By Shamindra Ferdinando
Rebel SLPP MP Prof. Channa Jayasumana yesterday (11) said that former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa should make his position clear on his successor Ranil Wickremesinghe’s move to fully implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.
Reiterating his strong opposition to President Wickremesinghe’s controversial plan, the Anuradhapura District MP stressed that Gotabaya Rajapaksa couldn’t keep silent as the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government embarked on a strategy inimical to national interests. Prof. Jayasumana represents a group of about 13 SLPP MPs. The group includes former External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris, Dullas Alahapperuma and Prof. Charitha Herath.
Parliament elected the UNP leader as President in late July last year to complete the remainder of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s five-year term won at the last presidential election in Nov. 2019, Prof. Jayasumana said. Having won a landslide victory, promising a new Constitution that reflected Sri Lanka’s triumph over separatist terrorism, how could the wartime Defence Secretary remain silent when his mandate was being brazenly used to do away with the country’s unitary status.
Referring to President Wickremesinghe’s latest declarations in Parliament, pertaining to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, enacted in late 1988, the failure on the part of the former President to take a clear stand on this issue could be misconstrued as his tacit support to the current agenda. How the wartime Defence Secretary could allow the abuse of his mandate, the MP asked.
Responding to a query broached by The Island, the academic said that 133 MPs, who voted for Wickremesinghe at the July 20 election in Parliament to elect an MP to complete the ousted leader’s term, wouldn’t have anticipated him taking such far reaching decisions.
Prof. Jayasumana voted for Dullas Alahappeuma who altogether polled 82 votes whereas JVP candidate Anura Kumara Dissanayake managed to secure just three votes. Prof. Jayasumana addressed this issue in the wake of TNA delegation meeting Public Security Minister Tiran Alles to discuss the latest developments.
Acknowledging that the SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam, during All-Party Conference (APC), chaired by President Wickremesinghe, on 26 July, declared that they were not on the same page, Prof. Jayasumana urged the SLPP parliamentary group, headed by Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, to issue an official statement in this regard.
Appreciating the significant financial support extended by India during Sri Lanka’s hour of need, MP Jayasumana said but it wouldn’t be fair at all to pressure the incumbent government on the 13th Amendment. “We do not want to revisit the origins of terrorism but India cannot absolve itself of the responsibility for creating an environment here in the ’80s to facilitate its devolution project,” Prof. Jayasumana said.
The MP said that if the former President and the SLPP, still the largest party represented in parliament, didn’t intervene immediately, they would be held accountable for breaking up the country. The outcome could be far worse than the debilitating current crisis blamed on mismanagement of the national economy, Prof. Jayasumana said.
The former President should be answerable to 6.9 mn voters who exercised their franchise for him at the last presidential poll, the MP said. Similarly, the SLPP couldn’t turn its back on those who gave the young party nearly 2/3 majority, Prof. Jayasumana said.
Having recognized the LTTE, way back in 2001, as the sole representative of the Tamil speaking people, thereby justifying Tiger terrorism, the TNA was now demanding federal status, Prof. Jayasumana said, urging the incumbent President to seek fresh mandates at presidential and parliamentary polls if he genuinely wanted to go ahead with the 13th Amendment.
Those pushing for the13th Amendment had conveniently forgotten the way the then President J.R. Jayewardene forcibly enacted it in line with the Indo-Lanka Accord signed the year before, an irate lawmaker said. The MP said that political parties couldn’t be unaware that the implementation of the 13th Amendment was to take place after the disarming of all Indian trained terrorist groups in 1987.
The LTTE retained a conventional fighting capacity till 2009 and was defeated in May 2009, the Minister said, adding that there couldn’t be any justification in granting police powers to a region that challenged the country’s unitary status.