ECONOMYNEXT — President Ranil Wickremesinghe has tasked a group of lawyers with looking into abolishing the executive presidency and it is unclear whether a referendum or parliamentary poll will come first, former President Maithripala Sirisena said.
Speaking at an event in Wennappuwa on Sunday February 11, Sirisena said the group of lawyers is led by former Speaker of Parliament Karu Jayasuriya.
“President Wickremesinghe is speedily working towards constitutional reform,” said Sirisena.
“We can’t tell if a referendum or a parliamentary election will come. This is a question that not just you and I might have. Maybe Wickremesinghe himself has it too, the question of what to do,” he said.
In a recent interview with India’s WION network, Wickremesinghe was noncommittal about contesting the presidential election that should constitutionally be held by at least October 17 this year. He did, however, say “both presidential and parliament” elections are due when asked about elections happening in 2024.
Asked how optimistic he is of his own chances, Wickremesinghe said: “For me to be back, I must contest.”
When pressed for his plan, he said: “I have come here to put the economy into order. My first order is to focus on that we get out of bankruptcy.”
There was no confirmation from the president that he would definitely be running.
Abolishing Sri Lanka’s all powerful executive presidency has been an unfulfilled election promise by successive governments going back decades. The closest the island nation came to it was the curtailment of some of the powers of the office of the president through the 19th amendment to the constitution in 2015 under then President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe.
The 19th amendment was reversed through the 20th amendment that followed the election of Sirisena’s successor President Gotabaya Rajapakasa and his Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP)-led government in 2020.
Following Rajapaksa’s resignation in 2022, a 21st amendment was passed by parliament that restored some of the 19th amendment. (Colombo/Feb12/2024)