether he is elected with popular vote after going
before the people at an election."
"Therefore there is no question about people's sovereignty. Our
Executive President cannot extend his term without going before the
people. We are not using the two third majority to extend the term of
"Section 92 of the Constitution deals with the disqualification of a
President to continue has term of office. There are various factors
including the mental state. It also includes the term limit, that is
wrong and what we are doing today is to correct that wrong. Supposing
the President defeated LTTE terrorism during the last year of his second
term of office would it be justifiable to ask him to retire without
giving an opportunity to rebuild the nation. That is why these
amendments are most reasonable. If a President can hold office for any
number of terms with the people's mandate how can he be called a
"If provisions for an impeachment are included in the Constitution
how can he become a dictator? We know through experience how a President
was amenable wen he was from our party and Parliamentary power was in
the hands of another party. That Government lost due to the wrongs of
the Prime Minister. If he wanted he could have early controlled the
"The then President was later proved guilty in a court of law. That
allegation was also included in an impeachment. But the legislature did
not bring forward that impeachment motion mainly due to the impractical
nature of the government's leader.
"I brought these examples to show how the Executive, Legislature and
the Judiciary are amenable under the present constitution.
"If the legislature actively performed its duties and
responsibilities the Executive cannot suppress it. The powers of each of
these sectors are mentioned separately in the Constitution.
Executive power in our country has never been dictational. It has
become amenable in keeping with the times. The best example is during
the 2002-2003 period. People do not need hair splitting arguments. They
only desire a better tomorrow. Hasn't President Rajapaksa ensured a
better future to the people than what was in 2005? Today the National
Flag is flittering in all corners of the country. The whole country is
under the writ of the Central government. There are no bomb explosions.
There is no fear and suspicion. The whole country is enjoying freedom.
Isn't that itself a big change for the better ?
"Poverty has diminished. The economy is stronger than what it was in
2005. That is what the people need and want. They are not bothered about
the number of times a President can contest elections.
"Then some question as to why this hurry. There is no hurry. Any
political party or government will do things at times which are most
beneficial to them. President Jayewardene brought in a Third Amendment
to enable him to recontest the Presidential election after four years in
office in 1982 and no one questioned then as to why he was in a hurry.
In politics people do things at times most beneficial to them. That
is the nature of politics. In recent times it is only the UNP which
transformed advantage into disadvantage and the government cannot be
blamed for it.
"On the other hand, all mundane people desire to be on the side of a
strong government. The President has given that strength to the
government. Therefore everyone should support this amendment to the