Ex-UNP minister backs TNA’s call for MR’s role in constitution making

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Former UNP Minister A.R.M. Munsoor yesterday urged the government as well as former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to heed Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader R. Sampanthan’s call for the former SLFP leader to join the constitution making process.

The success of the process would largely depend on the participation of all political parties and groups represented in parliament, Munsoor said, adding that the required consensus could never be achieved unless the former President threw his weight behind the project.

The one-time Commerce Minister told The Island that the support of those UPFA members still loyal to the Kurunegala District MP could be secured through the active involvement of Mahinda Rajapaksa in the process of writing a new Constitution. Whatever the criticism of his conduct, Rajapaksa was a national leader accepted by a large segment of the people, the former Ampara District MP said.

Munsoor hailing from Kalmunai praised Trincomalee District MP Sampanthan for calling for Rajapaksa’s involvement in the process.

Leader of the Opposition R. Sampanthan told Parliament last Tuesday that he expected Rajapaksa who had a national following and been accepted as a national leader to contribute to the formulation of new constitution.

Participating in a debate on the resolution to convert Parliament into a ‘constitutional assembly’, MP Sampanthan said: “I call upon former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and request him to participate in this process for the benefit of the country and the people. His assistance is needed to bring about a new constitution.”

Munsoor said that there was no requirement for foreign experts. “In fact, foreign experts can cause unnecessary issues. Let there be an open discussion among political parties represented in parliament and other groups, including civil society. That’ll help bring about consensus.”

Instead of looking at various western models, Sri Lanka should take a cue from the chief architect of the Indian Constitution Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, under whose leadership a Constituent Assembly had drafted the Indian Constitution adopted in January 1950. The devolution of power to the provinces should be done in accordance with the Indian model, Munsoor said.

He said Sampanthan had realised that the process couldn’t move forward without Rajapaksa’s participation. “We entered Parliament way back in 1977. Both of us represented the Eastern Province and strongly believe in a negotiated settlement to the national issue.”

The former Minister said that those who had a habit of issuing statements in response even to a minor issue were silent on MP Sampanthan’s proposal. The UNP should act swiftly and decisively to move on the matter, Munsoor said, warning Sri Lanka wouldn’t get another opportunity to introduce a new Constitution in place of the 1978 document.