Interest waning in scrapping Sri Lanka’s presidency

ECONOMYNEXT – Maithripala Sirisena romped to power on the back of a promise to scrap the presidency; but, two years later, the country does not appear to consider it a priority. Many are more worried about the economy and corruption.

A survey by the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) involving 2,000 people across the country suggests that almost two-thirds believe there are far more important issues than the promised constitutional reforms.

The three key areas that Sri Lankans believe the government should prioritise at present are the economy and the development of law and order, and corruption.

"This selection was made out of a list of five key areas, the other two being constitutional reforms and reconciliation," the CPA said releasing its findings this week.

When asked what specific aspect of “economy and development” the government should prioritise, many said it should be to reduce living costs. In the Southern and Uva provinces, people also said wage increases should get priority.

The awareness of constitutional reforms had increased marginally over the past five months, with 31 percent saying they are either extremely aware or somewhat aware.

However, the number of people across the country supporting a complete abolition of the executive presidency fell to 30.1 percent by March, compared to 35.7 percent in October last year. Sinhalese were less inclined to accept a complete scrapping of the presidency, with only 27.5 percent supporting it compared to 36.6 percent in October 2016. Tamil perception was largely unchanged, while within the Muslim community, there was greater appetite for scrapping the presidency. By March 2017, some 43.7 percent of the Muslims surveyed wanted the presidency done away with compared to 29.2 percent five months earlier.

The survey also shows that about 44 percent of those surveyed believe that the government of President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had done a good job.

Some 23 percent said they thought that the government had done a bad job, but should be given more time to deliver, while 16.5 percent felt there was no hope and the administration should be voted out at the earliest.

The survey suggests that the minorities — Muslims and Tamils — still have more faith in the current government than the Sinhalese majority.





Members of the Sinhalese community gave the lowest ratings for the government, with only 34.1 percent giving a "good" report card. Another 28.1 percent felt there was still hope despite performance so far being "bad."

In comparison, Muslims gave a whopping 88 percent "good" report, while another 4.9 percent said they were giving more time to the government although they thought the performance was "bad."

Tamils also endorsed the government with a 60.3 percent "good" report, while 4.0 percent were willing to give more time to the administration to deliver.

The survey reports underscore the need for the government to keep its minority constituencies aboard, and address corruption and economic issues to win back the majority community.

(download the full report here: ) (COLOMBO, April 8, 2017)

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