Further delays in presenting 21A will enrage people – NMSJ

The National Movement for Social Justice on Friday called on the Government to incorporate the democratic principles enshrined in the 19th Amendment and pass the 21st Amendment to the Constitution immediately.

Addressing a press conference in Colombo NMSJ Chairman and former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said: “Today the whole country is discussing the 21st Amendment to the Constitution. Yesterday, we were confident that by repealing the 20th Amendment and re-enacting the 19th Amendment, Sri Lanka would earn the respect and recognition of the international community as a democratic country in the civilised world thereby allowing us to gain the trust of powerful countries and seek their assistance. However, given the circumstances, it is unfortunate that one faction of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna has quite publicly refused to support these constitutional amendments. This can only be described as a power hungry political decision.

The damage caused by the 20th Amendment to the Constitution needs no further explanation. It was widely accepted as a selfish and nefarious bill that would lead the country to an undemocratic, dictatorial regime.

In fact, over 600 votes were cast against Sri Lanka at the European parliament following its enactment, impressing upon us that it was seen as an uncivilised bill. It is unfortunate that the leaders of the government have refused to acknowledge this fact.

Before the President embarked on the government’s new reform process, he agreed to ratify the 19th Amendment and abolish the executive presidency while calling on party leaders to work together to form an interim all-party government. What the President must understand at this juncture is that if this amendment is delayed due to the undue influence of the ruling party, it will lead to a massive public outcry.

People will inevitably be led to believe these were nothing but empty promises and this will only further destroy the image of the President. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Justice and other Ministers who supported the new move will be left humiliated.

More importantly, the government must understand the attitude of the international community towards this issue. They have always maintained that the 20th Amendment was undemocratic and therefore should be repealed immediately. Meanwhile, religious leaders, civil society, intellectuals and trade unions in our country have repeatedly stated that the 20th Amendment is a bill that leads to a dictatorial path.

Although the Prime Minister clarified that the proposed bill will be presented to the Cabinet next Monday, the General Secretary of the SLPP has stated that the country’s economic issues should be resolved first. In other words, he has indirectly stated the party would not support the constitutional amendments. We truly regret that the Secretary-General does not understand the need to win the confidence of the international community to resolve the country’s economic problems.

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has also pointed out the shortcomings of the proposed bill. Similarly, our organisation has also presented a few observations. I hope these proposals will be brought to the attention of the Minister of Justice.

The people have already understood the devastating effects of the 20th amendment. Therefore, delaying the new amendment will only lead to a more aggressive and heightened people’s struggle.

Therefore, we call on the Government, led by the President, to incorporate the democratic principles enshrined in the 19th Amendment and pass the 21st Amendment immediately.


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