By Shamindra Ferdinando
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) yesterday declared that it wouldn’t support the 20th Amendment to the Constitution in its present form, under any circumstances, top party spokesperson, Jaffna District MP M.A. Sumanthiran told The Island.
The TNA parliamentary group comprises 16 members, including two National List MPs.
Asked whether the four-party coalition was having discussions with the government regarding the 20th Amendment that would vest in Parliament the powers of dissolved Provincial Council, MP Sumanthiran ruled out any agreement on proposed Amendment as, he said, it didn’t reflect understanding among all political parties represented in parliament.
The proposed controversial 20th Amendment will also enable all Provincial Council elections to be held simultaneously and for Parliament to determine the date of dissolution of all PCs.
Attorney-at-law Sumanthiran emphasised that the government could have avoided unnecessary trouble had it prepared the Bill in accordance with the agreement reached among political parties following a series of consultations over a period of time.
The TNA consists of the Illankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK), the PLOTE, TELO and EPRLF.
ITAK heavyweight MP Sumanthiran explained that political parties represented in parliament subsequent to a spate of deliberations had accepted what he called 60:40 Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system in respect of Provincial Council polls.
The Sabaragamuwa, Eastern and North Central will complete five year terms on Sept. 26, Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, respectively. In accordance with the Provincial Council Election Act No 02 of 1988, the National Elections Commission (NEC) will have to call nominations on Oct. 2 or 3.
Uva Provincial Council will be the last PC to complete its term on Oct. 8, 2019.
MP Sumanthiran pointed out that there hadn’t been a previous consensus among political parties regarding unified electoral representation system.
In answer to a query, MP Sumanthiran said that the agreement on 60:40 MMP system in respect of Provincial Councils should be examined against the backdrop of the political parties’ readiness to accept the same formula for both parliamentary and Local Government polls.
In accordance with the agreed formula, which, MP Sumanthiran said, had been discussed at the Steering Committee spearheading the constitutional making process, 60 per cent of members would be elected and 40 per cent named.
The TNA spokesman described the accord at all three levels, namely parliamentary, provincial councils and local government a significant achievement. Asked who had directed that 20th Amendment to be drafted in contravention of their agreement, MP declined to comment. “All I can say is what has been presented to political parties certainly does not reflect the agreement reached, hence the decision to oppose it.”
Sumanthiran said the country would know whether the proposed Amendment required to be approved in parliament with a two-thirds majority and by people at a referendum in case an aggrieved party sought the opinion of the Supreme Court.
When it was pointed out that those who had so far addressed the issue at hand conveniently refrained from commenting on ‘all party consensus’ on 60:40 mixed member proportional system for all three levels, MP Sumanthiran said that all political parties participated in that process. The Joint Opposition, too, had been represented, MP Sumanthiran said, adding that in addition to a constitutional amendment an amendment to the Provincial Council Election Act had to be effected to enable the postponement of PC polls, political parties agreed to launch a delimitation process at provincial level.
MP Sumanthiran said that the TNA would definitely vote for the 20th Amendment if the government reintroduced it with what had been agreed by other parties incorporated thereinto.
The TNA spokesperson stressed that the move to bring in an amendment only to put off PC polls was not acceptable to them.
Political sources said that the UNP-SLFP combine couldn’t secure a two-thirds majority in parliament without the backing of the TNA (16 seats).
The UNP and the UPFA secured 106 and 95 seats, respectively at the last general election in August 2015, out of the 95 seats obtained by the UPFA, about 52 members joined the Joint Opposition (JO) at the expense of President Maithripala Sirisena.