Interim Govt, the only way out - Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe

16 July, 2022

Minister of Justice, Prison Affairs and Constitutional Reforms Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe said that the only way out from the current crisis is that all political parties should get together to form an Interim Government.

If we are further divided and find fault with each other, the people will lose their confidence in the Parliament. The Minister in an interview with the Sunday Observer said of course, the political crisis had been there for a long time even when the incumbent Government commenced its business. However, the people realised that thereafter it went up to the extent of creating an economic crisis. It was then that the people realised and launched their protests and other agitation campaigns.

Excerpts of the interview

Q: What is the procedure if the President resigns and the incumbent Prime Minister becomes Acting President?

A: Then the Prime Minister has to take oaths as the Acting President and he will continue until the new President is elected by the Parliament.

Q: What is the procedure if both President and Prime Minister resign and how does the Parliament select the President and Prime Minister for the rest of the term subsequent to the resignation of the President and the PM?

A: If both the President and PM resign, then there is no question of appointing the Prime Minister. There is no such provision. Then the Speaker has to act as the Acting President. Without a Prime Minister, the Speaker will have to take over the burden of the entire Executive and the Legislature.

Q: What is the procedure for forming an All-Party Government and what is the time duration for such a Government?

A: There is no legal framework for it. That has to be established by the agreement. That is what I presented to the Parliament on April 4 but they returned it to me saying that there is no provision to form an inter- party Interim Government. However, now most of the parties have agreed that they can form such a Government.

Q: What is the difference between an All-Party Government and Interim governing mechanism as demanded by the ‘Aragalaya youth’?

A: There are two meanings. All-Party Government means all the political parties represented in Parliament should take responsibilities or portfolios, and then only it can become an All-Party Government. An Interim Government mechanism can be used only if there is a fixed period within which we will have to go for an election before the normal tenure of the Government is over. That is the Interim governing mechanism. However, what has been suggested is a Government with both these features. At present, I think there are thousands of groups now. So, I really don’t know who the ‘Aragalaya’ people are. Every group is demanding different kinds of things.

Q: How do you propose to include some of the ‘Aragalaya youths’ proposals as well as Aragalaya representatives in any governing mechanism?

A: The Parliament cannot do anything in this regard but they can continue the dialog and consultative process. That is the only option that can be done outside the Constitution.

Q: Can the National List be used for the purpose of accommodating some Aragalaya youth in Parliament?

A: That can only be done if the Members of Parliament who have already been appointed agree to do so. I don’t think at the moment there is any clue on anybody willing to resign from his parliamentary seat.

Q: What is the possible timeline for a new General Election to get a fresh mandate from the people?

A: Then dates have to be fixed for nominations. In fact, we will have to see the ground situation. If we go for an election without having even essential food items for the people, there can be a lot of violence and a catastrophic situation in the country.

Q: Will the General Election be held in the manner that accommodates the system change demanded by the ‘Aragalaya youth’ such as nominating only professionally qualified young men and women on the respective party’s nomination list?

A: I cannot say anything about it because that is up to the party leaders to decide if we have to change the system. I also presented an amendment to the constitutional reforms. That was acceptable to all except for some of the clauses the President included at the Cabinet level. I think now there is no obstacle to dropping those things. Then that will be acceptable to anyone.

Q: In the light of recent developments, what will happen to the passage of the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution in Parliament? Could there be further changes to the draft?

A: That is what I told earlier. Basically, those are the terms agreed by all except for what was added by the President for an interim period for him to retain the powers to the Prime Minister. Now those couple of clauses can be dropped and then there won’t be a big argument.

Q: There is a shift in favour of abolishing the Executive Presidency at least after the end of the term of the current presidency. Would you like to comment?

A: You can’t just pass resolutions for that and we will have to bring a new Constitution.

Q: Will the new All-Party Government or similar governing structure take up this matter in earnest?

