Finance and Mass Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera yesterday in Parliament pledged to show clear progress on Constitutional reforms and the transitional justice process within this year. Taking part in the debate of

the No-Confidence Motion (NCM) against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in Parliament yesterday, Samaraweera said Wickremesinghe personally gave leadership to Constitutional reforms and transitional justice process with vigour and dedication.

“The initial drafts of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) are now with the Prime Minister. We will present them to the Cabinet and Parliament this year. The legislation pertaining to the Reparation Unit is also being finalized now. The Office of Missing Persons (OMP) has been established and our Ministry allocated Rs 1.3 billion to operationalise it,” the minister said.

The minister, observing that PM Wickremesinghe gave leadership to Constitutional reforms following the setting up of Constitutional Assembly on January 8, 2016, made an appeal to him to “expedite the process and table the draft Constitutional Bill as early as possible this year”.

Commenting on the content of the NCM of the Joint Opposition, the minister said new laws would be brought in soon to take over the frozen Perpetual Treasuries assets to the State. “We will not let the bond issue cause any loss to the Government. Unlike in this case, nobody has been held accountable for the Trillions of Rupees that had gone missing when Ajith Nivard Cabraal was the Central Bank Governor and when former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was the Finance Minister,” he stressed.

“Soon after the August 2015 election, Wickremesinghe told Malik Samarawickrama and me that the JVP MPs must be appointed as Chairmen of Parliamentary Watchdog Committees. Had we come to power with the intent of cheating public money, this would not have been done,” the minister commented stating that the NCM was an attempt to drive the country backwards.

The minister at the onset of his speech reminded how posters were pasted all over the country ahead of the Presidential Elections in 1999 carrying the slogan “Ranilta be” (Ranil can’t). “We did this poster campaign knowing that the biggest challenge to our candidate Chandrika Kumaratunga was Ranil Wickremesinghe. If we actually believed that ‘he can’t’ we would not have had to spend millions of Rupees for such a poster campaign. Now about 20 years down the line, an NCM has been presented against him because he is the biggest political challenge for the Opposition,” he added.

The minister said the NCM was the first step of a sinister political conspiracy, adding that it has been a flop even from the start. The minister also reminded the House how PM Wickremesinghe was selfless in agreeing to make Maithripala Sirisena the common candidate at the January 8, 2015 elections. “Becoming a Presidential Candidate from either of the two main parties is a significant gain. This was said to me by none other than former President Mahinda Rajapaksa prior to the 2005 Presidential polls. He was referring to the money one receives from various donors when contesting the Presidential elections. ‘Win or lose the elections, you will still be a winner’, he told me,” Samaraweera recollected quoting former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. 

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