Draft Constitution ready, debate on interim report irrelevant – Joint Opposition
MPs struggle to explain MR’s absence
The Joint Opposition (JO) yesterday alleged that a draft Constitution with federal features severely inimical to Sri Lanka had been prepared though the government pretended it was still consulting other stakeholders.
JO Gampaha District MP attorney-at-law Sirira Jayakody asserted that a three-day debate on the interim report of the Steering Committee tasked with formulating constitutional proposals, scheduled to begin on Monday (Oct. 30), was irrelevant as the draft Constitution was now ready.
Parliament meets, as a constituent assembly, to discuss the interim report.
The MP made the observation, addressing the media at a Buddhist temple at Punchi Borella yesterday. Jayakody was flanked by MP Bandula Gunawardena, who headed the Sub Committee on Public Finance.
Asked whether he made that statement with responsibility, Jayakody reiterated that the draft Constitution had been finalised.
The interim report dealt with six vital subjects, nature of the state, executive, parliamentary elections, principles of devolution, religion and state land.
MP Gunawardena flayed the government for not taking up comprehensive reports prepared by six sub committees that dealt with fundamental rights, judiciary, law and order, public finance, public service and centre– periphery relations. MP Gunawardena said that the government had ignored their call for a separate debate on those six reports in addition to the three-day debate on the Steering Committee report.
Gunawardena said they would use the three-day debate to highlight the dangers posed by the new Constitution based on the interim report or proposed constitutional amendments. The MP said they weren’t amenable to any of the recommendations in the interim report.
MP Jayakody claimed the draft Constitution that had been prepared was far more dangerous than the recommendations made in the interim report.
Both Jayakody and Gunawardena emphasized that it would be the responsibility of all patriotic members of Parliament to thwart the government project.
Gunawardena said vital recommendations made by the sub committee on public finance headed by him were ignored. Asked by The Island whether recommendations made by five other sub committees had been accommodated in Steering Committee report, he said they, too, weren’t included.
Gunawardena said that some of his key recommendations were at variance with the sub committee report on centre– periphery relations. The TNA/PLOTE Vanni District MP Dharmalingham Siddarthan, who headed the sub committee on centre– periphery relations, had sought to do away with authority of parliament in respect of public finance whereas his committee recommended quite the opposite, Gunawardena said.
Gunawardena said that his committee had dealt with powers of the Attorney General with a view to enhancing transparency and accountability. The SLFPer said that devolving financial authority to Provincial Councils would cause turmoil.
Responding to a query, Gunawardena said that they were strongly opposed to giving PCs authority to levy taxes under any circumstances. MP Gunawardena said that MP Siddarthan’s proposal to allocate 40 per cent of state revenue to PCs, too, wasn’t acceptable. The MP said that PCs allocation should be enhanced but it was certainly not fair to allocate 40 per cent of total revenue to them.
MPs Gunawardena and Jayakody said that the government project should be defeated in Parliament.
Both MPs struggled to explain the absence of former President and Kurunegala District MP Mahinda Rajapaksa at the onset of the debate on Monday. They said the former President would join the debate and make a useful contribution though currently visiting India to participate in a religious festival.
MP Rajapaksa is expected to attend parliament on Wednesday, last day of the debate.
MP Jayakody said that people had forgotten the leadership given by President Rajapaksa to eradicate terrorism.
The media said no one would dispute the leadership given by the former President but the issue here was why he went overseas when a critical debate was taking place.
Asked by The Island whether the JO was confident of securing the support of 76 members of parliament to deprive the government of required two-thirds majority to enact new Constitution or bring in constitutional amendments, MP Gunawardena said they were in the process of building up strength.
The JO comprises 55 members. When pointed out that UPFA MP Arundika Fernando had repeatedly assured that about a dozen MPs were ready to support the JO in MP Gunawardena’s presence at a media conference at the same venue, the MP expressed confidence of those MPs would respond at the correct moment.
Jayakody said those who had received the former President Rajapaksa’s support at the last parliamentary polls didn’t have the right to vote for the new Constitution or constitutional amendments inimical to Sri Lanka.