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Sri Lankan Cabinet rejects Wickremesinghe's proposal to abolish executive presidency

Press Trust of India  |  Colombo 

The Sri Lankan Cabinet on Thursday rejected a proposal by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to abolish the executive presidential system in the country.

Since its introduction in 1978, the executive presidency has come under criticism from several political leaders, who accused the system of producing autocratic rulers.

Though the 19th amendment to the Lankan Constitution in 2015 has curtailed some of the powers of the president and made that office more answerable to Parliament, the position still has a stranglehold on the administration.

A special Cabinet meeting was convened by Wickremesinghe in the afternoon to discuss abolishing the executive presidency, a day after the National Election Commission announced the date of the presidential polls.

However, his move met with opposition from a majority of the ministers, including from his own United National Party (UNP) who are backing deputy leader Sajith Premadasa's bid to contest the November 16 polls.

"A majority of ministers argued that this was not the right time to take up the issue when the election has already been declared," Mano Ganesan, the minister of national integration told reporters.

Premedasa said it was not a politically correct move to abolish the presidency when the election has been declared.

Last week, he had publicly declared that he was opposed to abolishing the presidency as no "scientific surveys" was done to ascertain public's viewpoint on the abolition.

According to political analysts, the move engineered by Wickremesinghe is a manifestation of the power struggle within the UNP to name its candidate.

Rauff Hakeem, a senior minister and the leader of Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, criticised Wickremesinghe for making the move.

Sri Lanka's election commission on Wednesday announced to hold presidential polls in the country on November 16.

Filing of the nomination papers will start from October 7. Nearly 15.9 million people are eligible for voting.

According to constitutional provisions, the polls must be held one month before the end of the current president's term.

President Maithripala Sirisena's five-year term is scheduled to end on January 8, 2020.

On May 30, speaking to media in New Delhi after attending Prime Minister Narendra Modi's swearing-in ceremony, Sirisena had said that he was yet to decide on seeking another term.

The SLPP has announced Gotabaya Rajapaksa as their presidential candidate, while JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake is set to contest the poll on National People's Power movement ticket.

The UNP and the SLFP are yet to announce their presidential candidates.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, September 19 2019. 21:50 IST