Friday, December 11, 2009

S.B. Dissanayake: Sri Lanka’s Electoral System Must Change

Abolishing the executive presidency will not be enough to ensure stability in Sri Lanka, says S.B. Dissanayake, former national organizer for the United National Party (UNP) and former opposition leader of the Central Provincial Council.

“Even more than the system of the executive presidency, there is a bigger problem in this country and that’s with the parliamentary electoral system,” Dissanayake says. “Both these systems have to work together. If we abolish the executive presidency and continue with the same electoral system, there will never be a stable government in Sri Lanka.”
The executive president of the tiny Indian Ocean island is also the head of state of the Republic of Sri Lanka and the head of the executive, the head of the government, and the commander in chief of the armed forces.

Elected by the people and holding office for a period of six years, the president has the right to attend, address and send messages to Parliament at any time. The office also entitles the incumbent to all the privileges, immunities and powers of a member of parliament, other than the right to vote, and will not be liable for any breach of the privileges of Parliament or of its members.
Prior to his crossing over to government ranks, Dissanayake was being promoted by some members of the UNP as a possible presidential candidate. But that was not to be. If he is bitter about it, that bitterness is directed at UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe whom Dissanayake accuses of having appropriated all powers in the party to himself. He accuses Wickremesinghe of being dictatorial and not subjecting the party to democratic norms.

“The system of government (in Sri Lanka) should be democratic,” Dissanayake says. “However, it is very essential that there is a strong leadership.”

Dissanayake made these comments during a wide-ranging interview with SLNN at his residence following his press conference Monday. During that press conference, Dissanayake announced that he was relinquishing all his posts in the UNP and joining the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) to secure the victory of incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

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