The three-day debate on the interim report of the Steering Committee, on Constitutional Reforms, began yesterday (30) with the Parliament sitting as a Constituent Assembly and from the outset it was clear there were deep divisions among the Parties.
The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) emphasized that there should not be any constitutional reforms proposed that needed a referendum.
Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation, Nimal Siripala de Silva said, the SLFP did not believe the Executive Presidency needed to be abolished.
“The SLFP accepts that the country needs a new electoral system. In the same vein we accept that there is a need for the devolution of powers. The new Constitution has not been finalized yet. After this debate, the Constitutional Council would sit to……prepare the final draft for the new Constitution. Today’s SLFP stance on the content of a new Constitution does not differ from the standpoint of former President Mahinda Rapjapaksa, sometime back, with regard to the content of a new Constitution. It is not prudent to do away with the Executive Presidency entirely.”
The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) however, charged that some groups were attempting to ensure the protection of the Executive Presidency through fear mongering. JVP MP Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa said that no political party in Sri Lanka held the moral high ground to support the continuance of the Executive Presidency.
“All parties have suffered because of this post consolidating all powers in the hands of a single person. The country has suffered enough because of the Executive Presidency. There are some extremists in the South trying to fish in troubled waters by creating fear among the masses that by reforming the Constitution the country would be placed in harm’s way. People should by now understand who those power hungry elements are. People have enough of examples of what they did to this nation and how they did it. There is a golden opportunity before us today. What we need today is an inclusive Sri Lankan identity. We have passed many decades divided on racial, linguistic and religious differences. Time has come for us to shed the petty differences and make use of the lessons we learnt from the past to usher in a bright future for the people of this country. We should not miss this opportunity.”
Meanwhile, Leader of the Joint Opposition in Parliament, MP Dinesh Gunawardana, also taking part in yesterday’s debate, alleged that the Government was paving the way to adopt a federal system of governance through the new Constitution.
“The concept defined by the term Orumittha Nadu leads nowhere but towards federalism. We reject the interim report of the Steering Committee of the Constitutional Assembly. This is a fraud. This is nothing but cheating the people. We are against it. The Maha Sangha has rejected it. The new Constitution should not be prepared on the basis of this report. We are against changing the national flag and the national anthem. The Executive Presidency should not be abolished at this time. The provinces should not be amalgamated. The merging of the provinces would create further troubles.”