Reforming the Constitution Unitary status will not be tampered, says PM | Sunday Observer

Reforming the Constitution Unitary status will not be tampered, says PM

The majority of political party leaders who aired their views when the Constitutional Assembly met on Friday called upon Government and Opposition lawmakers to study the report prepared by the Panel of Experts and extend their cooperation. All political parties for the first time have come together to reach a broader a consensus to draft a new Constitution.

However, the SLFP led UPFA Opposition said when all other political parties had presented their written submissions on the Constitution-making process, the UNP had not presented any proposals and added that a consensus could not be reached as the UNP had not expressed its stance.

Presenting a report prepared by the Panel of Experts for the Steering Committee, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told the House the Second and Ninth Sections of the Constitution providing for the first and foremost place for Buddhism and ensuring the unitary status will not be tampered with during the process of reforming the Constitution.

Abolition of Executive Presidency

The Premier said that the UNP stands for the abolition of the Executive Presidency and not amending the Second and Ninth Sections of the Constitution. The Premier said the Constitutional Assembly met this time for the tabling of reports compiled by the Steering Committee.

He said a final draft could be worked out from the reports that are available now. Refuting claims by some UPFA members that the country is being divided, the Premier said none of the reports proposes the division of the country.

Premier Wickremesinghe said there are various proposals as to how power could be devolved within a unitary state. The most suitable proposals could be selected and developed to formulate the new constitution.

Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa made the point that a debate should be conducted after studying the report and said they received the report on Friday morning. He said they need a couple of days to study the constitutional draft.

Responding to Rajapaksa, the Premier said the assembly could decide and then a final draft could be prepared. He told the Opposition Leader “Now you cannot shout that we are dividing the country. The draft had been identified as a document to divide the country.”

Rajapaksa told the Premier that the Constitution should be accepted by the people and there is a doubt whether the people would approve this.

Develop a consensus

TNA Leader R. Sampanthan said whatever political party he belongs to, Members of Parliament have a right to develop a consensus and they should try to achieve maximum possible consensus through discussions.

Sampanthan said we have failed to protect unity in diversity and to create a common Sri Lankan identity. Our sole intention is to unite people through this constitution. I think some of those who call themselves patriots are pseudo-patriots.

They work for votes to secure majority. There had been a nexus between pseudo-patriotism and corruption. These bogus patriots say they work for people but they use racism as a tool to mobilise people.

UPFA MP Nimal Siripala de Silva said the SLFP has clearly announced its stance on the devolution of power. When all the political parties have expressed their views, the UNP has not said anything about its stance in the draft report.

JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake alleged that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa is spreading hatred and circulating misinformation among the people about the new Constitution.

He recently visited a temple and said a new Constitution would be introduced in April this year and the country will be divided. He also said the new Constitution would establish a federal form of state. What lies are these? Rajapaksa’s conspiracy to grab power failed and he is politically bankrupt, he attempts to spread hatred and racism among people.

Responding to a question raised by UPFA MP Dinesh Gunawardena, Minister of Public Enterprise and Kandyan Heritage and Development and Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament that both main parties had agreed to hold elections under the Proportional Representation (PR) system.

MP Gunawardena raised a question regarding the failure on the part of the Delimitation Review Committee headed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to present its report to Parliament. MP Gunawardena said only two months could be given to such a committee but the two-month time period has elapsed and the Prime Minister has failed to present the report to Parliament or to the President.

Unrest at ITN

When Finance and Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera replied to a question raised by JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake on the unrest at ITN, an exchange of words ensued between the Minister and Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa over the PRECIFAC case relating to ITN.

Minister Samaraweera referring to the PRECIFAC final report said that it had held former President Rajapaksa and several others responsible for a loss to the tune of Rs 102 million to ITN during the 2015 Presidential elections.

Opposition Leader Rajapaksa replying to Minister Samaraweera said that those who gave evidence during that case were of the view that ITN should make a payment to him and added that he doesn’t accept the PRECIFAC report as there was a political hand in it.

The Minister in his response told the Opposition Leader in lighter vein “You should have told the President as he is now your best friend. This was not our report and we were not involved in making it.”

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