by Saman Indrajith
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe pledged in Parliament yesterday to bring about radical reforms to the Constitution to find a solution to the national problem within the first 100 days of the new government.
“I specially mention that the solution would not be detrimental to the unitary status of the country. We will introduce the 19th Amendment to the constitution repealing the provisions of the 18th amendment to establish independent commissions and bring about a solution to the national problem. The new amendment will preserve the unitary status and the provisions of the 13th amendment will be implemented within that frame. Irrespective of being Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim, we must try to find a solution as Sri Lankans. I am surprised to see a statement made by MP Wimal Weerawansa this morning. I want to tell him one thing. You are the one who destroyed President Mahinda Rajapaksa. I request you not to destroy the rest. We should abhor racism.”
The Prime Minister said the TNA, too, had expressed their willingness to negotiate a political settlement. “Finding a solution is not only a responsibility of the TNA, but also of all of us including the government, opposition, JVP and everybody. It is our responsibility and duty. We should show the country that we all can sit together and iron out our differences to find a solution.”
On the first day of the new government facing parliament, the Premier said: “Today is an important day in the annals of Sri Lankan history. People of this country gave a mandate at the last Presidential election to Maithripala Sirisena to create a new political culture. I like to thank all those who voted for him in the last election.
“With that mandate he had been able to secure the support and leadership of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.
“This is a very special parliament in Sri Lankan history because for the first time the two main parties and many other parties have come to a consensus to move forward in unison for a common cause. This is a new experience and unprecedented in our history. To make this journey a success, we need the support of everybody. There are many challenges both local and international before us today. To win against these challenges, we need to muster the support of all.
“We hope to bring about radical pieces of legislation before this parliament under the 100 Day Programme including a bill to transfer the executive powers of the President to Parliament through the cabinet of ministers, the 19th amendment to the constitution repealing the provisions of the 18th amendment and to establish independent commissions, a bill on national drug policy, national auditing act and right to information act,” the Prime Minister said.
Leader of the Opposition Nimal Siripala de Silva: “I would first like to congratulate President Maithripala Sirisena, who is present in this House today. I also extend my congratulations to new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who has outlined a programme to take the country towards a new political culture.
The Opposition is willing to cooperate with the government’s programme if it is ready to take on board our concerns, suggestions and recommendations. We will not oppose everything of the government just because we are in the Opposition. We will support progressive and constructive programmes. The matter of extending support to the government’s 100-Day Programme has been discussed in the Central Committee and the Executive Committee of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and it has been resolved to cooperate with the government irrespective of the camps we belong.
“Just because we are supporting the government, we will not abstain from our duty of highlighting and championing the cause of aggrieved people. We will bring about and present the problems and grievances of people to the notice of the government. We hope the government will pay attention to solve their problems.
“We have so far not been able to deliver an acceptable political solution to the national problem. We are dedicated to find a solution which will not be detrimental to the unitary status and work against separatism. It is a national priority. We hope a solution to the national problem will be found during Maithripala Sirisena regime. We have met with President Sirisena and highlighted the plight of our supporters who have become victimized during the post-election period. We hope a proper mechanism will be devised for this purpose”, De Silva said.
TNA Parliamentary Group Leader R. Sampanthan: “We extend our warm and sincere congratulations and best wishes to Maithripala Sirisena on his election as the President of the country. His election as President has resulted in other changes – the appointment of Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister and the formation of a new government.
“The Tamil and Tamil speaking people of the North East and in the whole country responded overwhelmingly to the decision of the TNA that they extend their whole hearted support to Maithripala Sirisena, the joint opposition candidate. We extend our sincere gratitude to them.
“Together with the people in the rest of the country they have brought about a change in governance that will be greatly beneficial to the whole country in several areas outlined in the President Maithripala Sirisena’s 100-day programme.
“The Tamil question needs to be addressed so as to evolve a permanent, reasonable, workable and durable solution within the framework of a united and undivided Sri Lanka. It is the non-resolution of this question for over 60 years and its multifarious consequences that has been the cause of many ills the country has been afflicted with.
“In the interest of the whole country, the Tamil question needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. We shall extend our fullest support to the achievement of this objective. We are confident that the vast majority of all Sri Lankan people will extend their support.”
JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake: “People of this country gave a clear verdict against corruption and nepotism. The country was being led towards a dictatorship and people defeated that move. From the very top to bottom of the government was corruption, frauds and abuse of power. We have been able to put an end to it. It is a special victory. We thank all the people for that.
“During previous presidential elections, people of the North and East did not exercise their franchise properly. They considered electing a president for Sri Lanka was not their business. Their concerns were only of the leader in their part of the country. For the first time in our recent history, people of the North and East decided to take part in voting to elect a president and that indicated a change of their mind-set. They participated in the election, because they too think as citizens of this country. They participated in the election of their leader too. Thus, it is of paramount importance to deliver a solution for the national problem taking their aspirations into consideration. For that purpose we will give our party’s fullest cooperation.
“We do not need to set up a parliament where the majority favours the government. One half of the SLFP is in the government, while the other is in the opposition. This has been designed to secure the opposition leader’s position. We demand the SLFP to make its position clearly to this House where it stands today. The JVP’s stance is clear. We are not part of the government, but represent the opposition. We will not take posts in the cabinet. But we will actively support the 100 day programme for its progressive content. The TNA’s stance is similar to that. But where does the SLFP stand now?”