- Says multiple initiatives critical to usher greater democracy, good governance with inputs from all stakeholders especially youth
- Refers to 22nd Amendment, setting up of National Assembly of political party leaders
- Backs fully independent body People’s Assembly as critical for country’s way forward
- Says President of a country does not have to be a king or god who is exalted above the people
President Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday outlined what he described as “comprehensive series of political reforms” to usher greater democracy and good governance harnessing all stakeholders, especially youth.
Delivering his policy statement following the ceremonial opening of the third session of the ninth Parliament, Wickremesinghe said that the creation of a new Constitution with new attitudes in order to provide space for youth, is one of the main priority tasks.
Noting that at present, the President has the full right to appoint the members of the Election Commission, Public Service Commission, Police Commission, Judicial Service Commission, etc., Wickremesinghe opined that this was not a favourable condition for democracy.
“We should change that condition. Presently, it has inherited more power from the President than the previous king of Sri Lanka. It should be changed immediately. The President of a country does not have to be a King or a God who is exalted above the people. He or she is one of the citizens.
“Therefore, separate flags, separate logos, separate honour awards should not be consecrated. I have already taken some necessary measures and will continue to do so,” Wickremesinghe emphasised.
He also told Parliament that as an initiative of the political reform process, the new Government intends to pass the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution, including all the effective elements of the 19th Amendment. “I expect the full support of this Honourable House in its adoption,” Wickremesinghe told the House.
“It is my view that discussing it and reaching a common consensus are most appropriate. We could not achieve everything we want through the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution. It is fundamental to a series of reforms. It would be a constructive step if we adopt the reforms in one voice,” the President said.
He also referred to the measures taken to establish the Parliamentary Sectoral Oversight Committees immediately. All the political parties will have the opportunity to work together through those Committees. I have already submitted to this House the report forwarded by the National Movement for Social Justice in this regard.
President also said he is working to establish a National Assembly consisting of political party leaders. “For the next steps, we will be able to arrange a program with a common minimum program with the consent of all, through the National Assembly,” he said.
Emphasising the need for comprehensive series of political reforms Wickremesinghe said he will carry out those reforms during his tenure. “However, not based on my own opinion, but with the consent of the Parliament based on the views of the youth, women and other people,” he added.
President also referred to taking measures to establish a People’s Assembly in order to decide which social and political reforms should be implemented. “A mechanism to obtain views of all interested parties is being prepared through the People’s Assembly through the consultation of political parties, various organisations, etc. I specially invite the youth engaged in activism and youth who are not to provide their views.”
All matters such as ‘Should we continue to maintain the Presidential system in our country? Which system is most appropriate for the country? How should the Government system be reformed?’ should be discussed by the People’s Assembly, and ideas requested. After reaching a national consensus on the system that suits the country, it may be legalised and implemented.
Stressing that it is essential to reach national consensus, Wickremesinghe said the major commitment presented during the Presidential Election campaign is the abolition of the Executive Presidential system.
“However, no one who came to power delivered on that commitment. On the other hand, even if someone abolishes the Executive Presidential system, the next party that comes to power has the ability to change it. That is the reason we require to reach a common national consensus through a body such as the People’s Assembly,” explained Wickremesinghe.
He said the People’s Assembly is a fully independent body with the Government only providing the necessary resources. The Government has no influence on its functions or decisions.
We decide in consultation with various parties, regarding the composition of the People’s Assembly. He said views and proposals in this regard have already been made by the National Movement for Social Justice, Chairman of which was former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya.
The People’s Assembly may seek from the nations in our neighbourhood and the wider Asian region together with the relevant international agencies their expertise in the respective areas.
The responsibility of preparing a National Plan for social, economic and political reforms is assigned to the People’s Assembly, by taking the opinions and advice of all stakeholders and acting with full transparency. The Assembly may wish to prepare this plan, Wickremesinghe added.