UNP, SLFP confident of a two-thirds majority for amended resolution on forming Constitutional Assembly


by Shamindra Ferdinando

The government yesterday said the once hotly disputed resolution for setting up the Constitution Assembly could now be adopted with far reaching amendments with a two-thirds majority in the House.

Deputy Power and Renewable Energy Minister Ajith P. Perera told The Island that the SLFP leadership wanted to reach a formal understanding with those SLFPers in the Joint Opposition in respect of amendments proposed by the UNP hence the decision to put off a scheduled vote on Wednesday evening (Feb. 24).

Deputy Minister Perera said the decision taken at a party leader’s meeting on the morning of Feb. 24 to take a vote on the amended resolution had to be postponed as a result of the SLFP’s request.

Rejecting the original resolution presented in Parliament on Jan. 9, the SLFP submitted a series of proposals to the UNP in consultation with the dissident group. The JVP, too, backed the SLFP move though they had no formal discussions in respect of the resolution.

Disaster Management Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa told The Island that the SLFP and those SLFPers with the Joint Opposition appreciated significant amendments introduced in the wake of SLFP proposals. Minister Yapa said that the resolution could be adopted at the next parliamentary sessions with the unanimous backing of the SLFP and the UNP.

Asked whether the support of all political parties represented in the Joint Opposition could be obtained for the constitutional making process, Minister Yapa said the issue had been discussed with leader of the Joint Opposition and MEP Dinesh Gunawardena. Minister Yapa said that the proposals accepted by the UNP had been submitted by the SLFP with the blessings of the SLFP group in the Joint Opposition.

The Constitution making project suffered a debilitating setback when SLFP factions objected to some vital sections of the resolution unveiled on Jan. 9 by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The SLFP forwarded nine amendments consequent to deliberations between the SLFP and the Joint Opposition. President Maithripala Sirisena participated in deliberations and personally supervised the process.

Amendments to the motion included the omitting of the word ‘new’ from the ‘new constitution’ stated in the motion and omission of the preface to the motion, Minister Yapa said.

In accordance with the UNP-SLFP consensus, the entire process will be subjected to the Standing Orders of Parliament and anybody could seek the opinion of the Supreme Court if he or she had any doubts.

The SLFP proposed that the constitutional reform process should be carried out according to the parliamentary Standing Orders and the 1978 Constitution.

The Joint Opposition said that the resolution in its original form unveiled on January 9 had far reaching consequences with regard to the rights of the people, parliamentary supremacy and the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

The original project would have resulted in a Steering Committee (SC) and various sub committees appointed by the SC securing a crucial role in constitution making. Had that happened, the Parliament would have been transformed into a mere rubber stamp, the Joint Opposition said.

Both Deputy Minister Perera and Minister Yapa said that all political parties represented in parliament could vote for the resolution.

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