ECONOMYNEXT – The Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) is saying that it will launch a countrywide people’s movement to safeguard the freedoms and rights granted to the average citizen by the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.
The first step in this direction will take place at a meeting to be held in Parliament on Friday, August 28 under the Chairmanship of the Leader of the Opposition Sajith Premadasa, party spokesmen said.
Civil society activists, political parties and citizens’ groups have indicated that they will attend, party spokesmen said.
“This is not a political movement to gather support for our party, but a movement to safeguard the rights that people won through the 19A,” former Minister Rajitha Senaratne told reporters.
Speaking at a media briefing at the SJB headquarters this afternoon, Senaratne said that the government is in a hurry to bring the Amendments so that dual citizens can be appointed to Parliament.
“This is so that Basil Rajapaksa can be brought into Parliament and appointed as a Minister or even the Prime Minister,” he said. Basil Rajapaksa is a dual citizen of the United States and Sri Lanka. Under the 19A dual citizens cannot enter Parliament and hold office.
“The hard-won rights and freedoms have to be sacrificed for the sake of one family,” he said.
Another SJB MP Dr Harsha de Silva said that when Basil Rajapaksa took the oath of citizenship to become a US citizen he agreed to “bear arms” for the country.
“How can someone like that become an MP, a Minister or a Prime Minister?” he asked.
Speakers at the briefing said that the amendments that reduced the powers of the President and strengthened the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens came through a strong people’s movement that was led by Maduluwawe Sobhitha Thero.
“It was the people who wanted these amendments. That was the first time that a Constitution was amended to benefit the people and not the political party or some individuals in power,” Senaratne said.
“But the government is trying to amend the constitution just to suit the Rajapaksa family,” he added.
Lawyer Shiral Laktilaka said that Media, in particular, must take note of the fact that much of the freedoms that have been granted have an impact on how Media can fulfil its role in society.
The Right To Information Act, for instance, he said has to be protected as it has become a powerful instrument for the Media.
MP Eran Wickremeratne said that he values the contributions that Sri Lankans overseas make for this country.
“They have experience, technology and money to invest, so we welcome all that,” he said.
“But if there is a conflict between this country and the country where that person holds dual citizenship, which country will they support,” he asked.
(Colombo, August 26, 2020)
Reported by Arjuna Ranawana