The 20th amendment to the constitution; A review and a historical perspective. Is it draconian? OR envisaging an enlightened benevolent rule? Is it aiming at absolute power OR paving the way for multi-faceted, accelerated development?

The salient feature of the 20th amendment, is that it emanates multiple criticism and allegation that the amendment is accumulating absolute power with the executive President.

We must not forget the underlining fact that the almost all the provisions envisaged in the amendment are the same as those  provisions found in the 1978 constitution which was once overwhelmingly approved and passed by the parliament in 1978 by a 5/6 th majority. It is incomprehensible as to why today the same parliament is reluctant and hesitant in adopting the 20th amendment. 

For an efficient,   effective, speedy, consolidated and accelerated development of a country the process of implementing such development projects must be hurdle free, uninterrupted and without any hindrance.

In a democratic country the national plans, proposals, projects and schemes are discussed and debated in the parliament on different staggered stages which is undoubtedly a time consuming exercise.

The time factor and waiting period have a major impact on the implementation of development projects and planes. There are several schemes which demand brisk and quick action. This is only possible and practicable if and when there is an executive president with absolute power. In history, this type of executive rulers were known as enlightened benevolent rulers.

The enlightened benevolent ruler firmly believe that “one ounce of work load is greater and more worthy when compared to a tons of verbose talk.” 

In this system of enlightened benevolent despotism the head of the government always act with the greater interest, and wellbeing of the people. The benevolent despotic ruler elected by the people, exercises his political power according to the principle of enlightenment: Justice and Fair Play.

Historically there were rulers using enlightened ideas in order to enhance the central government’s power. Their main theme and the mantra is “everything for the people, and nothing by the people”

Some of the famous enlightened despotic rulers in 19th century Europe were, Frederick the great of Prussia in Germany. Peter the great also Alexander and Tsar Alexander of Russia, Joseph the 2nd of Spain, and Maria Theresa of Austria. They were greatly responsible for overall progress, development and upliftment of their countries.   The Herculean task of constructing the       Trans-Siberian railway line with a distance of 9289 km from Leningrad, the present Moscow to Vladivostok; the longest railway in the world was accomplished under the enlightened rulers of Russia.  

During the period of former president Ranasingha Premadasa, he was able to reduce the 12 ½ % cut off point imposed on the parliamentary election, to 5%, entirely because of the executive power he possessed.  

Today, being the most powerful executive president in the world, Donald Trump of America wants more power in order to take the U.S.A. to the zenith.

It is a historical maxim to say that “the history repeats itself ".  In the recent  history of the world, we had  several example of enlightened benevolent executive presidents such as Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia, Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, Sukarno and Suharto of Indonesia who were able to develop their country and uplift the living standard of their people, in a short period of time.

The existence of a full-fledged executive president is essential for the benefit and wellbeing of minorities and small parties; because the president, elected from the whole country, being, converted into a single constituency, can easily correct and rectify any short comings and find remedies for any anomalies, discrepancies or inconsistencies found in the society without any hazel, in double quick time.   

The main and the notable  contributory factors for the success of these enlightened rulers were,  that they meticulously  ensured that each and every class and group of their society big or small is  satisfied that their rights and requirements are fulfilled by the President.

Commonly an empowered executive presidency can be compared to a powerful weapon. This weapon can be used for constructive as well as destructive purposes, depending on the attitude, righteousness, character and temperament of the upholder of the post. As long as the president is just, upright, virtuous and righteous a powerful executive precedency can work well.       

S. Subairdeen

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