Posted on December 14th, 2018

By Shamindra Ferdinando Courtesy The Island

The only lawmaker to vote against the 19th Amendment to the Constitution retired Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera, yesterday, said that those who hailed the new law as panacea owed an explanation to the country.

Former Digamadulla District MP Weerasekera said so when The Island asked him as to why he voted against the 19th Amendment in spite of President Maithripala Sirisena personally appealing for unanimous support to pass it from the SLFP-led UPFA parliamentary grouping comprising nearly 150 members.
Former Navy Chief of Staff Weerasekera said that the 19th Amendment was enacted on April 28, 2015 during the much-touted 100-day yahapalana programme.

Having served the Navy for over three decades, Weerasekera retired in 2006 at the onset of Eelam war IV. Weerasekera entered parliament on the UPFA ticket at the April 2010 parliamentary polls.

In the third reading of the 19th Amendment, 212 lawmakers voted for the Amendment whereas Weerasekara voted against it. JVP MP Ajith Kumara abstained while ten skipped the sittings on that day. Of those who had skipped sittings three lawmakers voted for the second reading of the amendmeBasil Rajapaksa, Premalal Jayasekera, Janaka Priyantha Bandara, Dr. Jagath Balasuriya, Keheliya Rambukwella, Ven. Ellawela Medhananda and Susantha Punchinilame skipped the session.

Weerasekera said that having won the presidency, Maithripala Sirisena replaced Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne with UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, in spite of the latter’s group comprising mere 42 MPs. Wickremesinghe’s minority government couldn’t have undertaken a task as big as enacting far reaching piece of legislation without the backing of the SLFP-led UPFA. “The SLFP parliamentary group alone consisted of 126 members,” Weerasekera said, adding that they shouldn’t have accepted the 19th Amendment under any circumstances.

The Island sought Weerasekera’s views on the 19th Amendment in the wake of a fuller bench of the Supreme Court declaring Nov 09, 2018 dissolution of parliament unconstitutional. The declaration was made in terms of the 19th Amendment.Weerasekera pointed out that the UPFA foolishly extended its support to enact a law meant to weaken the executive presidency several weeks after the UNP perpetrated the first ever treasury bond scam involving the Central Bank and primary dealer Perpetual Treasuries Limited.

Weerasekera said that of nearly 150 UPFA MPs about half strongly opposed the 19th Amendment. “We were determined and felt confident in thwarting the UNP project. In fact, 19th Amendment was meant to play a vital role in weakening Sri Lanka’s unitary status. Unfortunately, UPFA didn’t realize the danger.”

On the day before the 19th was to be taken up in parliament, 67 lawmakers had met at the residence of Prof. G.L. Peiris to adopt a common stand against the UNP led project. Weerasekera said that he was among those who decided on that night the 19th Amendment shouldn’t be allowed to become reality. “We needed just eight more votes to deprive the UNP of required two-thirds majority to enact the new law. We really believed the UNP plan could be derailed. We could have convinced some of those on the fence to switch allegiance to anti-19 A group.”
Weerasekera recalled how the situation dramatically changed soon after SLFP leader Sirisena threw his presidential weight behind the 19 A project. President Sirisena, having arrived in parliament on April 28, 2015 called a meeting with the UPFA group. “President Sirisena reminded us of him not receiving our support at the presidential election. He urged our group to vote for 19th Amendment,” Weerasekera said. The naval veteran said that President Sirisena explained that a unanimous approval of the 19th Amendment would be considered a vote for him, Weerasekera said.

Weerasekera emphasized that in spite of President Sirisena’s call he was not convinced and expressed his concerned openly. Unfortunately, President Sirisena’s move swiftly swayed the parliamentary group and soon the UNP had the required support. Responding to another query, Weerasekera said that though the UPFA managed to dilute the 19th Amendment to a certain extent, Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling proved beyond doubt the devastating power of that piece of legislation.
Weerasekera asserted that irreparable damage had been caused to country the by way of the 19th Amendment. The 20th Amendment proposed by the JVP was meant to achieve what the UNP and its allies couldn’t achieve through the implementation of the 19th Amendment.

