President Maithripala Sirisena said that the term of office of the President of Sri Lanka will be reduced to five years from the original six.
“I had insisted that the terms of the Presidency be reduced to four years though the Committee of Constitutional Experts and political leaders did not agree with my demand,” the President said addressing public officials of the Polonnaruwa district at the Thopawewa school grounds on Sunday.
“They said that holding a Presidential Election every four years was not good for the country,” he said.
The President added that they later came to the consensus that the term of the Presidency should be confined to five years due to his strong insistence.
The committee comprising constitutional experts are in the process of discussing on how unlimited powers of the Executive Presidency should be vested in the Legislature.
“Anti apartheid hero and former South African President Nelson Mandela succeeded in bringing many reforms to that country during his four year rule after languishing in jail for over 27 years,” he noted.
President Sirisena said that Sri Lankan leaders can learn many lessons from President Nelson Mandela who introduced many reforms in the economic, political and social fields within his 4 year rule.
“My policy is to consider those who opposed me at the election as friends as Mandela did and get them involved in the process of building the country,”he said.
President Sirisena insisted that he will never offer posts to anyone in consideration of their political affiliations.
“The posts are given to individuals after considering their suitability, efficiency, honesty and qualifications only,” he stressed.
President Sirisena said new regulations would be enacted to ensure that no government or a candidate can utilize State power to waste public funds and deploy government servants for his victory in violation of election laws.
He stressed that the government is dedicated to creating an atmosphere in which the field officials including Samurdhi animators and Grama Niladharis can discharge their duties to the public free from political intimidation.
“Most of the public servants like to perform their duty sans political interference and protect the dignity of their service,’ he said.
“The fields officers including Samurdhi animators and Grama Niladharies know better than me how the previous regime was involved in the distribution of many items including the sil reddhas among the voters.
“The previous regime violated all basic norms practised during an election. They breached the long held principles of free and fairness of the election at the last presidential poll,” he said.
“If the political leadership at the top is corrupt the government servants below them also become corrupt. If the politicians are corrupt, the entire public service faces deterioration,” he said.
The President added that the existing tender system is the most corrupt procedure in the country. He said that the Health Ministry calls for 21,0000 tenders a year.
“I insisted during the previous regime that a new system should be introduced in place of the tender procedure as the tender procedure was corrupt,” he added.
President Sirisena added that he sent Health Ministry officials to study the systems in various countries which had similar a tender system as Sri Lanka to purchase goods, equipment and other items required for government institutions.
“The previous government did not give the green light to implement that system in Sri Lanka,” he said.
President Sirisena also said the public service faced deterioration in an unprecedented manner during the last few years. He said that the country witnessed how a political party utilized government servants for its election campaign to ensure its candidate’s victory at the last presidential election. This is an unprecedented situation. No party in power has used public servants for political work to such an extent.
“The Presidential election which I contested witnessed a record in terms of election law violations. The State media was used to target me. Various campaigns were launched using the State media to insult me,” he said.
The President added that no party in power has used State resources and power during an election as the previous regime did.
“Temple Trees is a sanctified place in politics but it was used as an office of a political party for the past few years,” he said.
The President added that the previous regime compelled Ministry Secretaries and other senior government officials to participate in discussions over the State media to ensure the candidate’s victory. “Forged ballot papers were in circulation around the country just three days ahead of the Presidential election aimed at misleading the voters,” the President said.
“Our people were intelligent enough to identify these manoeuvres effectively as almost all people in the country are literate,” he said.