Proposed constitutional amendments stirs up the political arena

Proposed constitutional amendments stirs up the political arena

Proposed constitutional amendments stirs up the political arena

Written by Staff Writer

02 Jan, 2020 | 10:15 pm

COLOMBO (News 1st) – Proposals on 2 new constitutional amendments have been presented.

The two proposals on an amendment to the appointment of members of parliament and the powers of the president were presented as private member bills.

The 21st and the 22nd constitutional amendment bills were presented by MP Wijeyadasa Rajapaksha.

Views were expressed in the political arena regarding these amendment bills.

The JVP, Muslim Congress, the All Ceylon Makkal Congress, and the Tamil National Alliance expressed their views regarding the amendments.

Vijitha Herath, Propaganda Secretary of the JVP:

“Are the 2 constitutional amendments, the 21st and the 22nd constitutional amendments presented privately by Wijeyadasa Rajapaksha? Or are they amendments brought forward as part of this government’s policy?

The 22nd amendment aims to curb the powers of the constitutional council and vest these powers with the president. Wijeyadasa is trying to return the 18th amendment into power.

This is simply an opportunistic and colonial amendment. Our journey cannot be stopped by limiting these percentages. The true reason why Wijeyadasa Rajapaksha is doing this is that he is trying to impress the president.

He is trying to get into parliament through the national list at the next general election. Does the prime minister agree with the amendments brought by Wijeyadasa Rajapaksha? Were the 21st and the 22nd amendments presented with the approval of the PM?”

Attorney-at-law Sunil Watagala, Former Provincial Councillor of JVP  noted that in the past Wijedasa Rajapaksha brought a number of private member’s bills to the parliament, including a bill to abolish the executive presidency.

He stated that this is just another show and makes himself a hero. However, he added that if these amendments represent government policies its a serious matter and whoever upholds democracy should not support them.

President’s Counsel Nizam Kariyappa, General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress noted that he cannot comprehend why the President’s Counsel, an expert in law Wijeyadasa Rajapaksha presented this amendment.

He added that the amendment not only limits democratic freedom and rights but also vests unlimited power with the executive.

He further added that this has nothing to do with whether Gotabaya Rajapaksa is a wise and righteous president and it is about a president not having absolute powers at his disposal.

Rishad Bathiudeen, Leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress noted that no democratic minority party in this country has worked towards dividing the country and they will remain to do so.

He added that currently there is a healthy environment where people are beginning to live as one in a united country, and these sorts of ideas are being expressed to destroy peace.

“When Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected as the president we resigned from our positions and allowed him to form a government. But if they try to express these kinds of views and change the electoral system of the country they will definitely loose” he concluded.

Meanwhile, the Tamil National Alliance said that they will have to analyze the proposed constitutional amendments that were presented.

Janaka Wakkumbura, State Minister of Export Agriculture noted that it was Premadasa who reduced the vote percentage from 12% to 5%, 2 days before the election in order to bag the minority votes.

He added that the parliament has failed in upholding the expectations of the people and as a party, they will consider this proposal and act accordingly.

UNP MP Kabir Hashim noted that during the tenure of former President Premadasa that the 5% inclusion was made in order for the JVP to enter the democratic process as a minority party.

MP added that if the percentage is to be increased, it can be done through a discussion in parliament.

MP further added that they will continue to hold discussions regarding this and will investigate into the matter.

“We as a party has always worked towards protecting the identity of the Sinhalese Buddhists of this country, will doing justice to the other communities and will continue to do so” Hashim added.

Contents of the 21st and 22nd amendments

The Government Printer has already published the proposals of MP Wijedasa Rajapaksha as the 21st and 22nd amendments to the constitution.

The 21st amendment to the constitution published on the 30th of December proposes an amendment to subparagraph (a) of Paragraph (6) of Article 99 of the constitution.

According to this article, a minimum of 5% of the total votes polled should be secured by a recognized political party or independent group, for a candidate from that party to be elected.

Wijedasa Rajapaksha proposes to increase this limit 12.5 per cent of the total votes polled, in any electorate.

