Only SLPP govt has right to amend Constitution – MR

Calling for the United National Party (UNP)’s electoral defeat, Opposition Leader and Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa said today only a future Sri Lanka Podujana Party (SLPP)-led Government has the right to amend the Constitution.

Pointing to an alleged contrast between the reasons given for introducing the 19th amendment and the realities of party politics that actually informed its final draft, Rajapaksa said the 19th amendment has come back to haunt its architects in the UNP.

“They’re now trying to reintroduce the 20th amendment. This Government has no right whatsoever to make further amendments to the Constitution. It is only our upcoming administration that has the right to change it,” he said.

Rajapaksa was speaking at an event held at the Opposition Leader’s Official Residence on Wijerama Mawatha this morning (26) marking the formation of a new alliance in the run-up to the upcoming presidential election. The event saw the SLPP signing memoranda of understanding with 10 political parties not represented in Parliament.

Separate MoUs were signed with the following parties, a number of which claim to represent the Tamil and Muslim communities.

  • Mawbima Janatha Pakshaya – signed by Hemakumara Nanayakkara
  • Lanka Kamkaru Eksath Peramuna – S. Sathasivam
  • Thamila Eksath Nidahas Peramuna – Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan a.k.a. Karuna Amman
  • Elawar Democratic Party – Surawanabawanan Dushyanth
  • Muslim Ulama Party – Mubarak Abdul Majid
  • Liberal Party – Kamal Nissanka
  • Nawa Sihala Urumaya – Sarath Manamendra
  • Prajathanrawadi Jathika Viyaparaya – Aruna de Soyza
  • Eksath Lanka Maha Sabhawa – Jayantha Kulatunge
  • Boomi Puthra Party – Sarath Wijeratne

The ceremony was a relatively low-key affair with many Opposition stalwarts such as MPs Wimal Weerawansa, Dinesh Gunawardena and Namal Rajapaksa conspicuous by their absence. Of the Rajapaksa brothers, only Former Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa appeared to be present.

The Former President, sounding more confident than he looked, told the audience that all voters are duty-bound to defeat the Yahapalana Government.

“All of us have an obligation to defeat this Government for the sake of the country, the people, our children and children not yet born,” he said, accusing the UNF-led Government of selling national assets for personal gain.

“[Prime Minister] Ranil Wickremesinghe is so cunning that he got a Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) Minister to sell the Hambantota Port when [former Ports Minister] Arjuna Ranatunga refused to sign off on the deal,” he added.

The Opposition Leader’s comments this morning appeared to be a preamble to a lengthy speech he made in Parliament later today on constitutional reform.

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Due to the atmosphere of mistrust the current Government has brought about, he told Parliament, the Opposition cannot collaborate in any constitutional reform process with this Government.

“There is no point in talking about constitutional reform at the tail end of the tenure of a government. This matter has to be taken up by a new government elected by the people,” he said.

According to Rajapaksa, the SLPP will put forward a set of reform proposals at the presidential election due to be held in December, this year. If elected, he said, the new government will hold a referendum to obtain the people’s endorsement of the proposed new constitution – an election promise he accused the Yahapalana Government of breaking.

“Once a new government is in power, we hope to obtain the support of all political parties represented in Parliament for the new constitution. Those who genuinely wish to see constitutional reform taking place in this country can join hands with us at that stage,” he said.

“We will not deceive the people by saying that we will amend the Constitution only to the extent that a referendum is not necessary. We will definitely hold a referendum to get the new constitution endorsed by the people,” he added.

Meanwhile, Joint Opposition MP Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the Wijerama Mawatha event said the presidential election will be less about personalities and more about defeating an unpopular government.

“We will have Tamil and Muslim support this time, and 100% of the Catholic vote too, as minorities are now asking for security and economic relief. Whoever is nominated, even if it’s George Bush or Donald Trump, this wave of anti-Government sentiment cannot be stopped,” he said.

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