By Chandani Kirinde
The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) yesterday lambasted the Government over moves to introduce the 20th Amendment to the Constitution and said it is anti-democratic, destructive and does not serve the interests of the people. “With this Amendment, we will go back from civilisation to tribalism where all the power will be concentrated in the hands of one person and one family,” JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake said.
He said the 19th Amendment (19A) to the Constitution, which was passed in May 2015, is the first serious attempt made to reduce the powers of the Executive and give more power to the Legislature; and what the new Government, which has garnered a massive parliamentary majority, should’ve done is build on it instead of weakening it.
“There are certain shortcomings in 19A, which is why the JVP introduced the 20th Amendment (20A) to the last Parliament to correct those specific issues. Instead of correcting deficiencies in 19A, this Government is taking the country back to authoritarian rule,” Dissanayake told reporters at a press briefing yesterday.
He said that the decision to allow dual citizens to become MPs was a clear reflection of the hypocrisy of those who came to power playing the nationalistic card by portraying themselves as patriots and shunning others as foreign agents and traitors.
“If not for this provision in 19A, today we would have had a US citizen as the President of Sri Lanka, a man who has taken an oath of allegiance to serve a foreign land and support and defend the Constitution of another country. While the President has revoked his US citizenship, the advocates of 20A find that it is much easier for them to change the Constitution of the country than revoke their US citizenship,” the JVP Leader said.
What the Government should have done, he said, is make this provision stronger by excluding dual citizens from holding ambassadorial positions and other high public office. “We saw how Arjuna Mahendran, a foreign national, was made the Governor of the Central Bank. The 20A should have prohibited such appointments as without allowing dual citizens to enter Parliament,” Dissanayake said.
He added that with the President getting authority to appoint members of the Judiciary and all other important government institutions, these would be heavily politicised while the Cabinet of Ministers, too, will have to bow to the dictates of the Executive.
“With this Amendment, we will see the Prime Minister losing all his powers. The late Ranasinghe Premadasa, who served as PM under President J. R. Jayewardene, said that his office did not give him even the powers enjoyed by a peon (an office assistant). It will be interesting to see if the current Prime Minister will be satisfied being in such a role,” he said.
Dissanayake said it is obvious that the real intention behind 20A is not to serve the people but more to serve one family. “If the President had a genuine interest in strengthening democracy, he should have retained the provisions that made him answerable to Parliament, but he did not do so. With the reintroduction of urgent bills, whatever scrutiny that legislative enactments enjoy will also be taken way,” he said.