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Proposed constitutional amendments

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The present efforts directed at amending the Constitution by clipping off the wings of the Executive Presidency are entirely without merit, for constitution-making is not all about law since it has its links with political science as well.

It is completely absurd to think that the Executive Presidency has given rise to the constitutional excesses eroding democratic values. It is fundamentally wrong to portray the effect as a cause and vice versa. We need remedies to cure the cause but not the effect. As we understand lack of direct democratic CHECKS and BALANCES in the Constitution is the cause for corruptions and bribery in our Parliamentary politics. The remedies suggested under the 19th Amendment are superficially good but it cannot be reconciled with the democratic theory of Peoples Sovereignty recognized in the Constitution. These amendments can be summed up thus:

These include the reducing of the duration of the office of the Executive President and Parliament from the present six years to five years with Cabinet being limited to 30 members; a new procedure for dissolution of Parliament curtailing President’s discretion; limiting the President’s term of office not to exceed two terms; and appointment of some commissions to ensure a clean public administration like Police Commission and Public Service Commission.

The precise objective of these amendments is nothing, but to consolidate the theory and practice of Parliamentary democracy ascribing the citizen the passive role of outside observer. This is an attempt to attach divinity to Parliament. The Constitution is considered a document untouchable to the people. Elected representatives are deemed to be divine beings free of any corruption.

Although these NGOs are highly lamenting over the fact that the Executive wields more power, they have no such lamentation for the special powers and privileges enjoyed by the country’s elected representatives in the legislature
As an example we can cite the parliamentary immunity: A parliamentarian cannot be prosecuted for his speeches or votes; again he cannot be arrested or brought to court without the permission of the Speaker.

What about their privileges! Duty free vehicle permits, subsidized meals, enhanced pay packets and pensions and the likes, which they enjoy at the expense of the poor taxpayer. Then where does the defect lie? Is it in the Executive Presidency or Legislature?
It lies in the powers assigned to the elected representatives to act arbitrarily in disregard of the will of the people. It is here that a remedy like RECALL and REFEREUNDUM is needed to put an end to these constitutional ills. Constitutional devices like these must be embodied into the Constitution enabling the citizen to expel them from their posts.

The present amendments proposed are not the remedies for the present corruptions prevailing in our politics. Proposal for the abolishing of Executive Presidency is somewhat similar to wearing a loin cloth as a cure for diarrhoea.

We don’t expect people to participate just once every five years at election. We want to see a role for civil society in this country. We are committed to a transformation for a participatory democracy.

The men who are vociferous about wiping out the right and privileges of politicians under this executive system of government are silent about the Section 68 of the Constitution which permits elected representatives themselves to get their salaries increased according to their own whims and fancies without consulting their electorate.

Section 68
(1) Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Members, including the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker and the Deputy Chairman of Committees, shall be paid such remuneration or allowance as may be provided by Parliament, by law or by resolution, and the receipt thereof shall not disqualify the recipient from sitting or voting in Parliament.

Under the present Constitution the powers of the executive presidency depends always on the numerical strengths of his parliamentary majority. In the absence of the 2/3 majority in Parliament the executive presidency is powerless.
Cecil Atukorale

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