Call to abolish 19th amendment: In best interest of country

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COLOMBO (News 1st): Dr Jayampathi Wickramaratne and Attorney-at-Law Lal Wijenayaka headed the drafting of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. However, amid the several complications created by the amendment, those who drafted the amendment have themselves criticized the amendment in public.

Speaking to the Island newspaper, Dr Jayampathi Wickramaratne says that if the initial draft of the 19th amendment to the Constitution was approved in its original form, the prevailing issues would have not arisen. The MP further adds that the amendments introduced after the 19th amendment to the Constitution had led to its weakening.

The National Organizer of the United Left Front, Dr Jayampathi Wickramaratne on the 07th of this month claimed that if the original draft of the 19th amendment to the constitution was passed in parliament that this situation would have not arisen. He continued to say that if so two authorities wouldn’t end up fighting over state expenditure heads. Wickramaratne stated that the amendment was sabotaged firstly by President Maithripala Sirisena and his group although his support was received for the 19th amendment. Wickremaratne added that later the supreme court had requested for certain sections to be amended and also to go for a public referendum.

Speaking on the constitution, in a recent interview, former Minister of Justice Dr Wijeyadasa Rajapaksa stated that if the original draft of the 19th amendment was approved that there would be no use of a President. He further said that even when it was being prepared that a conspiracy had taken place. He went onto say that the responsibility of preparing and drafting a constitution and its amendments, lies with the Minister of Justice. The former minister added that despite this requirement that the subject was gazetted under the purview of the Prime Minister.

When Dr Wijeyadasa was questioned if the Prime Minister had carried out the procedure with the approval of the President, he said that the President had complied with it as per a request made by the Prime Minister. He further said that although the matter was taken under the purview of the Prime Minister that as the Minister of Justice at the time that he was also responsible to look into it because the Attorney General’s Department and the Legal Draftsmen Department come under the Ministry.

He further said that the draft was changed more than 10 times and that finally he had gone upto the President and requested him not to agree with the amendment due to its flaws. The former minister said that it was then that the President had called them and questioned them on the matter. Further, he said that the Prime Minister was not ready to take off certain powers within this frame no matter what, like the leader of the parliament and the leader of the cabinet.

The former minister said that if after it was submitted that there was no need of a President and that the President could not change it even after he made a request of the Prime Minister. He added that however, it was because of the independent judiciary giving a clear decision on the amendment that the people of the country were fortunate while stating that the decision given required that a two-thirds majority is not sufficient and that a public referendum is also required for the matter.

Explaining the process of amending the 19th amendment, Rajapaksha said that firstly the amendment must be presented in parliament and then should be approved with a two-thirds majority. He further said that at present that the President could take the initiative but that ultimately it is the parliament that should amend the constitution. Clarifying on the two-thirds majority needed to approve the amendment of the 19th constitution, Rajapaksha said that if Ranil Wickremesinghe puts forward an argument that he possesses 2/3 majority that he should be reminded that he had to pick people from other parties to get the majority, whereas originally the UNP only had 41. He also mentioned that there is a group of UNPers who are patriotic, remaining silent but will stand for this cause.

On a separate occasion, the leader of the opposition Mahinda Rajapaksa said that it is quite clear that the country could not stride forward due to the power struggle between the two authorities. He added that either the country should move forward with a complete Presidential system or a parliamentary system.

Also speaking on the matter, attorney at law Lal Wijenayaka said that the President came into power with the promise of bringing the 19th amendment to the constitution, stating that the executive powers of the President must be reduced and must be vested in parliament, while also stating that the powers vested in the President were being transferred to the Prime Minister.

He claimed that none of which they decided was however done through the 19th amendment and that there was only one power which was transferred to the Prime Minister, which was to appoint ministers. He added that also the Presidential powers were reduced and transferred to the parliament representing the people and also the constitutional council which is appointed through the constitution.

The President himself on a previous occasion had mentioned how this amendment was drafted by someone who has no knowledge in drafting a constitution and that it was drafted to suit the needs of various NGO’s. He had added that if the Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sampanthan and the JVP could all come together to abolish the 19th amendment that the coming year will be a good year for Sri Lanka.

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