ECONOMYNEXT – President Gotabaya Rajapaksa promised sweeping changes to the country’s Constitution that will ensure a stable Parliament and “priority will be given to the concept of one country, one law for all the people” in his address to Parliament today.
The President emphasized that his party had asked the people for a two-thirds majority to change the Constitution and that mandate has been given to his government.
“Our Constitution, which has been amended 19 times, from its inception in 1978, has many ambiguities and uncertainties, presently resulting in confusion,” he said.
“Our first task will be to remove the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. After that, all of us will get together to formulate a new constitution suitable for the country. In this, the priority will be given to the concept of one country, one law for all the people,” he said.
He said that changes are needed in the electoral system.
“While retaining the salutary aspects of the proportional representation system, these changes will be made to ensure the stability of the Parliament and people’s direct representation,” he said.
“An unstable Parliament that cannot take firm decisions and succumbs to extremist influences very often is not suitable for a country. While introducing a new constitution, it is essential to make changes to the current electoral system,” he said.
The President also pledged to get tough on corruption and waste in the public sector. “In future, I will not hesitate to enforce the law against those who are involved in fraud and corrupt actions, irrespective of the status of any such perpetrators,” he said.
He also urged his Ministers and State Ministers to provide service to the public in an efficient manner.
He said, “all the Ministers and State Ministers to take steps to provide fast and efficient service to the public via Ministries, Departments and Institutions that come under their purview.”
“During my recent visits to several State institutions, I observed that some institutional procedures of those institutions do not add any value to the government or to the public but only waste the time of the public.”
He said the Ministers should identify new methods to provide efficient, speedy and convenient service to the public instead of continuing with prevailing traditional methods.
“You need to re-engineer the processes for greater productivity and customer satisfaction. We should find new technological solutions in this regard.”
He also issued a veiled threat that the Ministers will be held accountable to reach their targets.
“If I find any Ministry failing to achieve its set targets, I will not hesitate to effect necessary changes to implement policies of the Government,” he said.
“In the current political culture, most of the people’s representatives, after they get elected, neglect the prime duty of going to the people. When I travelled around the country in the recent past, this was confirmed by the people who voiced their grievance on this matter” he said.
He said that he expects “ministers, state ministers as well as members of Parliament will fulfil this expectation of the people by visiting them often to understand their issues and find solutions to their issues.”
(Colombo, August 20, 2020)
Reported by Arjuna Ranawana