The government yesterday accused an influential section of the UPFA parliamentary group of having made a desperate bid to sabotage the 19 Amendment to the Constitution.
President Maithripala Sirisena, however, in his capacity as the leader of the SLFP had succeeded in thwarting dissidents, government spokesperson and Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne told the media yesterday.
Addressing the media at the Government Information Department, Dr. Senaratne alleged that the dissident group had made a bid to refrain from backing the Bill at a meeting chaired by President Maithripala Sirisena in Parliament on Tuesday. Some of those who had caused a major scene at the onset of the meeting, subsequently pledged their allegiance to President Sirisena, the government spokesman said, adding: “Subsequently, the dissident group split with the majority throwing their weight behind the President. They, too, gave up once they realised the ground situation.”
Those who had been hell-bent on blocking the 19 Amendment switched their allegiance to the President fearing the consequences, Dr Senaratne said.
The minister asserted that dissidents had no option but to change their stance when they realised President Maithripala Sirisena could attract the majority of the powerful SLFP group to ensure required two-thirds majority for the 19 Amendment.
Dr Senaratne said that President Maithripala Sirisena had met the parliamentary group on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday in a bid to secure their support for the 19 Amendment. Earlier, the rebel group forced President Maithripala Sirisena to postpone the two-day debate on the 19 Amendment twice.
Dr Senaratne claimed that the rebels tried to intimidate him and those who had pledged their support to the President.
The government spokesman quoted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as having said that the former President J.R. Jayewardene telling him that no future president would abolish the executive presidency. People never believed dictatorial presidential powers would be done away with though JRJ’s successors pledged to abolish presidency.
Alleging former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had tried to sabotage 19 Amendment to the Constitution, Dr Senaratne said that President Sirisena acted cleverly to keep his own strategy on track until the passage of the Amendment. President Sirisena had done better than former Presidents JRJ and Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Certain interested parties had propagated the idea that President Maithripala Sirisena lacked the strength to achieve the much needed consensus required to endorse the 19 Amendment to the Constitution. The former President and his close associates had sought to split the SLFP and cause a rift between the SLFP and the UNP to undermine the new President, the minister alleged. The Rajapaksa camp believed they couldn’t politically survive unless the disruptive measures were taken to undermine the new administration, the minister said.
Dr Senaratne recollected the circumstances under which the then UNP leader J.R. Jayewardene changed the country’s Constitution overnight. The minister said that the UNP had used brute force against those who opposed JRJ’s dictatorial Constitution. “The UNP went to the extent of detaining Colvin R de Silva,” the minister said, while paying a glowing tribute to those who vehemently objected to the UNP’s design.