Implementing constitutional, electoral reforms: President must act decisively – Ven. Sobhitha

Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero

Having lambasted the government yesterday for what he called its lethargic attitude towards implementing key promises in President Maithripala Sirisena’s election manifesto, Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha thera stressed that the onus was on the President to ensure the implementation of his own pledges.

Leader of the Movement for a Just Society Ven. Sobitha was addressing a gathering at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute (SLFI).
President Maithripala Sirisena had received an overwhelming mandate to go ahead with constitutional as well as electoral reforms to restore democracy, the prelate said.

Ven. Sobitha said: “People voted for Maithripala Sirisena. The majority of Sri Lankans reposed their faith in him. Forty nine political parties and organisations threw their weight behind him. The common candidate promised to repeal dictatorial powers in the executive presidency. He also promised to reactivate the 17th Amendment to the Constitution and introduce electoral reforms.”

Recollecting his role in fielding the then SLFP General Secretary as the common candidate, Ven. Sobitha Thera stressed that those who had tirelessly worked for him at the risk of their lives, were eagerly waiting for the implementation of those pledges. The monk underscored his right to remind the President of his election promises, while warning the President’s failure to deliver would cause a debilitating setback.

“All of us will suffer, including the president. We’ll not be able to live here. So use your powers, without hesitation to achieve desired objectives.
Ven. Sobitha thera urged the President who is also the head of the SLFP to use executive powers for the benefit of the masses. “Use your executive powers to create conditions for the implementation of election pledges.”

Urging the President not to cow down to anyone, Ven. Sobitha Thera said that he could earn love and respect of the country by keeping his promises. The monk said that it would be a grave mistake on the President’s part to delegate his responsibilities to others.

The monk said that at the launch of his campaign to restore democracy, his movement proposed a ten-point plan. Subsequently, the number of proposals had been reduced to three and then there was just one slogan, he said. “People rallied around us to repeal executive presidential system. Having failed to convince the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa to meet our demand, we launched a project to identify a common candidate. The then government ridiculed our efforts until Maithripala Sirisena joined our movement.”

Ven. Sobitha Thera said that his movement sought an assurance from common presidential candidate and those backing his candidature that constitutional and electoral reforms would be introduced within six months after the conclusion of the presidential poll. However, the presidential candidate and the UNP repeatedly declared that the promises would be met within in 100 days, the prelate said. A smiling Ven. Sobitha thera recalled some campaigners declaring that promises could be met in less than 100 days.

The prelate emphasised that if those in power today were genuine, implementing those proposals wouldn’t be a too difficult task. If the executive presidential system couldn’t be abolished those dictatorial powers must be done away with immediately he said, stressing that he expected Maithripala Sirisena-Ranil Wickremesinghe government to honour their pledges during 100-day project. Delays couldn’t be justified under any circumstances, he said.
The monk said that compared to the previous president, the incumbent leader was innocent and, therefore, he would experience difficulties in achieving objectives.

Responding to a query from the audience, the Ven. Thera revealed that contrary to speculative media reports, the Office of the President and the government hadn’t formally invited him to join the decision making National Executive Council (NEC). A disappointed thera said that he couldn’t comment on issues handled by the NEC as he wasn’t aware of anything. The prelate expressed dissatisfaction over the developing situation.

(The Island)