JO under pressure to quit constitution making process

Crucial meet today with MR presiding

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Global Sri Lankan Forum (GSLF) has requested the Joint Opposition (JO) to quit the UNP-led constitutional making process.

A senior spokesperson for the group told The Island that the JO couldn’t further delay a decision on National Freedom Front (NFF) leader and MP Wimal Weerasansa’s request to discontinue their participation in the parliamentary process.

The GSLF in a letter dated July 11 addressed to JO parliamentary group leader Dinesh Gunawardena, MP, and Pivuthuru Hela Urumaya leader Udaya Gammanpila, MP, warned that their failure to take a decision especially in the backdrop of the maha sangha denouncing the process would certainly cause a rift with the public.

The GSLF pointed out that maha sangha had in no uncertain terms opposed the proposed new Constitution or selected constitutional amendments to the Constitution on the basis they wouldn’t certainly be in Sri Lanka’s national interests.

Ranjith Soysa on behalf of the GSLF has explained to Messrs Gunawardena and Gammanpila how Premier Wickremesinghe exploited the involvement of those who had been elected on the UPFA ticket in the constitutional making process to justify the continuation of the project.

Of 95 members elected to parliament on the UPFA ticket at the last parliamentary polls in Aug 2015, approximately 50 are loyal to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The majority represents the SLFP, the largest party in the UPFA.

MP Weerawansa told The Island that the JO should leave the Constitutional Assembly comprising all members of parliament, the 21-member Steering Committee headed by Premier Wickremesinghe and also disassociate itself from recommendations made by six sub committees which dealt with fundamental rights, judiciary, law and order, public finance, public service and center-periphery relations. MP Weerawansa said that the five-member NFF parliamentary group had already decided not to participate in what he called Constitutional Assembly process.

Dinesh Gunawardena and Prasanna Ranatunga represent the JO in the Steering Committee.

Patriotic National Movement (PNM) Dr. Wasantha Bandara told The Island that they always felt the JO’s participation would be advantageous to those wanting to divide the country on ethnic lines in accordance with Geneva Resolution 30/1 adopted in Oct 2015. Dr Bandara welcomed the GSLF’s intervention.

National University Teachers’ Association (NUTA) yesterday urged the JO to abandon the UNP led project or face the consequences. Addressing the media at Rajagiriya, Dr Channa Jayasumana and attorney-at-law Raja Gooneratne explained the responsibility on the part of the JO to thwart the UNP project.

However, civil society group Yuthukama strongly defended the JO remaining in the process. Yuthukama president Gevindu Cumaratunga said that the JO should remain in the process to fight both in and outside parliament. Cumaratunga was responding to The Island query whether Yuthukama backed nationalist groups’ call for the JO to withdraw support. Cumaratunga emphasized that leaving the constitutional making process would be certainly disadvantageous to the JO hence the need to continue with it.

Meanwhile, well informed political sources told The Island that top JO representatives would meet today (July 18) under the auspices of former President Rajapaksa to discuss the latest developments. Sources said that MP Weerawansa’s request would be taken up though they had yet to reach consensus on the matter.

MP Weerawansa last week said that the former President had delayed final decision on his request pending discussions with all stakeholders.

Former Navy Chief of Staff and UPFA Digamadulla electoral district MP Rear Admiral Sarah Weerasekera yesterday told The Island that the JO should never have joined the constitutional making process under any circumstances. Had the JO refrained from joining the process the country wouldn’t have been in this mess today, Weerasekera said, adding that they had intentionally or unintentionally given the required legitimacy for a severely flawed process. "We opposed JO participation in the process and briefed the top leadership of ground realities."

Both Dr Bandara and Weerasekera said that the JO should have realized the process wouldn’t be fair when the cabinet appointed Lal Wijenayake Committee to make constitutional recommendations. They said the process couldn’t be reversed unless the JO quit before the situation deteriorated further.

Weerasekera said Sri Lanka should be ashamed of having to be lectured by UN Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson, QC, at the end of almost week long visit to the country. JO should realize Emmerson had sought to intervene in the parliamentary process by seeking to supervise bringing in new anti-terrorism law in place of Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

animated gif
Processing Request
Please Wait...