Constitutional reforms Differences emerge in Unity Govt

Sharp differences have emerged between the two main constituent parties in the Unity Government over constitutional reforms.

The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) yesterday firmly asserted its position that a President with certain executive powers was essential for the stability of the country, while the United National Party (UNP) wants to abolish the Presidency and introduce an Executive Prime Minister.

Addressing a media conference held within the Parliamentary Complex yesterday, SLFP MP and Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation, Nimal Siripala de Silva said, that the SLFP firmly believed an Executive President was necessary for the future of the country.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told Parliament yesterday that Sri Lanka’s future depended on the capacity of the UNP and the SLFP to reach a consensus on the fundamentals of the new Constitution.

The Premier made this statement while presenting the Interim Report of the Steering Committee of the Constitutional Assembly to the Constitutional Assembly, in Parliament yesterday.

“It is up to the SLFP and the UNP to reach an agreement on the fundamentals of the new Constitution and the future of this country depends on such an ability,” the Prime Minister said citing national unitary status and the upholding of Buddhism as the leading religion in the country as examples of the fundamentals in the new Constitution.

“It was proposed by the UNP in the Steering Committee that the Executive Presidency be replaced by an Executive Prime Minister.

We cannot agree as we do not see that a solution to the problem. Additionally, we are firmly of the view that an Executive President is essential for the stability of the country,” Minister, de Silva said while elaborating on the views of the SLFP on the recently released Interim Report of the Steering Committee of the Constitutional Assembly.

He went on to say that the SLFP had disagreed with the UNP proposal to have the Parliament appoint the President.

“In such a scenario the President may become answerable to Parliament and Parliament may have undue influence over the President. We are of the position that the President should be appointed through a people’s mandate so that such a President represents all aspects of society”

In addition, the SLFP said that it had proposed that the new Constitution follow the Westminster system of appointing a Prime Minister. “An MP most likely to command the confidence of the House should be appointed as the Prime Minister.”

Minister de Silva went on to say that the establishment of a Senate Council had been proposed in the Steering Committee and that the SLFP had suggested two individuals from the Senate Council also be given ministerial portfolios.

Furthermore, the Minister added that the SLFP advocated for a 25 per cent female representation in Parliament. (SG)

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