Constitutional making process:
Wimal urges President to prevent division of country on ethnic lines


 By Shamindra Ferdinando

President Maithripala Sirisena meets NFF delegation for discussions on constitutional making process at President’s official residence Wednesday evening (pic courtesy President’s Media)

A delegation of National Freedom Front (NFF) led by its parliamentary group leader Wimal Weerawansa yesterday urged President Maithripala Sirisena to halt the ongoing constitutional making process leading to the division of post-war Sri Lanka on ethnic lines.

The NFF consists of five MPs elected on the UPFA ticket at the last parliamentary polls in Aug. 2015.

NFF spokesman Mohammed Muzammil told The Island last night that they were able to explain to President Sirisena the threat that had been posed by the UNP-led project implemented in accordance with Geneva Resolution co-sponsored by the government.

Yesterday’s discussion was the first between the NFF and President Sirisena since the change of the government in January 2015. Muzammil appreciated the opportunity given by President Sirisena for them to explain their stand on current contentious issues.

The NFF has dealt with the interim report that had been presented by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on behalf of the Steering Committee spearheading the constitutional making process to the parliament. That report dealt with six vital subjects, nature of the state, executive, parliamentary elections, principles of devolution, religion and state land.

The NFF has also strongly opposed the circumstances under which the parliament adopted the Provincial Council Election (Amendment) Act recently in spite of strong opposition from the Joint Opposition. The NFF has pointed out that in addition to that particular Act, the government violated parliamentary norms in the passage of other laws such as the Office of the Missing Persons.

The meeting took place in the wake of the NFF quitting the Constitutional Assembly, after having failed to influence the Joint Opposition (JO) to quit both the Constitutional Assembly as well as the Steering Committee.

The JO comprised 55 members loyal to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The JO has urged President Sirisena not to introduce a new Constitution or abolish the executive presidency, retain the sections in the Constitution that dealt with Unitary State and Buddhism, not to fully implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and not to bring in contentious sections at Committee Stage in respect of proposed constitutional amendments. The NFF also briefed President Sirisena regarding a Supreme Court decision that had paved the way for granting Provincial Councils federal powers in spite of the country still having unitary status.

NFF has alleged that the government was making a desperate attempt to secure a two-thirds majority in parliament by deceiving the country that the proposed constitutional amendments meant no harm.

Muzammil said that they believed the government would go for a referendum if it believed the proposal to create a Second Chamber and Constitutional Court could secure the required public support.

The NFF has alleged that referendum would enable Prime Minister Wickremesinghe to consolidate his authority. In case, the government had failed to muster required support for countrywide referendum, it would be certainly used to prove the Northern and Eastern districts taking a different stand. That would be advantageous to their cause, Muzammil said, adding that the country was heading towards unprecedented crisis.

Referring to East Timor, Kosovo as well as Sudan, Muzammil asserted that those promoting separatist sentiments would create a situation that could lead to violence among communities here and subsequent foreign intervention.

Muzammil said that a massive tragedy could be averted by immediately halting the process. The failure to act swiftly and decisively could cause chaos, Muzammil said. The NFF believed President Sirisena could do away with the process on the basis of disagreement among political parties and other stakeholders.

Muzammil said that President Sirisena should take into consideration the strong sentiments expressed by Maha Sangha in this regard.

The NFF spokesman said that President Sirisena could take meaningful measures to address the grievances of minorities without giving into unreasonable demands of those who had been promoting separatism though the LTTE was defeated 9 years ago.

The NFF has further requested President Sirisena not to allow the government demoralize the armed forces and finally to cease ongoing attacks on Buddhist monks opposed to the government project.

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