A: If all the parties agree, they can introduce a new Constitution. If it is passed by a two-thirds majority in Parliament, then they will have to go for a referendum.

Q: At present building public confidence has become key to resolve the current crisis. What is your view in this regard?

A: That is what I said that we will have to go for reforms. One is to amend the Constitution and the other one is the anti-corruption law that I have already presented to the Cabinet. We became a party to the UN Convention against Corruption on March 15, 2004. I have submitted the Anti-Corruption Bill to the Cabinet. According to my understanding, the proposed 22nd Amendment and Anti-Corruption Bill are two urgent bills and it should be considered as reforms.

Q: According to you what led the people to demand the resignation of the President and Prime Minister.

A: I can’t specifically say as to why. But one thing I know is that when the President offered the premiership nobody in Parliament accepts it. That is the reason UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe agreed to take it over. I think sometimes the people may have had a suspicion that Ranil Wickremesinghe would try to protect the Rajapaksa family.

Q: At present the people have lost their confidence in the parliamentary system and the Members of Parliament. There is an impression among the people that all 225 Parliamentarians should quit paving the way for a group of capable people to run the country. Your views?

A: Then of course, we will have to go for a fresh election. Otherwise, there is no other way to get the representation to the Legislature. However, this is some sort of social jealousy and malice created by a certain section of our media personnel. When 10-15 people shout, some media personnel think that all 225 MPs are of the same boat and they contribute towards creating such an impression.

In our case if they don’t want all 225 Parliamentarians, we are willing to give up our portfolios and ask them to come and take over. If anyone comes forward saying that they can do a better job, we are willing to give our ministerial portfolios.

Q: The Aragalaya (struggle) activists are of the view that a People’s Council should be established where the representatives of the struggle can also contribute in the decision-making process of the Interim Government. Would you like to comment?

A: As I explained earlier, that dialog and consultative process can continue.

Q: According to you, what is the way out for the current crisis?

A: The only way out is that all political parties should get together to form an Interim Government. If we are further divided and find fault with each other, the people will lose their confidence in the Parliament.

Q: However, the Government and the Opposition lawmakers are under the impression this is not only a political crisis but also an economic crisis so that all parties should work together to find a lasting solution. What is your view?

A: Actually, we knew that the people would start this agitation and get on to the roads. That is why I submitted a resolution to the Parliament to form an Interim Government with the participation of all the political parties represented in Parliament.

However, they opted out of that direction and there was no consensus either from the Government or the Opposition. As a result of that, we have to face a severe situation. Of course, the political crisis had been there for a long time even when the incumbent Government commenced its business. However, the people realised that after it went up to the extent of creating an economic crisis.

Q: At present the people have faced immense hardships due to acute shortage of fuel and it has affected all sectors. What measures have been taken to overcome this situation?

A: This is a problem which has been continuing for a long time. The fuel price escalation in the global market has contributed to the price hike.

But there could have been some mechanism to cushion the difficulties faced if we had some funds.

The issue is now we don’t have enough foreign exchange. As a result of this, the crisis is out in the open and even arson attacks have been launched on the houses of some politicians. At present there is a severe drop in tourist arrivals as well. The inflow of dollars has been completely blocked. As a protest to the Government some people don’t send their foreign remittances. That is why we are trying to have some consensus and put things on the correct track by introducing the 21st Amendment. Because we can remember under the 19th Amendment, the Police and most of those institutions were functioning impartially to a great extent. When they completely repealed the 19th Amendment and brought the 20th Amendment by giving all the powers to the President, then the Government lost the grip of governance. That is why first we will have to restore political stability. It is very obvious that until such time there can’t be any economic stability.

Q: Despite the emerging crisis, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) still commands the majority in Parliament. How would this affect when a new President and the Prime Minister is appointed by a parliamentary vote?

A: The SLPP has the majority power in Parliament and that will be the vital factor for them.

– Sunday Observer Sri Lanka

, Feature, ,

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post