A myth has been spread that the future president will be a nominal president like President William Gopallawa and he cannot retain any ministerial portfolio. Having misled by these myths, President Sirisena mentioned the same in his speech at the SLFP Convention. In this backdrop, we are duty bound to reveal the truth.
Article 44 of the Constitution contained a provision that the President may assign to himself any subject or function and shall remain in charge of any subject or function not assigned to any other minister. This provision was repealed by the 19th Amendment. That is why some people argue that the President cannot retain any ministerial portfolios. It is definitely wrong.
Let us read Article 4(b) of the Constitution. “the executive power of the people, including defense, shall be exercised by the President of the Republic elected by the people”. Since this article is directly linked to sovereignty of the people, the Supreme Court has stated several times that this Article cannot be amended or repealed without approval of the people at a referendum.
According to the above Article, the people have assigned their executive powers to the President. He can assign it in turn to ministers. Unless the President assigns his powers to the ministers, those will remain with him. Therefore, any subject or function which has not been assigned to any minister is remained with the President.
The President is empowered with executive powers by Article 4 of the Constitution. Article 44 is merely an explanatory article of the said power. Although the 19th Amendment amended Article 44, it did not touch Article 4. Hence, nothing happened to the President’s ability to hold ministries.
Somebody has misled President Sirisena on this issue. That is why he mentioned in his speech at the SLFP Convention that the future President cannot hold even Defense Ministry. The Supreme Court determined in 2003 that the President has no authority to assign the Defense Ministry to a minister because of the provisions in Article 4. It is still valid.
I challenge the persons whoever spread these myths for a public debate with me. The people can then realize the baselessness of these stories.