Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sri Lanka: Three terms for the President

By Sandun A. Jayasekara - The government may bring amendments to the Constitution within the next month to allow three terms for an executive President, a senior government source claimed today.

The Constitutional reforms the UPFA government expects to introduce on priority basis in the next few weeks will include the change of term of office a President is permitted to hold under the present Constitution, the senior Minister said.

“The change of the term of office of the President paving the way to hold more than two terms is not intended to give an opportunity to President Mahinda Rajapaksa but to strengthen democracy and stabilize the government,” the Minister said on condition of anonymity.

He said the government wants to introduce these electoral and constitutional reforms sooner rather than later and complete the process before November when President Rajapaksa takes oaths for his second term. The need of the hour is a stable and strong administration to take the country forward and achieve a speedy development and the amendments are aimed at achieving those goals, he added.

The new UPFA government is also planning to change the Preferential Representative System. Accordingly, the ward system will be introduced to the local government elections and a combination of the PR system and the First Past the Post system for the Provincial Council and Parliamentary elections.

The consent of the Eastern Province is necessary to introduce certain electoral reforms such as the ward system. The UPFA is in discussions with the Eastern Province Chief Minister Vinyagamurthi Muralidharan to get his cooperation for the amendments.

Some amendments need Two-Thirds majority and others a simple majority to get into the Statute book. More influential and critical amendments need the Supreme Court clearance and the approval by the people through a referendum.

With assistance of all constituent parties of the UPFA and the cooperation of the opposition members the government is determined to pass those urgent constitutional amendments before November.

The electoral reforms must go through and approve in Parliament before next year’s local government polls. The first election held in the country under the new electoral system will be the 2011 local government polls, he said.

The Minister ruled out the possibility to introduce a brand new Constitution in the near future and added that legislative and constitutional reforms would be brought through amendments to the existing law.

They include the reforms to the 17th Amendment to strengthen independent commissions with new Constitutional provisions as the present amendments have created more controversies than solutions for good governance, the Minister noted.

On the question of attracting 7 members from the opposition to fill the absolute Two Thirds majority in Parliament to pass the Constitutional amendments, he said several members of the UNP, SLMC and the TNA had already pledged their support to President Rajapaksa.

“We do not intend to disclose the names of these MPs. But they will vote with the government when the necessity arrives,” he claimed.

© Daily Mirror

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