SJB to focus on abolishing 20A first

  • In discussions with dissenting Govt. parties
  • SJB barred from protesting at Independence Square

BY Shahaen Vishak and Pamodi Waravita

The Samagi Jana Balawegeya (SJB) said yesterday (3) that they are in discussions with a number of political parties, organisations, and individuals on what next steps to take, with priority being given to revoke the 20th Amendment from the Constitution.

“We are going step by step. We are telling those who are saying that they are opposed to the Government, but within the Government, let’s get together and vote against the 20th Amendment. That is step one. Then we can see all these people who professed to be against the Government, whether they are actually against the Government,” SJB MP Eran Wickremaratne told The Morning yesterday, speaking during the protest organised by the main parliamentary Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) near Independence Square in Colombo yesterday, demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the incumbent Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP)- led Government.

He added that there were discussions yesterday regarding the matter. 

“Today, a lot of the Opposition came together and discussed it. We will build on that,” said Wickremaratne, adding: “Ultimately, we are the alternative government – we are doing our homework. We have two main objectives: in the short term how to end the queues and secondly, how to reform the economy and make some hard decisions.”

Speaking to The Morning, SJB National Organiser and MP Tissa Attanayake said that the SJB has appointed a four-member committee to reach out to political parties, organisations, and individuals who are not sitting with the SJB.

The four-member committee includes Attanayake, SJB General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara, and SJB MPs Kabir Hashim and Eran Wickremaratne.

Meanwhile, SJB MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka told The Morning that a no-confidence motion against the Government will not take place at the time.

Protests have become a common sight around the island in the past three months, as citizens’ calls for the supply of basic essentials, such as fuel, electricity, food items, and gas have been increasing. Alongside this, the “#GoHomeGota” hashtag has been popularised across social media. A state of emergency was declared over the weekend, followed by a curfew and a ban on social media applications, as dissent against the Government continues to grow.

A tense situation arose at around 9.30 a.m. yesterday, when a group of SJB Parliamentarians, including SJB and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, attempted to enter the Independence Square premises in Colombo. However, the Police and the Army had set up roadblocks at the scene. 

Speaking to police and army personnel at the time, Premadasa said that the Police and the Army were bound not to protect the Rajapaksa family (a reference to the family of President Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa), but to protect the people of the country. He also said that no one can violate the Constitution of the country for the protection of one family. 

“Neither the Government nor the President nor anyone else can suppress public opinion. We have come to this place today (3) for the sake of the millions of people. Today the people have become helpless to the fullest. They have no milk powder, no gas, no electricity. However, the Government is suppressing the people’s voice against the current rule.” he said yesterday.

Claiming that not a single person or property would be harmed in the protest, Premadasa called on the security personnel to allow them to enter Independence Square. He also said that no one has the power to obstruct the activities of the elected MPs, including the Opposition Leader. 

“We do not threaten anyone in the security forces, but do not act in a way that destroys our respect towards you. What you are doing today is completely unconstitutional. The Rajapaksas will finally flee to the US, but you all will have to end up going to courts,” he told the police and army personnel. 

Meanwhile, commenting during the protest, SJB MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka said: “The current President and Government are misusing the emergency law and oppressing the people. Therefore, the security forces should not turn their guns on us, instead, guns must be aimed at corrupt rulers.”

After protesting near the Independence Square for about one hour, the group of SJB MPs including Premadasa was seen leaving the premises.

Over the past few months, several protests have been held on a daily basis during which people demanded solutions for the issues including the prevailing shortages of essential commodities. Moreover, despite the President having declared a state of emergency and imposed a curfew until 6 a.m. today (4), both political and non-political groups had organised several protests islandwide yesterday.

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