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SLPP slams Ranil over 21st Amendment

8 months ago

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  • General Secretary Sagara says Ranil appointed to fix economy, not Constitution
  • Says SLPP opposes amendments targeting individuals when asked about provisions on dual citizens
BY Pamodi Waravita The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) yesterday (24) said that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe must solve the economic crisis before bringing in a Constitutional amendment, adding that such amendments should not be drafted to target any specific individuals, which prevent them from entering Parliament or becoming President.  “The SLPP cannot immediately say as to whether we are supporting the 21st Amendment to the Constitution Bill. We have to first properly analyse it and then understand the public’s ideas about it. We said that we will support Wickremesinghe to make a new Government to solve the country’s economic crisis. There is no Constitutional or political crisis here. He was appointed to find solutions for the economic crisis. But the economic crisis is still there.  “People are still on the roads in queues. And he is trying to bring a Constitutional amendment. First, solve the economic crisis and create an environment which allows a Parliamentarian to walk freely on the road and have the mental freedom to think. Then, we can discuss a Constitutional amendment,” SLPP General Secretary Attorney-at-Law MP Sagara Kariyawasam told The Morning yesterday.  The Morning questioned as to whether the SLPP’s support to the 21st Amendment to the Constitution Bill would depend on the provisions which bar dual citizens from entering the Parliament or holding public office. Responding to this, Kariyawasam said that the constitution of a country should not be designed targeting a specific individual. “As a country’s constitution is its main document, it cannot be written with one person in mind. No country in the world makes constitutions to stop someone from coming to Parliament or to chase them away, or to prevent someone from becoming President. Constitutions are designed to the needs of the country,” he said.  Controversially, the 20th Amendment to the Constitution also allowed dual citizens to enter Parliament and hold public office, which paved the way for the entry of former Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa into Parliament in 2021. The 21st Amendment to the Constitution is expected to repeal this clause. Basil Rajapaksa is also the Founder and National Organiser of the SLPP, which still holds a majority in Parliament.  Furthermore, Kariyawasam claimed that the previous Constitutional Amendment (a reference to the 19th Amendment to the Constitution), which was also brought forward by then-Minister of Justice and Buddhasasana Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe PC ultimately “resulted in the Easter Sunday terror attacks”. “No one is accepting the responsibility of the said attacks, including former President and current MP Maithripala Sirisena and Wickremesinghe. These are the same people who are bringing in an amendment again,” he added.   The 20th Amendment to the Constitution was passed with a two-thirds majority in Parliament in 2020, repealing the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe Government’s 19th Amendment in 2015, which curtailed the powers of the Executive Presidency.  The 21st Amendment to the Constitution Bill has been drafted by a committee led by Wickremesinghe and Dr. Rajapakshe PC. Kariyawasam cast doubts on the origins of the 21st Amendment and whether it serves a foreign power’s agenda. “MPs should have a proper environment to understand and study it. Otherwise what they are trying to do is threaten MPs by saying that their houses will be burnt, and so, to sign this as fast as possible. So at this moment, we have a big question about who wants this amendment. Is it a foreign power? We can't even think about that at the moment. This should be done very thoughtfully.”  However, he stopped short of confirming that the SLPP would vote against the 21st Amendment in Parliament. “We are not saying that we will not eventually support the 21st Amendment to the Constitution. We first need a suitable environment where the Amendment can be brought in and discussed to do the correct thing for the country,” he added. The draft 21st Amendment to the Constitution Bill was presented to the Cabinet of Ministers on Monday (23) and was sent to all party leaders representing Parliament yesterday. Reportedly, the draft Bill has reinstated some of the provisions of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, whilst adding a number of other provisions, related to an Audit Service Commission, the Procurement Commission, and Parliamentary oversight concerning the appointment of the Governor to the Central Bank.  

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