Constitutional amendments should have Constitutional Council sanction – Kiriella
* Only hope of referendum now lies with the judiciary
* Tinkering with 17th Amendment – a retrograde step

by Zacki Jabbar

Constitutional amendments have to first be approved by a Constitutional Council, in keeping with the peoples mandate, UNP MP Lakshman Kiriella said yesterday.

He, told The Island that before the 1971 Republican Constitution was enacted, the then government established a Constitutional Council which sought the views of a cross section of Sri Lankans, including parliamentarians, religious leaders and civil society members.

"But today, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in violation of the peoples mandate denying him a two thirds majority, which he had asked for at the last parliamentary election, was using his executive powers to bulldoze legislation through Parliament, for the express purpose of perpetuating the Rajapaksa dictatorship. The greed for power, would make them crave for more, even in their next birth," he said.

The only hope for the people now lies with the judiciary. If the judiciary rules that a referendum was required for Rajapaksa’s proposed amendment, it would give a sitting President an opportunity to contest any number of times, then the people would have an opportunity to express their views, Kiriella said.

The attempt to tinker with the 17th Amendment, he said, was a retrograde step, since 224 out of the 225 parliamentarians including Mahinda Rajapaksa, had voted for it.

Kiriella, when asked what the UNP’s position was on the cross over provision, said that in interpreting the Constitution, the people’s will cannot be disregarded. "A person votes for a candidate on the basis that he or she would serve their full term, as a member of the party, through which they were elected. So, it is the people’s will that has to prevail, in any interpretation of the Constitution."

The UNP being divided and the opposition’s inability to come together, he said was a bonus for the Rajapaksas to violate the people’s will and the laws of the country, with impunity.

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