Home / FT View Editorial/ Progressive changes

Progressive changes

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Saturday, 8 December 2018 00:10


President Maithripala Sirisena has stated he is open to making changes to fix any procedural shortcomings of the 19th Amendment, while keeping its core democratic values. The fact that President Sirisena has praised the 19th Amendment, which he and his party supported to implement, is positive, but proposing changes without specifics and doing so while the country is gripped by a Constitutional crisis of his making is disappointing.

The 19th Amendment, when it was implemented in 2015, was hailed as strengthening democratic institutions and balancing power between the Executive, Parliament and Judiciary. It was seen as a progressive move that sought to limit powers of the Executive that could overreach those of both Parliament and the Judiciary. The efficacy of the 19th Amendment, together with the Constitution as a whole, as well as the gazette to dissolve parliament, are now before the Supreme Court with a decision likely to be given on Monday.

The removal of a sitting Prime Minister and the appointment of another when he clearly does not command the majority of parliament is a questionable act at best. Since then President Sirisena has refused to accept two votes on a no confidence motion and has insisted that even if all 225 members of parliament request him to appoint MP Ranil Wickremesinghe, he would not do so. His insistence that “compatibility” is a quality needed in a prime minister and refusing to consider a compromise has raised serious concerns about his dedication to democracy.  

Therefore any discussion on changes to the 19th Amendment to improve democracy should be taken with a pinch of salt by most Sri Lankans. It is also pointless without the Supreme Court decision and serves to only muddy the situation even more. For any changes to be made to the 19th Amendment parliament needs to be reconvened and two thirds majority accumulated, which is impossible in the present set of circumstances.   

Given the spate of events that has taken place since 26 October and clear signs that MP Mahinda Rajapaksa does not have a majority in parliament, which resulted in two votes on a no confidence motion, a vote after Rajapaksa’s address to the House, and a loss of vote on the Selection Committee, it is more likely that if a two thirds majority is created it would be to start impeachment proceedings rather than any changes to the 19th Amendment. Conversely if parliament is dissolved then the 19th Amendment will only be a focus once the next Parliament is convened after a general election and it is possible those lawmakers may have different priorities.

What Sri Lanka needs from President Sirisena at this point is to restore democracy by accepting the decisions of Parliament and the Judiciary. As political uncertainty begins to bite with downgrading of Sri Lanka’s sovereign rating, the suspension of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), concerns being raised by local and foreign business chambers and a drop in tourism arrivals the need of the hour is for the President to restore the balance of power by respecting the Constitution. Any other measure at this point in time will not make much difference to the big picture and big things are at stake.

Share This Article

Facebook Twitter


1. All comments will be moderated by the Daily FT Web Editor.

2. Comments that are abusive, obscene, incendiary, defamatory or irrelevant will not be published.

3. We may remove hyperlinks within comments.

4. Kindly use a genuine email ID and provide your name.

5. Spamming the comments section under different user names may result in being blacklisted.


Today's Columnists

Death of a sentence?

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Many a voice has been raised against the carrying out of the death sentence in Sri Lanka. It is inhumane, offends human rights, the State should not kill, the possibility of an error in the judicial process leading to the death of an innocent person

SL’s future depends not on outdated feudalistic system but on becoming partner of a digital economy

Monday, 15 July 2019

Calling Sri Lanka an agriculture-based country is a misnomer A widely-held view by many Sri Lankans is that Sri Lanka was an agriculture-based economy in the past and it should be so even in the future. The first part of this argument is only half-t

Competing with competencies: Developing future-proof Sri Lankans

Monday, 15 July 2019

Competencies are required to compete in an increasingly competitive global environment. Sri Lanka has slipped from 71st place to 85th on the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) last year. This shows a dismal picture as Sri Lanka i

Timing is everything

Monday, 15 July 2019

Imagine this scene – the boy totally in love decides to take the plunge and propose to her. He sets up everything perfectly. The ring, the restaurant, the menu and the post proposal music to celebrate. Everything is manicured to a fine detail. But

Columnists More