President defends 18th Amendment
Says he will contest till opposition brings stronger candidate; traces roots of constitutional reforms to UNP demands
President Mahinda Rajapaksa said yesterday he would continue to contest at elections till the opposition fielded a stronger candidate.
Addressing heads of media institutions and editors at Temple Trees President Rajapaksa said the 18th Amendment to the Constitution had its roots in the UNP proposals and though the SLFP parliamentary group was initially supportive of a prime ministerial system it too had later opted for a more accountable executive presidency. He said his move to remove the limits of the term of office of a president was being criticized by a section of the media as he hailed from the remote Medamulana village and not from Colombo 7.
The president repeatedly emphasized that the removal of the limit on the number of terms would go to make a president more responsible in his second term because he or she would have to go before the people and seek a mandate and it would also offer an incumbent the peace of mind.
“There are no short cuts to success. I entered national politics at the age of 23 and it took me 40 years to reach the helm” President Rajapaksa said adding that even his son, parliamentarian Namal Rajapaksa should go through the same rigours and spend more or less a similar number of years in politics if he had an ambition to reach the top.
When queried as to why the 18th Amendment was being brought as an urgent bill the president reminded those present that the 17th Amendment too was brought in a similar fashion and that there had been enough dialogue on the reforms so far.
Commenting on the stand of the traditional Left the president said it had never betrayed the country and had agreed to all previous reforms of the government and indicated that it too would most probably vote for the Amendment.
Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa reiterated that the 18th Amendment had curtailed the president’s powers pertaining to the appointment of members to commissions and has instead increased the leverage of parliament.
House sits today
Parliament will meet today at 1 pm with Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa in the chair. The House is to debate Emergency during today’s sessions.
Speaker Rajapaksa is also expected to notify the Supreme Court stand on the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, especially whether it has to be approved by a referendum.
Meanwhile the Bill on the 18th Amendment to the Constitution is also to be presented to House today. It is to be debated tomorrow from 9.30am to 7pm.
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