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This essay is a shortened and simplified version of Chanaka Amaratunga’s summary of the conclusions of seminars on political structures apart from Parliament, conducted between 1987 and 1988 by the Council for Liberal Democracy. It follows on the companion conclusions on Parliament, which appear together with this essay.

The full text is in ‘Ideas for Constitutional Reform’, International Book House, 1 Kumaran Ratnam Road, Colombo 2, available too at 151A Dharmapala Mawata, Colombo 7.

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Chanaka Amaratunga (1958 - 1996)

Though it was generally felt the executive presidency should be abolished, that system had some support. The impression of an authoritarian presidency was created not because of the executive presidency but because it functions in a context of a devalued Parliament, with the President supported by a two thirds majority extended without an election. If measures agreed previously for the strengthening of parliament were implemented, the executive presidency would not be unacceptable.

It was further argued that the executive presidency enhanced the political importance of ethnic minorities: a president who needed to be elected by all Sri Lankans would need to maximize his vote throughout the country. This argument was countered with the assertion that, under an executive presidency, the support of ethnic or indeed political minorities may be sought to obtain office, after which they would have no political leverage. Conversely, in a Parliamentary system based on a fair system of proportional representation, a government’s survival may depend on the support of small and ethnic oriented parties and would therefore lead to genuine participation by them in government.

The importance of political accountability, of the need for the political leadership of the country to be subject to debate, criticism and diversity of views, was stressed as a reason for a return to parliamentary and cabinet government.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

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