UPFA wants to abolish Sri Lanka’s strong presidency
* Marxists vow to have a full parliamentary democracy
COLOMBO: President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s political alliance said it will introduce a new constitution that scraps Sri Lanka’s powerful presidency, if it wins April 2 parliamentary elections.
In a 48-page election manifesto released late Thursday, the United People’s Freedom Alliance said it wants to make Sri Lanka a full parliamentary democracy. Currently, Sri Lanka has aspects of a parliamentary system, but it also has a strong president, who is elected separately. Kumaratunga is locked in a power struggle with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Her second term is slated to end in December 2005, and she isn’t allowed to run for the presidency a third time. But she can serve as prime minister and the proposed change would tighten her grip on power if her alliance wins.
“The proposed constitution will strengthen democracy by abolishing the executive presidency and replacing it with Cabinet and parliamentary form of government,” the alliance said.
Wickremesinghe did not immediately respond to the plan.
The alliance said that if elected, it would form a parliamentary committee to write the new constitution, which it would put before Sri Lanka’s 19 million people in a referendum. Any changes to the constitution currently require a two-thirds majority of Parliament. Sri Lanka, a former British colony called Ceylon, had a completely parliamentary democracy until Wickremesinghe’s United National Front Party changed it in 1977, creating a presidential position. The president can sack the government and call elections at any time, and is also the head of the country’s armed forces. —AP