Prez reminded of promise to enact new Constitution
By Shamindra Ferdinando
SLPP lawmaker Rear Admiral (retd.) Sarath Weerasekera has declared that he will not vote for the proposed 21 st Amendment to the Constitution under any circumstances.
The former Public Security Minister and Colombo District lawmaker said he couldn’t accept the 21st Amendment as it was meant to restore the provisions in the treacherous 19th Amendment to the Constitution enacted in 2015.
MP Weerasekera said so at a meeting chaired by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Monday (30) evening at the President’s House to reach a consensus on the proposed Amendment.
Among those who had been present at the discussion were Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, SLPP founder Basil Rajapaksa, MP, members of the cabinet and members of Parliament.
At the onset of the meeting, Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, has briefed the gathering of the proposed Amendment meant to do away with the 20th Amendment enacted in Oct 2020.
Lawmaker Weerasekera asked how he could accept 21 Amendment after having voted against the 19th Amendment that sought to empower the Premier at the expense of the President.
The former Navy Chief of Staff has questioned the move to amend the constitution, hastily in response to essentially an economic crisis. The former minister said that he kept quiet in spite of the appointment of a new Prime Minister along with cabinet of ministers. However, a blind eye couldn’t be turned to the controversial moves to bring back provisions of the 19th Amendment, MP Weerasekera said. The nationalist warned that enactment of 21 meant the betrayal of 6.9 mn people who exercised their franchise in support of wartime Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Nov 2019 presidential election and the SLPP at the subsequent general election in August 2020.
MP Weerasekera asked how President Gotabaya Rajapaksa could hand over executives powers bestowed on him at a national election to a person who represented Parliament with just one vote there. The ex-minister urged the grouping to take into consideration the President had been elected whereas the PM was selected.
Lawmaker Weerasekera emphasized that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa couldn’t follow a course of action contrary to that of his overwhelming mandate.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa last month invited UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to accept premiership in the wake of violent protests demanding the resignation of both the President and Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa, who quit on May 09.
The main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya, the JVP and the BASL are still pushing for the abolition of the executive presidency.
MP Weerasekera, who transformed the Civil Defence Force from a ragtag outfit into a fighting arm during the war also questioned the status of the draft Constitution prepared by a 9-member expert team led by President’s Counsel Romesh de Silva. The Navy veteran said that Gotabaya Rajapaksa received a mandate to enact a new Constitution. Therefore, a constitutional amendment couldn’t be brought into appease those bent on working against the wishes of the people.
However, several lawmakers, including Harin Fernando, Charitha Herath and Nimal Lanza backed the 21 Amendment. They strongly endorsed the proposed amendment that has received the backing of a wider section of the public. However, the BASL insists the amendment in its present form didn’t meet the aspirations of those demanding the restoration of democratic governance.