Pro-Yahapalana civil society activists demand bicameral Parliament
A collective of civil society groups led by the National Movement for a Just Society (NMJS) last Friday (23 Aug) declared their support for any presidential candidate who promises to, among other things, fully abolish the Executive Presidency and establish a bicameral parliament tasked with appointing the President.
At an open discussion held in Colombo, the NMJS, the Puravesi Balaya and other civil society organisations that threw weight behind the Yahapalana drive in 2015, presented their demands to any candidate who wishes to join hands with them for the forthcoming presidential election.
Some of the demands on their agenda are:
- Abolishing the Executive Presidency in full, while establishing a parliamentary system of government with a cabinet of ministers.
- Future presidents should be appointed by Parliament and a proposed Second House
- A National Security Council should be established by an amendment to the Constitution with all required powers, while establishing a National Security Advisory Board with part of its members being experts with a non-military background
- Apart from the Speaker, Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition, all other members of the Constitution Council should be non-Parliament members
- A Second House should be established with its members nominated from the provincial councils while Parliament may also appoint some additional members to it
Former Human Rights Commissioner Javid Yusuf speaking at the event said that the Yahapalana government only fulfilled some of its promises to the people while major promises such as the abolishing of the executive presidency, electoral reform and a permanent solution to conflicts among communities still remain unfulfilled.
Puravesi Balaya Co-convenor Gamini Viyangoda, meanwhile, said that dictators are created not because of the skills the dictator has but due to the failures of the democrats.
“Due to this reason, a democratic society cannot keep silent when the democracy of the country is about to get a huge blow. We will have to repeat the same thing again and again despite being ashamed and disliking it,” he said.
Viyangoda further said that the people in Sri Lanka are getting fed up with politicians, their politics and the so-called democracy they represent.
“The current government has failed to show a difference between them and the former government, unlike how Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi brought that country’s corrupt before the law. The Prime Minister and the President have failed to act against the corrupt politicians as promised,” he said.
“Though people have experienced some sort of freedom of expression under the Yahapalana government, we did not expect a short story writer like Shakthika Sathkumara to be behind bars for three months for writing a short story,” he added.
Reading out a letter written by Human Rights Commission of Asia Director Basil Fernando, NMSJ Convenor Prof Sarath Wijesooriya said that in response to his controversial speech at the ceremony held to commemorate the third death anniversary of Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero, Fernando had written to him saying that the primary goal of the 2015 presidential election was to defeat the former regime led by Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Former Defence Ministry Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the failure of which would have dragged the country to a much more worse situation.
“Since it is a historic victory, cursing themselves is not necessary,” Prof Wijesuriya said, quoting the letter.
The 1978 constitution was brought to protect the ruler from the people and not to ensure the protection of the people, he added.
“The best example of it is that the person who should take the most responsibility for the Easter attacks is protected by the constitution,” continued the letter.
Prof Wjesooriya said that the coming presidential election is the last chance to do something about the executive presidency before the country falls into the hands of a dictator.
A national candidate from the two main parties should be selected who will act independently, he said, while promising to remove himself from the party after winning the election.
“He should not only defeat Gotabaya Rajapaksa but should also protect the laws of the country,” he said.
Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, MPs Mujibur Rahuman, Ravi Karunanayake, Dayasiri Jayasekara, Kumara Welgama, Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka and former MP Tissa Atthanayake were present at the event.