Constitution should be changed to restrict a PM’s term also to two The powers of the President under the presidential form of government introduced by the late J. R. Jayewardene were all powerful and the Prime Minister was reduced to the status of a  peon, as admitted  by late  Mr. Premadasa. Presently with the inclusion [...]


Letters to the Editor


Constitution should be changed to restrict a PM’s term also to two

The powers of the President under the presidential form of government introduced by the late J. R. Jayewardene were all powerful and the Prime Minister was reduced to the status of a  peon, as admitted  by late  Mr. Premadasa.

Presently with the inclusion of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of our country, things have come to a climax with this game of power sharing between the President and Prime Minister. The powers of the President have been drastically reduced and the Prime Minister’s powers have been increased tremendously making both posts equally powerful as it is evident today.

However, while a person who has served two terms as president is   ineligible to contest again, a Prime Minister who has held that post for more than two terms is eligible to continue, regardless of any restrictions. Isn’t it unfair that a President who has been directly elected by the people is restricted to two terms, while a person who is elected by one district is eligible to continue as Prime Minister for many terms?  Therefore, it is high time an amendment is passed in Parliament restricting the term of the Prime Minister to two terms regardless of whether he/she has served consecutively for two terms or not, with retrospective effect.

Of course such legislation can be passed only if parliamentarians take a vote by secret ballot. It is only then that any of our representatives in Parliament will be able to exercise their vote independently devoid of party affiliations and survive thereafter without the wrath of the party hierarchy.This course of action may bring some good results indirectly. It will provide more opportunities to young members who have leadership qualities to serve the country better instead of having to spend many years under the thumb of one person, who continues to be the Prime Minister until his or her demise.  Under the present system, a young leader will get the opportunity to reach the post of Prime Minister only when he is in his  60s or 70s.

Therefore, it is essential we collectively raise our voices  to amend the Constitution to restrict the period of the office of a Prime Minister to a maximum of  two terms.

 R.W.W.- Via email

Irresponsible utterances made against judiciary

The Prime Minister at the opening of a new Pradeshiya Sabha in Niyagama, Galle has said those who criticize and ridicule the judiciary should be punished, according to a recent news item in the Daily Mirror. He has further said that one can give his or her opinion on  a certain judgment but it is not fair to ridicule judges by talking of their ethnic group, religion, caste or creed etc.

What prompted this was a virulent attack a frontline member of the Opposition made recently in Parliament that judges are promoted to superior courts on the basis of their religion, I believe. Surprisingly, the only condemnation of this allegation was from the Bar Association Sri Lanka (BASL) and Attorney-at-Law Kishali Pinto Jayawardane, who writes a column to the Sunday Times on “Focus on Rights”. It is a moot point as to why this unwarranted criticism has slipped the condemnation of the rest of the legal fraternity and the public.

The Sunday Times of February 3, covered the proceedings of the ceremonial sitting of the Supreme Court to welcome the three new judges namely Justices Preethi Padman Surasena, S.Thurairaja and Gamini Rohan Amarasekera to the Supreme Court.

Reading through the speeches made by the three Judges, Attorney General and the President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, one would naturally get the impression that the three judges in question have secured this prestigious position based purely on merit, seniority, intellectual supremacy, unblemished career record and not because of other considerations such as religious, ethnicity etc.

It is a matter for solace that the Bar Association of Sri Lanka has issued a statement unequivocally condemning the derogatory references. BASL has further pointed out that wild allegations levelled against the Judiciary and the three judges are utterly baseless.

Hence, we expect the members of the Opposition to refrain from making vituperative speeches that could lead to religious conflict.

Ranasinghe  Nugegoda

Another Chinese project?

I got to know from the media this week that the Cabinet has decided to award the LNG project to a Chinese company.

In January this year I visited the Moragahakanda Project where the reservoir is named after my late father.

During this visit I observed many quality and safety issues. In my opinion, no internationally recognised certifying authority would have issued a “certificate of fitness” for this project to operate.

As the Moragahakanda project was built by a Chinese company I felt duty bound to bring my observations to the public’s attention.

Eur Ing A. H. Kulasinghe  Ja-Ela

Pay up the Rs. 20b  loss to the country  Mr. Minister!

The Finance Minister and the Cabinet approved the removal and transfer of the Director General of Customs P.S.M. Charles at a Cabinet meeting.

During the week, there were widespread protests by the Customs Union and others over the unfair and illegal transfer of this senior Administrative officer who had performed her duties sans political interference.

As reported in the media, she was called up to transfer Customs Investigating Officers who had detected pepper, beedi leaves  and ethanol  which had arrived in containers for re-export by falsely declaring them as readymade garments etc.

The Ministry of Finance replaced her with a retired Naval Officer and subsequently an officer from the Ministry of Finance was appointed. This sparked a  go-slow — over 6,000 conainers could not be cleared by importers.

The loss to the country has been estimated as Rs 20 billion and now the Minister gets back on his decision and recommends reinstatement  at the next Cabinet meeting. This clearly shows his decision was politically motivated,  and there was no substantive reason for the removal of the Customs chief.

The country demands Minister Mangala Samaraweera and the Cabinet who endorsed the decision to remove her to reimburse Rs 20 billion to the government Ex-Chequer.

S.D. Vincent  Dehiwela

Govt. departments that add to the woes of senior citizens

Last month my very  active friend of 90 plus  fell off a bus and sustained a fracture. Now she is bedridden.  She resides in an elders’ Home in Wellawatte. She is a retired teacher. I visited her  on February 9, when the Matron of the Home informed me of the problems she is facing with the officers of the Department of Pensions in trying to get my friend’s pension.

She had taken the Grama Niladari Report plus the Medical Report, but the officers of the department had refused to accept the reports.  They had insisted that the Matron bring my friend to the Department.  The Matron will have to get an ambulance to take her to this office.

In an elders’ home it is not possible for the Matron to do this.  She is responsible for more than 50 other seniors.

In a similar, but different situation was a widow, a relative of a fairly well known stage actor of yesteryear.   This widow could not draw her pension as she had no postal address.  She would go to the Post Office, spend the whole day trying to get her pension.  This had gone on for over six months. The kindly Postmistress said that it was sad to see her seated on a bench, munching a bun but unable to get her pension.  Her situation was that she had ‘no fixed abode’.

The Postmistress contacted me and with difficulty I managed to locate a relative. The Postmistress had even taken the trouble to find an Elders’ Home for this senior citizen. After much trouble a relative was located and now she is able to get her pension.

Senior citizens and their families face innumerable problems.  But it is sad when government departments add to these problems, instead of, like the caring Postmistress trying to solve them.

Sujatha Wickramasinghe Samarajiwa  Via email

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