By Chamodi Gunawardana
Former Minister Prof. G.L Peiris yesterday claimed the power to draft a new constitution had been granted to the Steering Committee proposed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe based on the resolution he presented to Parliament to set up a Constitutional Assembly on Saturday (9 January).
Premier Wickremesinghe proposed the appointment of a Steering Committee comprising the Prime Minister as Chairman, the Speaker, the Opposition Leader, the Justice Minister and no more than 17 members of the Constitutional Assembly.
The committee was tasked with collecting the ideas of its sub committees and must take a final decision regarding the amendments for the new Constitution.
Speaking at the Joint Opposition media briefing, Peiris alleged the proposed Steering Committee has unlimited authority to influence the business of its sub committees.
“Wickremesinghe tried to get involved in the entire Constitution making process while chairing the Steering Committee. He told Parliament the proposed new Constitution will strengthen the democratic rights of all, but it was not his actual expectation,” he charged.
The resolution was presented to the House on Saturday and it was taken up for debate on Tuesday. Addressing the briefing, Joint Opposition MP Dinesh Gunawardena claimed the given time was insufficient to debate such an important resolution.
“Parliamentary traditions say the House should assemble a minimum of eight days per month, but we still had two days to debate the resolution. The next assembly is scheduled on 26 January and we believe three assembly days will not be enough to finalise the amendments to the motion,” Gunawardena stressed.
He added the Joint Opposition will maintain the same position of amending the resolution to set up a Constitutional Assembly until it takes up the debate at the next session of Parliament.
“Wickremesinghe presented the resolution which required several amendments. He tried to pass it within Saturday, but due to the huge resistance raised from the Opposition, the resolution was taken up for further debate. We appreciate the effort given by some ministers of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), MPs of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) to amend the resolution,” Gunawardena said.
Govt‘s adoption of unidentified investments dangerous – Joint Opposition
The Joint Opposition yesterday claimed the Government’s decision to accept USD 1 billion offer of an unidentified investor will put the country at risk.
On Monday, Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake said an unnamed Belgian investor had promised to provide a USD 1 billion deposit for Sri Lanka to defend the country’s currency.
Former Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris warned that the unidentified investor will be a ‘member of the LTTE or a representative of a harmful organisation.’
“Terrorists are always waiting for an opportunity to enter a country by using different methods. This will be a similar kind of trap used by the LTTE. The Treasury has announced that it isn’t aware of the identity of the investor. The Minister said if someone has doubts about those monies they could file a case in Court against him. Why are they so irresponsible?” he demanded.
Criticizing the Finance Minister, MP Dinesh Gunawardena claimed the reforms to the Budget which Karunanayake pledged to draft have still not been presented to Parliament.
“Karunanayake should mind that the Budget was prepared to be implemented in 2016, not 2017. Then he should present the drafted amendments of the budget as soon as possible,” Gunawardena said.
Alternative party is a secret: Dinesh
MP Dinesh Gunawardena yesterday said that if there was any plan by the Joint Opposition to form an alternative political party, it would be revealed only after the election date is finalised.
Responding to questions at the press briefing about preparations for the upcoming local government polls, Gunawardena said their way of contesting will be a secret until the Government announces the election.
“Now we can’t reveal how we plan to contest the election. Until the election is called we will continue our politics as the Joint Opposition under the direction of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa,” he said.