President Sirisena’s 5th year ropewalk with UNF | Daily News

President Sirisena’s 5th year ropewalk with UNF

The final year of the Executive Presidency of President Maithripala Sirisena has begun (January 8) at a crucial time as the President heads a single party government of United National Front (UNF) as he withdrew his United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) from the unity government.

With the Yahaplanaya of the Unity Government in shatters the new government of UNF commenced its functions in an atmosphere of distrust. However two brief Cabinet meetings headed by President Sirisena got off to a reasonable start without any major confrontation or visible hostility.

The initial issues related to appointment of ministers were sorted out as the UNF accepted the President’s reasons for non inclusion of Sarath Fonseka and UPFA members. They also agreed to allow the President to keep the Police Department under the Ministry of Defence.

The next issue could be over the appointment of heads of public sector institutes, corporations and statutory bodies. Although the intellectual community will back the President’s directive to appoint only university degree holders to such posts, the UNF may resent the proposal.

The circular call for the resignations of those who serve currently, so each case could be examined by an official committee headed by Presidential Advisor W.J.S. Karunaratne. While many moderate professionals in the UNF refused to comment on this circular, Leader of House, Lakshman Kiriella said it was illegal. The Presidential Secretariat circular also makes provision for annual evaluation of appointees. It is similar to President Ranasinghe Premadasa’s strategy in 1989 to appoint Cabinet Ministers for a period of one year. It was meant to get rid of Gamini Dissanayake and Lalith Athulathmudali by dropping one minister after one year and shifting the portfolio of the other.

Conflict of interest

The circular also stated that those considered having a conflict of interest in their areas of activity will be debarred from serving. Also debarred are persons declared by courts as insolvent or a person found guilty by court for moral turpitude, corruption or any other serious crime.

The Review Committee will have two representatives appointed by the Prime Minister and a representative of the Secretary to the Treasury. The Treasury’s Deputy Secretary, A.R. Desapriya, has been named as representative of the Treasury.

Although the Unity Government could not fulfill all its promises, there certainly are some outstanding achievements in the last four years.

Acknowledging the failures, President Sirisena vowed on January 8 that he will continue to fulfill the expectations people had placed in him when he took over duties as Head of State four years ago. Marking the fourth anniversary of assuming Office, the President said although there were successes as well as failures in his programme for the country, he is committed to work towards turning the losses into victories as well as further consolidating the successes. He made this announcement addressing a public rally after vesting the new green city of Laggala with the public.

The President recalled that during the past four years, a number of important measures were taken to build a society free from doubts and fears, ensuring people’s democracy and liberty as well to build a free media, an independent Judiciary, and an unbiased government service and to strengthen the national economy.

Fraud, corruption and malpractices

Emphasising that a significant sacrifice has been made over the past four years to eliminate fraud, corruption and malpractices that constitute the greatest challenge for the country’s development, the President invited all to join hands to reject corruption and fraud through a strong programme. President Sirisena handed over the new Laggala green city constructed to replace the old Laggala city that was submerged for the Moragahakanda-Kalu Ganga multi-purpose irrigation project to the people.

Some of the major achievements in the last four years have been firmly established in an irreversible manner. For example, strengthening of democratic institutions, establishment of independent councils, media freedom, judiciary independence and last but not the least, the curtailment of executive presidency powers and devolve them to the parliament are some of the solid achievement of the Yahapalanaya. This was significant as two former Presidents came to power, agreeing to transfer the executive power to the parliament, but they did not fulfill that promise.

One of the first things that President Sirisena did as soon as he was elected was to transfer as many as powers possible to the Parliament and, establish the Constitutional Council and the independent commissions through the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Though he wanted to de-centralize more powers of the Executive Presidency, he had to drop that idea as the Supreme Court stated that according to the constitution there should be a national referendum for that exercise.

Last year, the President said the government had been able to achieve much for the benefit of common people and the country though those achievements could not be felt tangibly by the people immediately. “We have been able to launch a mission to eradicate fraud and corruption by introducing the measures for transparency, good governance, human rights and civil liberties of people and democracy. What we introduced were the basic needs for a society to function ensuring the rights of people,” he pointed out.

Establishment of the independent commissions was the biggest victory for the democracy of this country. Intellectuals, civil society leaders, political parties of this country had fought for nearly 40 years for the establishment of independent commissions which will ensure checks and balances. The most important commission is the independent election commission introduced by the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. By establishing independent commissions such as the police, public service, human rights and auditing, a firm foundation for regaining Sri Lanka’s place in the democratic world was laid.



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