The Buddha Sasana Karaya Sadhaka Mandalaya comprising around 15 prominent Buddhist organizations in a statement on the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution has urged all political parties not to abolish the Executive Presidency without amending the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.
The statement signed by venerable Diviyagaha Yasassi Thera, Tirikunamale Ananda Thera and Agalakada Sirisuma Thera said: ‘While we strongly oppose any move to dilute the unitary state or to introduce a federal system, we request all political parties not to abolish the Executive Presidential system without amending the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.’
The Karaya Sadhaka Mandalaya includes prominent Buddhist organizations such as the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress, Dharma Vijaya Foundation, Colombo YMBA, All Ceylon Women’s Buddhist Congress, Maha Bodhi Society and Shanthi Foundation.
The full statement follows:
There have been media reports of a move to abolish the Executive Presidency through a constitutional amendment. We would like to point out that such an amendment to the constitution would be dangerous without repealing the 13th Amendment.
Before the 13th Amendment all functions and powers of the Republic of Sri Lanka were carried out by the Government of Sri Lanka. Through the 13th Amendment the Legislative and the Executive functions of the government were bifurcated and as a result the executive functions of the Sri Lankan Government could be exercised only on the functions included in the Reserved List and the Concurrent List. This Executive function is exercised by the President through the Cabinet of Ministers. The Executive Powers for the subjects included in the Provincial Council List is exercised by the Provincial Governor on the instructions of the Chief Minister and the Ministers of the Provincial Councils.
Although the Governor should normally act on the instructions of the council of Ministers of the Provincial Council, according to section 154(B) (2)of the constitution the Governor should exercise his powers in accordance with the powers of the President. This has been accepted by the Supreme Court as well. If the Provincial Ministers exercise their powers in a manner that is illegal or detrimental to the State, in such an instance the President can intervene and give necessary orders to correct them. If the Presidential system is abolished while maintaining the provisions of the 13th Amendment, in such an instance the Central Government will not be able to intervene as before.
Therefore our understanding is that it is not wise to abolish the Presidential system without repealing the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. It is quite obvious to anyone when looking at the current action of the Chief Minister of the Northern Province and the Tamil National Alliance that the Sri Lankan State should have the powers act against any untoward acts of a provincial government. The Tamil National Alliance says in public that no Buddhist temples should be constructed in the Northern Province. There opinion is that Sinhala people should not be settled in the Northern and Eastern provinces. By now a large number of Buddhist archaeological sites have been destroyed in the North and the East. Under section 25 of the Provincial Council List, the museums and historical sites had been included in the Provincial Council List. The subject of police, powers concerning lands to a certain extent, the subject on religious organizations are also included in the Provincial Council List. The result would be that the Northern Province Chief Minister and the council of Ministers would be able to exercise powers prevailing to these subjects. Therefore the Sinhala Buddhist public living in the Northern and Eastern province is in an insecure situation and it is the President’s Executive Powers functioning over the Provincial Minister’s powers that had given some sort of a protection to them.
That is why it is the opinion of the Buddhasasana Karyasadhaka Mandayala that there should not be a division of the people’s executive powers between the Cabinet of Ministers and the council of Ministers of the Provincial Council. If the Council of Ministers of the Provinces is maintained under the 13th Amendment it should be done subject to the powers of the President and the Cabinet of Ministers.
The rights of the minorities living the North and the East will not be protected by only having the power to dissolve a provincial Council on a special occasion with the President. We can imagine how some Provincial Councils would act when the Executive Presidency is abolished by looking at how some of the Provincial Councils are acting now.
The President should have full powers to control any untoward action of the Northern Provincial Council and its Chief Minister. Since the Cabinet Ministers cannot exercise powers on subjects mentioned in the Provincial Council List, the President should be able exercise those powers when a necessity arises.
It is with sadness we note that needs of separatists who want to establish a federal state in Sri Lanka and the Western Powers influence certain decisions of the government. The current constitutional drafting process is a good example for this. While we strongly oppose any move to dilute the unitary state or to introduce a federal system, we request all political parties not to abolish the Executive Presidential system without amending the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.