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Govt committed to abolishing Executive Presidency – PM

In a speech made to the Maldives Parliament yesterday highlighting, among other things, the democratic achievements of the Yahapalana Government, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe reiterated his commitment to abolishing the executive presidency.

“Today, the major features of the Westminster Parliamentary Government exist side by side with an Executive Presidency – which we are committed to abolishing due to its profound powers that have often been exploited and abused by its incumbents with impunity,” he told the People’s Majlis.

Listing out the various measures taken by his Government in curbing the powers of the Executive President, Wickremesinghe noted the role played by the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in strengthening Parliament by requiring the President to appoint Ministers on the advice of the Prime Minister.

This, said Wickremesinghe, reinforced the collective responsibility of the Cabinet of Ministers to Parliament.

“The 19th Amendment further strengthened Parliament by restricting the President’s powers to dissolve Parliament. The President cannot dissolve Parliament for four and a half years unless Parliament requests a dissolution by a two-thirds majority. In October 2018, the President purported to dissolve Parliament without such a resolution but the Supreme Court held that this dissolution to be unconstitutional,” he recalled.

Noting that the President had “near-total” immunity prior to the 19th Amendment, the Prime Minister said the reforms also provided for official acts of the President to be reviewable by the Supreme Court under its fundamental rights jurisdiction.

“The dissolution of Parliament in 2018 was declared unconstitutional under this provision,” he said.

The 19th amendment was deemed necessary, he said, due to the “flagrant violations of the Constitution” under the previous regime, including the illegal ouster of then Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake in 2013 without a resolution of impeachment.

In his speech, Wickremesinghe underlined a number of measures taken by the Government to address various shortcomings in governance, such as establishing independent commissions to address the high level of politicisation of the public service and the police as well as the Right to Information Act, which he said is recognised as one of the strongest RTI policies in the world.

Legislative exercises of Parliament were also enriched and expanded by introducing a Sectoral Oversight Committee system, he further said.

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“Very soon we will be tabling a Bill to establish a Parliamentary Budget Office,” he added.

However, cautioned the Prime Minister, laws alone do not strengthen democracy.

“Laws can be repealed or ignored. The strengthening of key democratic institutions and their implementing mechanisms is also necessary. We achieved the independence of these institutions through the Constitutional Council. The appointees were no longer dependent on the whims of the executive. They have the space to act independently,” he said.

Related story: Sri Lanka will help Maldives fight global warming – PM

Maldives MPs listening to Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at the People’s Majlis

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