- Electronic petition addressed to President, PM urging them not to proceed with 20A
- Calls on them to adopt new constitution as promised in election manifesto
- Former Speaker warns steamrolling 20A will mark the beginning of one of the darkest periods in the history of the country
- Says Govt. should focus on the economy and welfare of people amidst the COVID-19 pandemic without prioritising self-serving political reforms
The National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ) and Joint Opposition leaders yesterday signed an electronic petition addressed to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, party leaders and members of Parliament, urging them not to proceed with the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution.
The petition also called on them to adopt a new Constitution that reflects the aspirations of all Sri Lankans, after broad public consultations, as outlined in the presidential election manifesto.
Former Speaker and Chairman of the National Movement for a Just Society Karu Jayasuriya, in his address, warned that if the government tries to arbitrarily steamroll the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution in Parliament, it will mark the beginning of one of the darkest periods in the history of the country.
“On the one hand, the pandemic is threateningly spreading across the country. Everyday life has been completely disrupted. Yet, the power hunger of the leaders of this government is greater, and their thirst for power will not be quenched till they create an autocracy,” he said.
Jayasuriya said that at present the economic challenges facing Sri Lanka are enormous and unprecedented.
“During the first three months of 2020, the economy contracted instead of growing. Now, the census department has stopped releasing data on the economy. These challenges can be overcome with leadership that can unite all people to overcome them collectively. But someone who tries to suppress everybody cannot be a part of the solution – but the problem,” he said.
Jayasuriya said that it wasn’t just Sri Lanka, but the whole world, that was in the midst of an economic crisis today, and that the priority of the Government should be to find solutions to these looming problems instead of self-serving political reforms.
“Now the government seems to be going ahead with their power agenda without even listening to the eminent voices in their own camp, including patriotic Buddhist monks, civic organisations, and political parties in the government. In the eyes of the public, such lack of respect for the forces that helped the formation of the government, such as religious leaders and others, is an insult to them,” he said.
Resistance to 20A, he noted, has come from all levels and all sides of the society.
“Recently, the Amarapura and Ramanna Sangha Sabha, Catholic Bishops Council, National Christian Council of Sri Lanka, all political parties in the Opposition, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, other professional associations, Audit Service Union, many other trade unions and their federations, as well as civil and social activists, have clarified their positions against the proposed Amendment. It is our request to the government to give up this hasty constitutional reform, consult the people and draft a new constitution that reflects the aspirations of all Sri Lankans.”
He noted that the unprecedented and surprising haste to pass this regressive piece of legislation is manifest in the premature leaking of the Supreme Court’s determination on 20A, something that is only supposed to be seen by the President and the Speaker of the Parliament until the Speaker announces it to the House.
Adding that this belittles two supreme branches of the state – the Judiciary and the Parliament – he called on the Speaker and the Prime Minister to conduct an inquiry about this breach of secrecy and to bring those responsible to justice.
He also called on all MPs to listen to their hearts, and ask themselves if they wanted to be complicit in creating an era where the present and future generations were forced to live as slaves in an autocracy.
“Young people in Europe, Asia and around the world fight on the streets, go to jail and sacrifice their lives, to gain or protect their freedoms. The next generation of Sri Lanka does not want to live under a monarch, but they want to exercise their sovereignty, and enjoy democratic freedom. We have no reason to believe that present leaders would ever need a new constitution if 20A is passed.”
Jayasuriya also called on President Rajapaksa to call a meeting of the senior advisory council of Buddhist monks, and plan future steps with regard to constitutional reforms on their advice. “We consider that it will be an honour to its members and the general public of the country.”
Among those present at yesterday’s meeting were Sanga Nayake and Patron of the NMSJ Venerable M. Siddartha Thera, and representatives of Opposition political parties including MPs Ranjith Maddumabandara, Champika Ranawaka, Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, Mano Ganeshan, M. Sumanthiran, former MPs K. Paranavithana and Arjuna Ranatunga, trade union representatives, academics, journalists and civil society representatives.