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Thursday April 18th, 2024

The Friday Forum questions the call to hand over more powers to the President

ECONOMYNEXT – A group of eminent personalities are questioning the call for handing over more powers to the Presidency by abolishing the 19th Amendment to the Constitution which was passed by all parties in Parliament in 2015.

The group which calls itself the Friday Forum in a statement pointed out that For 30 years the people and political parties agreed that the office of the Executive Presidency of 1978 amassed to itself too much power undermining other public institutions like Parliament and the Courts.

“We have seen how during long years, these two institutions have been undermined. Up to 2019, we wanted to abolish the Executive Presidency and introduce a system of governance that gave authority to a Prime Minister and a Cabinet that were responsible to an elected Parliament. We also looked for Courts that were independent of the Executive,” it said.

The Forum agrees that the 19th Amendment has flaws and must be modified. But now we have a new discourse which is asking for a 2/3 majority to give MORE powers to the President, and indeed change completely the structures of governance, so that the President will exercise extensive powers.

“We must ask ourselves whether this new system with the concentration of power in one individual, is that the form of government we want to introduce through a 2/3 majority and Constitutional reform,” the statement said.

The Forum also said that this election is “a defining one, conducted at a time when the country is facing the double crisis of a debilitating debt burden, and an unprecedented economic and public health crisis. It is therefore important to reflect on our current situation, and cast our votes to help achieve the kind of governance that will hold our rulers accountable to us, and provide primacy of place to citizens’ well-being when they exercise their powers.”

The statement also pointed out that the country has not had a Parliament for the last 4 months “ and have no idea how funds have been spent, without authorisation by Parliament. We have witnessed how the principle that a person is innocent until proven guilty, has enabled many persons accused of serious crimes in our Courts, to obtain bail, stand for election, and hold high office in the government.”

The recent destruction of a cultural heritage site has been ignored by the Cabinet because holding anyone accountable will have political repercussions. Is it satisfactory that the public service and public institutions are no longer accountable, and ad hoc decisions determine important matters relating to the economy ( eg the MCC agreement), the environment- including the human /elephant conflict, public health issues, and the destruction of public property such as heritage sites,” the statement asked.

The Forum also pointed out that the military has moved out of its traditional role and is taking on all the responsibilities of civilian institutions on public administration, and even the Police. “ We have Military Task Forces which exercise significant powers and exclude the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers. They report directly to the President. We have governance according to gazette notifications that allow investigation of persons for spreading false information on Covid-19’.The army also has been made responsible for ‘de-radicalising’ those with ‘extremist ideas’ in their custody, under the Prevention of Terrorism law.  Others, including politicians who advocate violence against minorities in the community, continue to do so with impunity.”

It went on to say that the “administration of justice without fear or favour is in our collective interest. Do we not want governance that ensures the independence of the judiciary from political interference? Increasingly, we witness selective justice- some people prosecuted in the courts while no questions are asked about the conduct of others. They are not held accountable for their conduct, despite Commissions of Inquiry and prolonged investigations. Should we not vote for and demand, a strengthening, rather than undermining of institutions responsible for the administration of justice in our country?”

The statement was signed by  Prof. Savitri Goonesekere, Dr. Radhika Coomaswamy, Dr. A.C. Visvalingam, Mr. Tissa Jayatilaka, Prof. Ranjini Obeyesekere, Prof. Gameela Samarasinghe, Mr. Faiz-Ur Rahman, Prof. Arjuna Aluwihare, Dr. Geedreck Usvatte-aratchi, Bishop Duleep de Chickera, Prof. Camena Guneratne, Chandra Jayaratne, Rev. Dr. Jayasiri Peiris, Mr. Priyantha Gamage, Shanthi Dias, Daneshan Casie Chetty, Manouri Muttetuwegama and Prashan de Visser.

(Colombo, July 30, 2020)

Reported by Arjuna Ranawana

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Sri Lanka’s discussions with bondholders constructive: State finance minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lankan authorities continue to engage all debt restructuring negotiations in good faith, within principles of equitable treatment among creditors, and with maximum transparency within the norms of such negotiations, State Minister of Finance, Shehan Semasinghe has said.

“It is standard practice, when a representative group of bondholders is formed, to entertain confidential discussions with such group and its appointed advisors. In the case of Sri Lanka, the Ad Hoc Group of Bondholders represents holders controlling more than 50% of the bonds, which make them a privileged interlocutor for Sri Lanka,” Semasinghe said on X (twitter).

“It is well understood that given the price sensitive nature of the negotiations, and according to market regulations, discussions with the Group and its advisors are to be conducted under non-disclosure agreements. This evidently restricts the ability of the Government to unilaterally report about the substance of the discussions.

“The cleansing statement, which was issued on the 16th of April, at the conclusion of this first round of confidential discussions with members of the Group, aims at informing the Sri Lankan people, market participants and other stakeholders to this debt restructuring exercise, about the progress in negotiations. It provides the highest possible level of transparency within the internationally accepted practices in such circumstances.

“As informed in this statement, confidential discussions held in recent weeks with bondholders’ representatives proved constructive, building on the restructuring proposals presented by both parties. During the talks both sides successfully bridged a number of technical issues enabling important progress to be made. Sri Lanka articulated key remaining concerns that need to be addressed in a satisfactory manner.

“The next steps would entail further consultation with the IMF staff regarding assessments of the compatibility of the latest proposals with program parameters. Following these consultations, we hope to continue discussions with the bondholders with a view to reaching common ground ahead of the IMF board consideration of the second review of Sri Lanka’s EFF program.”

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Sri Lanka rupee weakens at 301.00/302.05 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed at 301.00/302.05 to the US dollar in the spot forex market on Tuesday, from 299.00/10 on Tuesday, dealers said. Bond yields were broadly steady.

A bond maturing on 15.12.2026 closed stable at 11.30/35 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 11.90/12.05 percent up from 11.95/12.00 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.12.2028 closed at 12.10/20 percent down from 12.10/15 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.07.2029 closed at 12.25/40 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.03.2031 closed at 12.30/50 percent. (Colombo/Apr17/2024)

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Sri Lanka Treasury Bill yields down across maturities

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Treasuries yields were down across maturities at Wednesday’s auction with the 3-month yield moving down 7 basis points to 10.03 percent, data from the state debt office showed.

The debt office sold all 30 billion rupees of 3-month bills offered.

The 6-month yield fell 5 basis points to 10.22 percent, with 25 billion rupees of bills offered and 29.98 billion rupees sold.

The 12-month yield dropped 4 basis points to 10.23 percent with 18.01 billion rupees of bills sold after offering 23 billion rupees. (Colombo/Apr17/2024)

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