Most concerns addressed in 20A - MP Rajapakshe
MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe who initially had written a letter to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa expressing his concerns over the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution, had eventually decided to vote in favour as four of his concerns had been addressed.
Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, he said that in the 19th Amendment there were some weaknesses and there was to be certain amendments to be introduced just to ensure the Executive President’s power, especially when it comes to national security and the appointment of ministers. “I am the first one in our political arena who criticised the impartiality of the Constitutional Council,” he added.
“Especially when Pujitha Jayasundara’s name was brought up, I vehemently opposed that appointment and I openly said that he is not a person who is capable of giving security to this country. There were many such confrontations, as I was a member of the Constitutional Council. Therefore, I too wanted several amendments to be made but not in the form included in the 20th Amendment. I wanted to do it in a much better way, I wanted to have some simple amendments without creating any arguments in Parliament and I thought of getting the support of the members as I did with the 19th Amendment. At the beginning the entire opposition was against us and we had only 47 members. But, with all that, we finally ended up with 215 with one person opposed to it,” he explained.
However, he said that this time the President wanted to introduce it in a different way and as with any new government, he has that right. “I realised the weaknesses of the amendments and I categorically identified what the dangerous amendments were that would adversely affect the people of the country. Therefore, I opposed the removal of the limitation of the number of Cabinet of Ministers. Then they had omitted the Prime Minister’s Office and President’s office from the audit and also around 100 companies owned by the government. When I looked into this matter I found that around 37% of the Government’s turnover comes from those companies. That means that over 30% of government monies are circulated within those companies owned by the government and so I opposed that. Then I opposed the urgent bills being introduced and also the removal of the people’s right to challenge the president’s decision under fundamental rights.”
Rajapakshe said he was the first to oppose and criticize it and finally the Supreme Court gave a judgement that you cannot remove the people’s right to challenge the President’s decisions. The Supreme Court judgement stated that for that the government would have to go for a referendum.
“However, the government accepted our suggestions for the other four clauses. The final one that we opposed was the dual citizenship issue. We could not do that and we pleaded with the president and he gave a firm undertaking that he would do it when the new Constitution is introduced,” he said.
The MP noted that in fact, it was the responsibility of the Opposition but instead, being in the government he did it and obtained for the people all those issues, except for the dual citizenship issue. That was the maximum that he could go,” he said.
“Therefore, I had to justify my conduct as I was elected by over 120,000 voters in Colombo. I am the one who got the highest number of votes out of the 17 members who contested under the Lanka Prajathanthravadi Pakshaya (LPP). That is why we wanted to do what is best for the country while safeguarding the country. I think we were successful up to a certain extent although this is not the best. That is why I voted and I hope to do better when the government is drafting the new Constitution,” Rajapakshe added.