Prime Minister Reiterates It Was President Sirisena Who Initiated Emergency Cabinet Meeting To Discuss Abolition Of Executive Presidency

September 23, 2019

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday reiterated that it was President Maithripala Sirisena who initiated a Cabinet meeting to discuss the 20th Amendment to the Constitution which involves the total abolition of the Executive Presidency.

Wickremesinghe's remarks came a day after President Sirisena blamed the Prime Minister for initiating a Cabinet meeting seeking to abolish the Executive Presidency at the eleventh hour.

Speaking to a group of party activists at Temple Tree yesterday, Wickremesinghe said, "A group of civil society representatives met with me last week to talk about what our government has done and failed to do. I informed them that our party had passed a resolution pledging to abolish the Executive Presidency in 2014 and that we would continue to advocate for the abolition of the Executive Presidency.

They asked for a cabinet decision to support the 20th Amendment.

On the 16th, they handed over to me a draft bill which was to be referred to the Cabinet.

I pointed out to the civil society representatives that the 20th Amendment could not be passed in Parliament without the support of the other political parties. I asked them to inform me of the views that these other parties had towards this matter.

On the 17th, MP Sumanthiran told me that they had held discussions with the JVP on the abolition of the Executive system.  He further stated that the President had informed him that he was willing to support the 20th Amendment.

I pointed out to Sumanthiran that the support of the United People's Freedom Alliance would be needed for the resolution to be passed in Parliament.

MP Sumanthiran has made a public statement regarding this. No one has rejected that statement.

The President telephoned me at eight o'clock on the 19th morning. He asked me whether he should call a Cabinet meeting to discuss the 20th Amendment. I informed the President that the civil society had made a request that we do so. Hon. Sumanthiran had also informed me of the President's stand on the matter.  Therefore, I told the President that it is appropriate to call the Cabinet and discuss it. I said that we should call that meeting on Thursday or Friday.

Mr. Ravi Karunanayake did not call me that day.

At about nine in the morning, the cabinet secretary had informed my secretary that the Cabinet meeting would be held at 3 pm.  Thereafter, my secretary referred the draft that the civil society had given me to the Cabinet Secretary for use if needed.

I called the UNP ministers at 2 pm and informed them of this matter. The discussion was very heated. Everyone was open and opinionated. There was no agreement regarding the 20th Amendment.

Before I met the Cabinet, the President was informed that there was no agreement among the Ministers. At the beginning of the meeting, I informed the Cabinet Secretary in front of the President that there was no agreement among the Ministers, and that submitting the Cabinet Bill would be useless. 

I summed up the views of the ministers at that meeting. The ministers made various comments. We decided that it was appropriate to leave the final decision to each party.

If there is a question regarding the statements of the members of the Cabinet, it should be discussed in the Cabinet. Failure to do so would violate cabinet tradition. Therefore, I will only show what happened here.

Therefore, I will not insult anyone or make any remarks."

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