Focus should be on communal harmony and abolition of Executive Presidency in 2019: Karu

Saturday, 29 December 2018 00:12 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Ashwin Hemmathagama 

To eliminate all possibilities of the spread of communal and religious violence as a part of extremist political agendas, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya urged religious leaders’ active participation in the coming year.

Addressing the All Religion Conference held recently at the Speaker’s Residence in Kotte, he stressed the importance of religious and ethnic harmony among Sri Lankans, starting from the temples and other religious establishments in the country. Speaker Jayasuriya also noted the important guidance the religious leaders could give to abolish the long-debated controversial Executive Presidency, which is unbearable to parliamentary democracy.

Speaker Jayasuriya has stood by strongly in support of the true values of good governance and democracy from the first day he entered politics and has lobbied against the Executive Presidency, which was to be abolished soon after the controversial Western Province Elections. He has worked hard to pass the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, which was passed in Parliament in October 2001 to make provisions for the Constitutional Council and Independent Commissions.

Commending the immense contribution the All Religion Conference had made in the past for the betterment of the country by keeping out petty political agendas, and the public guidance provided under the leadership of late Maduluwawe Sobhitha Thero in rising against the dictatorship which was turning up prior to 2015, the Speaker said: “The public aim was not to bring in a common candidate to re-establish the Executive Presidency but to abolish it. The Constitutional Council, independent commissions, Right to Information, and independence of the Judiciary were established during a short period even though they were unable to abolish the Executive Presidency.”

Explaining the constitutional crisis to the All Religion Conference, the Speaker also said: “Trust between the President and the Prime Minster fell apart during the last local Government election. I engaged in bringing harmony among the two, having understood the adverse impact. It is true that the President tried to appoint me as Prime Minister on several occasions. I didn’t want to go against the public mandate we took to appoint Maithripala Sirisena as the President and Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister. I met the President on 27 October with the changes that took place on 26 October. He requested me to make necessary arrangements to receive the new Prime Minister as per the Gazette notification the President had issued. However, agreeing to follow his request, I requested him to allow the new Government to show majority in the Parliament within seven days.”

According to Speaker Jayasuriya, the President had agreed to convene the Parliament on 5 November but had to shift the date to 7 November due to practicalities. Meanwhile, the Speaker had received a motion against the new Government, signed by 117 lawmakers, with the Parliament not convened on 7 November as per the President’s decision.

“All saw how a certain group of lawmakers obstructed to show the majority in Parliament. Some lawmakers got sold for unbelievable prices. I had a huge responsibility as the Speaker either to allow the majority to win or to allow the forceful interruption to win. I decided not to allow thuggery to win. I knew the seriousness of my decision. I was threatened to be shot inside the Chamber or to get attacked by acid, but I stood for democracy despite all threats by not allowing the Parliament system to fall into grave danger. However, the entire country has failed due to this constitutional issue,” he said.

According to the Speaker, major foreign-funded programs were curtailed and donations were withdrawn, including the monorail project, which came as a part of the Japanese-funded program. 

Speaker Jayasuriya also stated that the constitutional crisis has led the Judiciary to get world-wide recognition and praise for its independence with the impartial judgements derived. Praising the conduct of ITAK lawmaker R. Sampanthan, the Speaker said: “R. Sampanthan was a responsible Opposition Leader, but I had to act in par with the Standing Orders of the Parliament. I have made my decision clear. The Judiciary should decide the membership of the respective lawmakers in question.”

The All Religion Conference was represented by Itthepane Dhammalankara thero, Thiniyawala Palitha Thero, Shri Waideshewara Kurukkal, Father Ibaneesar Joseph, Cardinal Duleep de Chikera, Father Leofall Rathnasekara, and Javid Yusoof.