Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa
- Constitutional Amendment is our party’s prerogative:MR – See P2
By Ashwin Hemmathagama – Our Lobby Correspondent
Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa issued strong criticism against the 19th Amendment yesterday in Parliament when he took part an adjournment debate on the Constitutional reforms in Sri Lanka, moved by the Tamil National Alliance.
The Kurunegala District MP and former President accused the coalition Government of misleading his lawmakers by giving them hope about a 20th Amendment in order to win support to pass the 19th Amendment, which reduced the powers of the Executive Presidency.
“When the 19th Amendment was moved in Parliament, the President held that the electoral system will be changed within a few months by bringing another Amendment. On that assurance, we passed the 19th Amendment while expecting the 20th Amendment,” said Rajapaksa. He charged that the 19th Amendment had failed to clearly identify the powers vested with the Prime Minister and the President.
Criticising the unanimously established Constitutional Assembly and the Steering Committee assigned to draft a new Constitution, MP Rajapaksa held that the document Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had presented in January will divide the country.
“In January, the Prime Minister moved a document in Parliament, claiming that it is a report from the Steering Committee of the Constitutional Assembly. He said that it is not a Government report but contains the opinion of experts. We are against that report, which paves the way to breaking the country into nine semi-independent states and establish separate Police powers. It also contained provisions preventing the central Government from taking back the powers devolved to the Provincial Councils. There is a rumour this was drafted by MP Sumanthiran and a team of non-governmental organisations during the last two and half years,” he said.
According to Rajapaksa, his proposal, known as the 13 plus, was the best for devolution of power. “I trusted a system that devolves power beyond the 13th Amendment. The 13 plus was not a program that proposed to break the country into nine Provinces,” he claimed, blaming Tamil politicians for supporting the Unity Government by setting aside the needs of the Tamils in the North and East.