Weerasekera alleged that the 19th Amendment targeted the Rajapaksa family. Those who felt scared of facing the electorate brought the 19th Amendment to deprive war winning President Mahinda Rajapaksa of an opportunity to contest presidential election. The president’s brothers, Godthaab and Basin were disqualified on the basis of their dual citizenship whereas his son, Namal too faced the same issue.Asked whether he felt betrayed by his own party, Weerasekera said that the Constitutional Council was especially created to weaken the presidency. Weerasekera said that at the time the 19th Amendment came into being in late April 2015, he never thought Tamil National Alliance (TNA), one time LTTE’s cat’s paw was going to secure the Opposition Leader’s Office. “The majority of people are not aware of the composition of the CC and how it could undermine the executive presidency,” Weerasekera said.

Weerasekera appreciated President Sirisena’s move to appoint Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister at the expense of Wickremesinghe. Had Wickremesinghe been allowed to continue, the UNP would have brought in the new Constitution as directed by Geneva- based United Nations Human Rights Council in mid 2016.The naval veteran urged all political parties to review their stand on national issues and take tangible measures to rectify mistakes.


  1. dhane Says:

    Anyway the damaged to the constitution allowing 19th amendment to go through was done by President Sirisena & SLFP supporters in April 2015. I am sure at that time President Sirisena was in full thrill becoming the President which he never dreamt & not fully understood who is Ranil and got into his trap. President must be regretting very badly what he has done to the country by now. Its no point talking any more. Hope President stand by his words he repeated assured to the country that he will never ever appoint Ranil again as PM. Bravo President keep it up. Appoint suitable young UNP like Nalin Dissanayake, Lawyer Wijedasa Rajapaksa or any other not Sajith alternatively Nimal Siripala de Silva or any other SLFP who could get the support of some UNP. However UNP seniors will do their sabotage in Parliament for their existence. If the next budget proposals presented by the new Finance Minister is defeated by the Parliament then no alternative other than dissolution and going for fresh election. Meantime publish in all 3 languages famous Bond Commission report at reasonable price as soon as possible. I always appreciated the bold decision made by retired Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera on 19th amendment and his contribution in last few years at UN. Thanks you Sarath Weerasekera.

  2. nilwala Says:

    Indeed, Rear Adm Sarath Weerasekera as the ONLY person to have stood up in that Parliament to vote against the 19A despite assurances given informally by many of the JO that they would not go that route, stands vindicated. He remains as the only MP who stood for the Unitary State and the Defence Forces who eliminated the LTTE that did so much harm to all the communities of Sri Lanka including their own, which is still struggling with effects of that history of a generation of its youth having been exploited and misled by its Leaders.

    But now, with the Judiciary issuing a totally literal interpretation, which seems to have been with the view to halt the current chaos of governance in its tracks, and does achieve an uneasy peace during the holiday season and avoids a total destruction through Anarchy. The country is still left however, with many unaddressed issues and especially how governance could proceed from this point without serious consequences that could have been resolved through a General Election.
    MR’s resignation Is a statesman’s gesture that must bring admiration and gratitude from a nation averted from a path that was encouraged by some to push it towards annihilation, leaving opportunities to attempt a restart at remedying issues of the stubborn and autocratic Parliamentary attempts to push through sneaky and dishonestly mustered Legislation in order to appease an unrelenting pressure of an agenda towards Federalism, with an inevitable result of a fragmented, torn-up country. The coming months would continue to be critical as Parliamentarians, dedicated academics and professionals who love this island country, together grope for civilized solutions without violence and mayhem spilling over to the streets.

  3. ranjit Says:

    I wish we had 225 heroes and patriots like Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera in the parliament without these leeches we are having today. Tears comes to our eyes when we think of our country today. We cannot accept such a undemocratic, unpatriotic individuals as our representatives or saviours representing our country. It is sad to have such a useless bunch of thieves,Thugs and uneducated hooligans in our democracy. We need a change not from the same hypocrites but a brand new educated respectable citizens who truly loves this Sinhala nation like Rear admiral Weerasekera. My wish is Gota become our next president and true patriots like Rear admiral be in his cabinet. We all know that Gota has some talented, educated respectable citizens behind him. We pray for that change and I know our prayers will be heard very soon. May God bless my homeland.

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