The 20th Amendment5 min read

Pass the 20th amendment to the constitution and go for a parliamentary election. This would be the best thing for Sri Lanka at the moment. Going for a parliamentary election in a few months’ time wherein even if the UNP wins they will have to deal with an SLPP president is not an ideal situation. This circumstance could in the future work against the SLPP especially if the UNP fields a candidate not as unpopular in the South.

Dynamics of the SLPP

The SLPP is styled around the Rajapaksa family. The trust embedded in family ties has worked well for them. The leadership is very charismatic and there is a succession plan. This, however, might not last.

The choice of presidential candidate in the future may become difficult as overtime any character grows out of favor with the general populous. This is because it is difficult to please everyone.

Read Dayan Jayatilleka’s article[1];

There can be no question as to who the vice-captain is because the country’s citizenry sees it every night on TV news, whenever there is footage from the center of the nation’s political life, the parliament. And that man, that vice-captain, is Dinesh Gunawardena.   

This is the sort of problem you have when you keep people unrelated to you around for too long. Family bonds normally have a sense of duty to each other that changes slowly over time. Notice that it’s over multiple decades that a father changes from a provider to someone who needs to be provided for.

Lackeys, on the other hand, require need almost yearly increments. They also can be disloyal as was seen with Dayan in the recent election.

Party Chairmen

Here let’s digress from the subheading to build up the context.

Young Professional’s Association

I am part of a politically affiliated Young Professional’s Association. This association tried to make me pay membership dues directly into the Chairman of the Association’s account. They said that they were working on approval to open an account.

The kids in this association are fairly well to do. The money collected is a very small sum. The notion however that one would be so lax in the handling of money in such close proximity to politics is what is worrying.

Part Chairmen

Sri Lanka’s political parties were better organized back in the 1960s. The parties might have been elitist and the membership limited but the ingress and egress of funds would have been documented.

Sri Lanka’s political parties tend to have relatively small balance sheets. That being said the expenditure on the recent elections by the SLPP is estimated by the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence at Rs 1.5 billion[2]. The UNP spent a similar figure. Where these funds came from are not publicly disclosed?

In such a vein party chairmen are not important figures. Party constitutions themselves are not very public documents. They are chiefly titleholders that do tasks that within our culture the political leadership is not expected to do.


Political consensus on the 20th amendment and a quick election will also help maintain the SLFP-SLPP union. Political consensus between the UNP and the SLPP to pass the 20th amendment could help bring in some respectable members of the SLFP rebels back in line. No one wants to be under a president that they campaigned against.

This will be important at parliamentary elections some SLFP rebels are able to secure certain electorates. Holding provincial council elections in the interim should also help force co-operation.

Party Constitutions

Ranil currently is in a funny position. He has never been more powerful within the UNP. He at the same time has to face a parliamentary election that could effectively oust him from power.

You should never waste a crisis and this would be a great time to implement Ruwan Wijewardane’s party recommendations[3]. The United National Party could be the first mainstream political party in Sri Lanka to actually give meaning to becoming a common party member.

This democracy within the party would reflect well against the SLPP. It would also deflect any dictatorial descriptions by disgruntled party members.

So Why Now?

Given the limited scope of the president and the unpopularity of all past presidents, it will always be a winning slogan at future elections. If you can credibly claim to support the abolition of the executive presidency you are likely to win.

This was what Karu Jayasuriya was planning to do. This was what should have played out. If I was the SLPP I would not want someone as uncharismatic as the current president has to run for a second term.

Given the premature dissolving of parliament, the next presidential election will likely happen close to the next parliamentary election. Sri Lanka will have a personality contest followed by an election for control of the legislature.

A loss in a presidential election will not bode well for the subsequent parliamentary election given the sequencing brought about by a premature dissolution. The only people who would want back to back elections are the media oligarchy. As with all lackeys, their prices will go up over time.




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