Proposal for Constitutional reforms in Sri Lanka
This is a proposal for the basic structure on how the peoples power can be franchised to various institutions. We believe that Sri Lanka should drive towards a full executive presidency system with clear and definite segregation of powers
The Executive Branch
Our proposal is for a governance system completely segregate the powers between the executive, the parliament and the judiciary. Hence we expect the executive branch of the parliament to have complete executive powers with limited capability to influence the judiciary and the legislator.
- People will appoint a president with a full executive power using popular vote (same voting systems as today)
- President will be the head of executive branch and head of state. He will be the commander of the tri-forces. He will not be the head of the government. head of the government will be the prime-minister.
- Executive branch consists of Office of the president, ministries and the ministerial agencies
- President will appoint a vice-president, the vice-president should be considered the reserve-president and supporter to president. vice-president has to be an elected member of the parliament.
- President will appoint the ministers from the civil society. These ministers would have to demonstrate his her suitability in-front of the parliament. Each minister will have to be vetted by the respective parliamentary committee that is responsible for the governance of the specific ministry.
- Parliamentary committee can reject a presidential nominee. The president can overrule the rejection and let the person to operate. (The government structure will be defined in a way that presidents are unlikely to do so as the ministers would have to obtain all the financial provisions through the respective committee.)
- It is recommended to nominate the prime-minister and the vice-president to be the same person. However in a situation where president and parliament comes from two different political parties this role can be two people. This will help the government to operate even when legislature is not aligned.
Legislator will be the paramount power in this new government structure. However its powers will be muted since it has to always operate through the executive branch. We might have to consider a bicameral system purely as a means to address grievances that may arise in new legislation process. However long term viability of such would have to be better debated among political experts.
- Election of the MPS would have to be based on first past the post system. Supplemented by a proportional and a national list system.
- Assuming we would dissolve the provincial councils (hence reduce the total number of elected members) we should increase the number of seats in the parliament to 342
- Number of MPs will be dependent on the population. Recent research on to this provides some interesting insights.
- We suggest that Sri Lanka should have approximately 342 legislators.
- Of this 228 must be elected based on single seat representative elected based on “first pass the post” system.
- 57 seats must be allocated to politicians who are the next top vote receivers with no political party bias
- remaining 57 will have to be allocated to political parties based on a proportional representation. Political parties will use a national list to appoint these members
- Political part can only remove the national list MPs. However the constitution must establish a mechanism for citizen activists to petition against an MP and get a bi-election.
- Parliament will be the only authority in the nation to create and amend laws.
- Prime minister is the leader of the parliament. He is the head of the government. President can suggest a prime minister to the parliament. However its parliament that will choose a prime minister, if required using an open vote. (The MP that gets the highest number of vote will become the prime minister. All the MPs that voted in support of the prime minister will join to form the government, rest moving to opposition)
- Some provision can be included to re-test the support to the prime-minister following a motion signed by majority of the MPs. However this should not happen too frequently. maybe minimum of 12 months between two such motions.
- The parliament will have the power to approve the financial appropriations. Parliament will have a permanent committee aligned to each ministry. This committee will have access to the respective ministry for all the information. However, the committee is only an oversight committee with no decision powers. It will have only following powers…
- To approve the funds that is requested during the budget to the specific ministry.
- Hold a decision by a minister if the decision is not inline with the policy /budget statement that is provided at the time of budget. Minister will have the right to appeal in the Supreme court for such decisions.
- individual members of the committee will have the powers to Initiate judiciary process to the conduct of the minister or any ministry official for not aligning to the policy/budget/governance process
unlike the executive branch or the legislator the judicial branch cannot e open for general public as deep legal understanding is needed. Hence we need to find a mechanism to bring in a judicial commission that will be politically balanced over time.
- Appointments to judiciary will be done by the judicial commission. Judicial commission will consist of 12 members. (These members must be suitably qualified individuals however, not necessarily a legal professional.)
- of which seven will be appointed for life.
- President can appoint 5 members to the commission’s. These members will have to sit for a hearing in front of a parliamentary committee.
- Only, a no-confidence vote of parliament (2/3) approved by president can remove for-life members of judiciary.
- Then the parliament will approve the appointment of judicial committee members by a majority vote.
State Owned Enterprises
- Government owned enterprises will have to be managed outside of the ministerial portfolios. Possibly under several Sovereign Wealth Funds.
- President or the Vice President will be the chairmen of board in each Wealth Fund. Parliament will have an oversight committee for each Sovereign Wealth fund. Objective of the each Sovereign Wealth Fund to be established by an Act in the Parliament.
- Government owned enterprises should not be given any operational support (ex: Tax relief) that is not provided to the private enterprises. Only Capital/Investment support shall be provided to those enterprises
- Sate owned enterprises not necessarily profit making bodies. For example National Health Service can be transformed to a State Owned Enterprise. It will get all its funding from the Government. Ministry of Health will become the regulator that will regulate both Private and Public health systems in equal footing
My objective of this article is to spark a debate among population on the subject. Many of the elements in this proposal has reasons behind such. I expect the reader to ask “Why”question and make counter proposals. Only such debate can drive a governance mechanism that is applicable and acceptable for the whole nation.