TNA parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran said yesterday that the emergency Cabinet meeting summoned on Thursday to discuss the abolition of the executive presidency was done with the agreement of both President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
“The primary promise of the 2015 Presidential Election campaign was the abolition of the executive presidency, and this is one issue on which the TNA has been talking to both the President and the Prime Minister for some time. Hence Thursday’s Cabinet meeting was fixed for this purpose, as the President said the proposal needs to be approved by the Cabinet and he was confident it would be passed,” Sumanthiran said.
His comments released last night shed some light on the confusion as to who initiated the urgent Cabinet meeting, as both the President and Prime Minister sought to distance themselves as the initiators of the move.
Thursday’s meeting ended after heated arguments, which saw a group of UNP members as well as minor parties opposing the move to rush the 20th Amendment through Parliament prior to the Presidential Election.
Sumanthiran said President Sirisena has shown interest in abolishing the executive presidency of late, as it was his primary promise in 2015.
“When I met the President in Jaffna recently, I reminded him of it and told him that the JVP has already tabled the 20th Amendment and can be moved at any time. I also spoke to the JVP who said they would move the Bill provided they were assured of Government support,” he said.
He said he informed the TNA Parliament group of all these steps when they met on Tuesday, whereupon they gave the green light for him to pursue the option of abolishing the executive presidency.
“It was with that I spoke to the Prime Minister and President. And now I learn that at the Cabinet meeting people have said there was conspiracy to stop various people from contesting etc. There is no such thing,” he said.
Sumanthiran said that this is an attempt even at the eleventh hour to do what the people have been promised for over 25 years. “If those who opposed it yesterday at the Cabinet meeting say they are really for abolition, they can help pass the Bill in Parliament. A referendum can be held later,” he said.
He added that there is no bad time to do a good thing. “You can show you are serious about abolishing the presidency by passing it in Parliament,” he said.