By Shamindra Ferdinando
General Secretary of the Patriotic National Movement (PNM) Dr. Wasantha Bandara has warned of dire consequences unless those who campaigned against moves to introduce constitutional reforms inimical to the country’s interests defeat the government strategy.
The civil society activist alleged that controversial constitutional proposals to deprive Buddhism of state patronage and do away with the unitary status of the country could be a ruse to mislead the Opposition. At a crucial moment, the government would declare that it wouldn’t touch those Sections but swiftly bring in constitutional changes required to fully implement the 13th Amendment, Dr. Bandara said, addressing a public meeting organised by Viyathmaga (Gampaha Organization) on Saturday (Oct 21).
Dr Bandara asserted that the whole constitutional making exercise could be a hoax meant to divert the attention from yahapalana government’s real objective to fully implement the 13th Amendment.
Sri Lanka introduced 13th Amendment in late 1987.
Former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa chaired the meeting, which was also addressed by Dr. Nalaka Godahewa, retired Maj. Gen. Kamal Gunaratne and activist Anuradha Yahampath.
Dr. Bandara said those who had been spearheading the project propagated the idea that the proposed new Constitution would be subject to a referendum, though their real intention was to implement the 13 Amendment with a two thirds majority. Declaring that it didn’t require a referendum, Dr. Bandara said that every effort should be made to convince members of parliament not to throw their weight behind the proposals.
The government project could be thwarted if 76 members of parliament voted against it to deny them a two-thirds majority, Dr Bandara said, urging members to be conscious of their responsibility towards the country and not to be influenced by perks and privileges.
Dr Bandara admitted that depriving the government of a two-thirds majority wouldn’t be an easy task.
PNM official said the government had craftily involved the Joint Opposition (JO) in the constitutional making project thereby consolidated its position vis a vis the campaign undertaken by them.
“We are facing a frightening situation, an unprecedented crisis not encountered even at the height of the war against the LTTE,” Dr. Bandara said, referring to recent statement made by TNA Northern Provincial Council member M.K. Sivajilingam that Sri Lanka would be the 27th country to be divided since the World War II.
Dr. Bandara explained how US-led Western powers had advanced their strategies during the last several decades, Sri Lanka, too was now faced with horrendous consequences of Western intervention.
Commenting on Indian intervention during JRJ government, Dr. Bandara said as the former never wanted to devolve power to the regions he resorted to a military solution. In fact, a military solution was an extension of political decision, Dr. Bandara said, adding that India thwarted JRJ bid and forced 13th Amendment on the UNP leader.
Having compared federal features in the Indian Constitution and the 13th Amendment, Dr Bandara claimed that the latter was far more stronger and assertive therefore could pose a severe threat in case fully implemented. Dr. Bandara said that JRJ had certain safeguards to prevent the 13 Amendment being exploited and also put on hold land and police powers for obvious reasons. Now, the current government was planning to fully implement the 13th Amendment, he said, while describing the Governor of a Province having executive powers to intervene on behalf of the President as well as concurrent list as safeguards.
Current efforts on the part of Sri Lanka to go the whole hog in respect of the 13 Amendment should be examined against the backdrop of the UNP not even having a simple majority in Parliament, Dr. Bandara said, pointing out that the success of their operation entirely depended on those members elected on the UPFA ticket and then joined the government.
Dr. Bandara said that they had no faith in those defeated UPFA candidates who were accommodated on the National List but members elected shouldn’t betray their country.
The PNM General Secretary alleged that once the government had granted them 13th Amendment, those in control would cause a crisis to drag the government into a dispute. “We are being subjected to a strategy that had been carried out, successfully, in various parts of the world,” Dr Bandara said, urging MPs to be mindful of the danger.