Through the 22nd amendment to the constitution, he had proposed to strengthen certain powers of the president.

Under the current constitution the appointments made by the President to the positions of Chief Justice, Supreme Court Judges, the Judge of the Court of Appeal and the Judicial Service Commission, including the Chairman, should be approved by the Constitutional Council.

However, according to the 22nd Amendment bill presented by WIjeyadasa Rajapaksha, the President can appoint judges after “ascertaining the views of the Judicial Services Commission”.

According to the proposed amendment the president does not need the approval of the constitutional council to make appointments to Senior Courts.

Rajapaksha has proposed for the president to also be vested with the power to remove members of the Judicial Service Commission, without the approval of the Constitutional Council.

According to the current constitution, the president’s nominations for the positions of Attorney General, Auditor General, Inspector General of Police, Commissioner of Parliamentary Affairs and the Secretary-General of Parliament should be approved by the Constitutional Council.

Wijedasa Rajapaksha in his amendment proposes for the president to be vested with the power to make such appointments after “ascertaining the views of the Prime Minister.”

The other proposals included in the 22nd amendment include provisions that state “The president shall hold the Ministry of Defence and any other Ministry.”

The proposed amendment also limits the number of cabinet, non-cabinet and deputy ministers to 30.

Parliamentarian Wijedasa Rajapaksha noted that the 21st amendment to the constitution expects to strengthen the major parties in Sri Lanka.

He recalled that during the presidential election in 1988 a proposal was made by Ashraf to then Prime Minister Ranasinghe Premadasa who contested the election. MP stated that Ashraf asked Premadasa to pass the 15th amendment to the constitution if he wants to assure him of the votes of the Muslim community.

He added that even if the main political parties win about 100 or 105 seats, they cannot achieve the majority of 113 seats in parliament without the support of about 7 or 8 MPs from minor political parties leading to manipulation by minority parties.

Civil Activists also spoke out against the proposed amendments.

Nagananda Kodithuwakku:

“This is a serious blow against the rule of law in the country. This is a constitutional amendment that gives the president the power to appoint members of the judicial commission and put the entire judiciary of the country under the control of a group of brothers.

Officials are to be appointed by the president based on the advice of the prime minister. That means the younger brother will question his older brother and make appointments to the judicial commission.

That is what is expected to happen through this 22nd amendment. This will enter the order paper of parliament and then when it is included in the agenda of parliament we will challenge it before the Supreme Court.”

Kalyananda Thiranagama, Federation of National Organizations noted that they need an entirely new constitution that could accomplish the aspirations of the people and establish a proper state administrative system that protects the rights of the people.

He went on to note that when that is the true need of the hour, making these additions as constitutional amendments do not help us accomplish this and will be detrimental to what they are trying to achieve.

Dr Wasantha Bandara, Secretary of the Patriotic National Movement noted that the 19th amendment to the constitution was brought in 2015 and it was led by Dr Wijeyadasa Rajapaksha.

He added that in a country like Sri Lanka where there is a long-standing parliamentary tradition, he completely bulldozed the parliament, unlike anything that had ever been done even in countries like Ethiopia or Somalia.

He shared that Wijedasa Rajapaksha forcibly included 38 amendments to the 19th constitutional amendment during the committee stage.

He requested the president not to amend the constitution piece by piece and form a brand new constitution after the Parliamentary election.

Azath Salley, Leader of the National Unity Alliance noted that a person who believes he is from the Rajapaksa family is submitting proposals for the 21st and the 22nd amendments.

Salley stated that”Dea-dasa” through these proposals has taken steps to monopolize the power of 2 parties and to destroy the minority parties.

He added that Wijedasa Rajapaksha is a master of all deals and as a result of his deals no corrupt individuals could be arrested.

“We saw him and his family living luxurious lives in America, travelling in limousines and ships, and partying with the employees of Avant-Garde.

The people of this country have with them proof of these. Expose to the country, how these individuals struck deals those days.

Now what has happened is that he has failed to strike a deal and now he is putting forward these proposals to strengthen the Rajapaksa family while claiming that he is one of them” Salley concluded.

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