- Plans to go before Courts following first reading of the Bill
- SJB Gen. Secy. asserts ready to engage with UNP on countering 20A
- States SJB has spoken to UNP Deputy Leader Ruwan Wijewardena
- SJB to discuss responses to 20A with other parties next week
- Claims some Govt. MPs do not want to vote in 20A
- Admits Unity Govt. failed to deliver justice to pre-2015 crimes
By Asiri Fernando
The Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) plans to take their concerns regarding the proposed 20th Amendment (20A) to the Courts after the Government presents it in Parliament next week.
Speaking at a press conference held at the Opposition Leader’s office yesterday, SJB General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara said that SJB plans to go to Courts following the first reading of the bill next Tuesday (22 September). He was joined by SJB members Sujith Sanjaya Perera and Harshana Rajakaruna.
“We can only take the proposed 20A to courts on 23 September. We have a seven-day window to do so,” Bandara said, pointing out that as the main Opposition, the SJB will discuss the matter with other parties in Parliament at the all-parties meeting.
The SJB said that they are ready to engage with the United National Party (UNP) and others to counter the 20A in Parliament. The main Opposition have begun a conversation on the issue with the recently-appointed Deputy Leader of the UNP, Bandara said.
“There is resistance to this proposed amendment from within the Government. Some Government MP’s don’t want to vote it in. They may not get the two-thirds vote they think they have,” Bandara opined.
Bandara questioned why the Cabinet sub-committee appointed to draft the proposed 20A did not meet even once before to discuss the bill before it was tabled at the Cabinet later on. The SJB also questioned what became of the report on the 20A prepared by another committee appointed by Prime Minister Rajapaksa to look in to the draft constitutional amendment.
“We know that a report on the proposed 20A was prepared by the committee appointed by the Prime Minister, but was not taken up by the Cabinet. This itself is an indication that the situation is a slippery slope towards dictatorship,” Bandara argued.
He claimed that the rushed amendment was a fatherless child, with no one willing to take responsibility or explain why some of the proposed changes were drafted.
Bandara also voiced concern about the erosion of anti-corruption measures in the proposed amendment. “It seems the Government is planning to play the same corruption game they played before 2015. They have removed the safeguards and accountability mechanisms put in place by us to stop corruption. What will happen to public funds? We won’t be able to find out,” Bandara lamented.
Over 150 Government organisations and public institutions have been removed from the scope of the Auditor General in the proposed 20A, Bandara charged.
“The most powerful ministers and institutions in the country have been moved under one family. How will that promote democracy and good governance?” Bandara questioned. He also criticised the proposed changes, which will allow the President to dissolve the Parliament one year into its term.
“National Security was an issue during the elections. What has the proposed 20A brought in to better the national security of the country?” Bandara pointed out, arguing that it was weaknesses of individuals in high office and not the 19th Amendment that was the blame for the security failure that led to the Easter Sunday bombings of last year.
Bandara conceded that the 2015 ‘Unity Government’ failed to deliver the promised justice to the alleged political victimisation, crime and corruption of the pre-2015 Government.
He said that the SJB wanted to fix some shortcomings of the 19th Amendment and move forward. However, Bandara said that if the proposed 20A is introduced, it will do irreversible harm to democracy and the rule of law in Sri Lanka, and vowed to do everything possible in and out of Parliament to defeat it.