New Constitution: SLFP, Joint Opp. reach consensus
Posted on January 16th, 2016

by Shamindra Ferdinando Courtesy The Island

The Joint Opposition comprising about 50 UPFA members and the SLFP group in the government are in the process of finalising an agreement on government efforts to frame a new Constitution.

Kandy District MP Keheliya Rambukwelle yesterday told The Island that they had been closely working on the issue for over a week.

The former Media Minister said the SLFP and the Joint Opposition had agreed that the resolution should be consistent with Article 86.1 of the 1978 Constitution.


The government presented its resolution in Parliament on Jan. 9.

Asked whether the Joint Opposition’s action could jeopardise the ongoing constitution making process, MP Rambukwelle said that there was absolutely no dispute regarding the need for a new Constitution.

MP Rambukwelle said:

“The bone of contention is the procedures proposed by the UNP. We cannot under any circumstance subscribe to a course of action that does not conform to the provisions in the present Constitution.”

MP Rambukwelle alleged that a section of members wanted to operate outside Standing Orders and, therefore, the move to do away with Article 86.1. Jaffna District TNA Parliamentarian M. A. Sumanthiran acknowledged in Parliament that in accordance with 86.1 outsiders couldn’t be directly involved in the process.

The SLFPer said that having studied the resolution, the Joint Opposition had raised the issue with President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as well as Speaker Karu Jayasuriya on Jan. 8. Rambukwelle appreciated the intervention made by President Maithripala Sirisena in his capacity as the leader of the SLFP to pave the way for consultations between the SLFP group in the government and the Joint Opposition.

There had been separate discussions with President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe as well as with Speaker Jayasuriya, Rambukwella said, adding that deliberations with the Speaker had lasted till midnight on January 8.

Having indicated its readiness to be flexible initially, during the discussions at the Speaker’s residence, the ruling party had declared that it would go ahead with the original text of the resolution, Rambukwelle said. Asserting that the move was meant to compel the SLFP group in the government to vote for the resolution, the former minister claimed that the SLFP was acting in the national interest.

Rambukwelle said that the UNP strategy was aimed at securing parliamentary approval for the resolution by the evening of Jan. 9. The MP said that the UNP had been confident of steering the operation to a successful conclusion on the same day.

According to the Kandy District MP, he had an opportunity to closely work with a ministerial delegation tasked with formulating the SLFP’s policy vis-a-vis the resolution. The delegation comprised Nimal Siripala de Silva, Susil Premjayantha, Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, John Seneviratne, Mahinda Samarasinghe and him, Rambukwella said.

During the special parliamentary session last Tuesday (Jan. 12), Rambukwelle profusely thanked the SLFP grouping in the government for having reached an understanding on so important an issue as the proposed mechanism to change the Constitution.

Rambukwella said that whatever the criticism directed at former President Jayewardene, the 1978 Constitution clearly dealt with the contentious issue of introducing a new Constitution. The process of framing the JRJ Constitution had been based on the 1972 Constitution. Likewise, the process of introducing the new Constitution should be based on the existing one.

The Kandy District MP said they wouldn’t succumb to government pressure. Noting that the JVP, too, had been opposed to the resolution, Rambukwelle said that the parliament didn’t reflect the actual ground situation. Had that been the case, the UNP could have secured parliamentary approval for the resolution. The MP pointed out that the TNA and the JVP with 14 and six slots, had received the post of Opposition Leader and Leader of the Opposition, respectively, whereas the genuine Opposition didn’t receive the recognition it deserved.

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