Speaker Karu Jayasuriya in a candid interview with the Daily Mirror said the country could have saved billions of rupees had the respective Presidents elected since 1994 to date got the presidential system abolished as promised on election platforms.He also criticizes the current presidential system, ‘designed to serve the interests of one man or woman’ as going against the fundamentals of democracy.
The Speaker pledges to ensure that the presidency is abolished in his lifetime. “My position is that the next President should be the last President,” he says, calling for a candidate who will ensure its abolition.
The Speaker set out several policy proposals ranging from devolution of powers, measures to strengthen the independent commissions and prevent crossovers in parliament, as well as a vision for enhancing the abilities of the Various Factions of the UNPthe intelligence services and preventing their abuse in the future. He said the intelligence services need ‘enabling legislation, facilities and credibility with their peers on the world stage’ and not a licence to kill journalists and MPs. Those who abused and denigrated them in the past, he said, must be held accountable.
On his prospects for becoming a ‘common candidate’ for the presidency, Jayasuriya said he would be willing to accept the candidacy on an abolition platform if such a nomination was supported by ‘all progressive forces’ including the various factions of the UNP.
However, the Speaker stressed the importance of uniting all progressive forces behind a single candidate who is democratically elected. He warns direly that if progressive forces split across multiple candidates, “we will end up being the enablers, or the people who opened the door to fascism in Sri Lanka”
The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) have both announced their presidential candidates, but your own United National Party (UNP) has not. Who do you believe would be the best candidate for the UNP to put forward?
First, we should be asking why we are having another presidential election. Since 1994, every presidential candidate has come in on a promise of abolishing the presidential system. In 2010, the Rajapaksa government amended the Constitution to remove the two-term limit. In 2015 we promised the people that President Sirisena would be the last executive president of Sri Lanka.
The power of the presidency has been diluted, but it is still there. The presidency consumes the officeholder over time. The people have seen it. This is why at every election the country votes to abolish the presidency. It is also why Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero’s movement to abolish appealed to me from the beginning. As long as the presidential system is in place, there is no changing the political culture of this country. A system designed to serve the interest of one man or woman goes against the fundamentals of democracy.
The only President who has ever fought to weaken his powers is Maithripala Sirisena. He did it as soon as he took office. We do not have to agree on everything that has happened since, but if President Sirisena had not rallied the SLFP behind the 19th Amendment in 2015, Sri Lanka would still be facing a Constitutional crisis.
As Speaker, it is improper for me to involve myself in deciding on candidates. My position is that the next president should be the last. I have to see that the presidency is abolished in my lifetime. I owe that to my grandchildren and every grandchild in this country. The only way to make sure it happens is to find a candidate who will ensure it is abolished. That should be the primary objective.
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