“Former President Mahinda Rajapakse,must resign, if he has any semblance of a sense of dignity, and if he respects rule of law, if he respects democracy, he must promptly resign from Parliament and accept responsibility.”- MA Sumanthiran MP

(Text of Speech made by Jaffna District Parliamentarian MA Sumanthiran in Parliament on 22.11.2023)

Thank you Hon. Chai
r for the time allocated to speak a few words on these heads of expenditure We have had an interesting debate so far, with his Excellency also participating. One of the institutions under consideration is the constitutional council, many things have been said today back and forth about the constitutional council but I want to raise a more fundamental issue.

There is a vacancy in the constitutional council; all ten members have not been appointed, this is a very serious issue, it’s a very serious issue for us. Because we were entitled to nominate a member, and such a meeting was held, and I proposed a senior parliamentarian Hon. Dharmalingam Siddharthan to be that member in the constitutional council. But to date he has not been appointed to the constitutional council.

We have raised this many times; the leader of the opposition has raised in Parliament, at the party leaders’ meeting, and the Hon. Speaker has clearly said that it is our right.

In fact others who are claiming to have a right to nominate are all members of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna. The general secretary of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna has written to the speaker and said that they are members of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna, if they are not members of the SLPP, they can’t be members of parliament.

So they can’t claim to be ones who have the right to nominate this member to the constitutional council. But this is not just a technicality, by this, the 3rd largest party in parliament, the second largest party in the opposition, has been deprived of our right to participate in the deliberations of the constitutional council.

And what has that resulted in? The President says from the time he took over as Prime Minister and then President, that he’ll resolve the Tamil National Question. He had three all Party conferences: one last year, and two this year for that very purpose. But he is unable to or even this House is unable to resolve this one issue. This is a no-brainer. You keep us out of the constitutional council, and then you talk about resolving the Tamil National Question in a just manner How can you do that? You can’t even fill that vacancy.

Now this has come into sharp focus a few days ago. There is a deadlock – there is a deadlock situation in the constitutional council and everybody knows about this. A deadlock situation when one seat is still vacant. If that had been filled, there wouldn’t have been a deadlock. So the county must know, that while you wax eloquent saying all are equal and everyone in this country has equal representation, to a body like the constitutional council which is a very important body, you still deprived us of our place.

And how can you face anyone and claim that this is governance in the right way. So today I am raising this as serious issue. Not just filling a vacancy in the constitutional council, but as a serious national issue. We have complained, have complained for several decades; is that we have been left out of the national life of this county. Being kept out of the constitutional council is another reflection. Another example of that, which is continuing to date.

In 1972 when the first republican constitution was enacted, you called it autochthonous constitution. But we were left out in the cold. Every single fundamental resolution that was passed, was passed with the majority vote. And incidentally, incidentally it is Hon. Dharmalingam Siddharthan’s father, Mr. V. Dharmalingam then the MP of the federal party – Ilankai Thamilarasu Katchi, who moved amendments to those fundamental resolutions. Every one of those resolutions was defeated by 84 to 16, 82 to 13, majoritarian, and that’s how we went out and that’s how it became necessary for our party to join hands with All Ceylon Tamil Congress and CWC and start Tamil United Front in 1976. That’s what led to the Vaddukoddai resolution, all that we said was if you can’t accommodate us, if you can’t give us our due place, then let us go, why are you holding on to us, we have our own way, that’s what we said, that’s what led to a 3 decade old war, but you are still doing that, even today you are doing that, more than a year, you kept us out of the constitutional council, it is our right.

I don’t think I will want to say this in this House any more. We are not beggars; we are not beggars in this country to come begging you to give us this and that. We are a People! We are a People with a heritage, we’ve lived in this country as long as anybody else lived in this country. So if you think, because of your superior numbers, you can trample upon our rights, you are mistaken, you are totally mistaken. We will not cowe down to such efforts. Majoritarian rule, we will not accept. Till the last person lives in this country we will not accept that.

This week is an important week; this is a week in which we honour the dead who fought for us. Who fought for us! I am not hesitant to say it in that way. Why did they fight for us? Because we were thrown out of the national life, there was no other way, things went wrong, we are not in that mode anymore, and we have expressly said we are willing to live within one, united, undivided, indivisible country.

We are yet willing, but then how has it been reciprocated? How is that being reciprocated? It’s up to you, you have to decide. You can’t just string us along all the time. And it is important while the relatives and others in the North and East remember their dead. I say in this house: don’t take us for granted. Superior number doesn’t make you right, superior numbers often make you wrong. Because you think you can bulldoze your way with your numbers. That’s what you do in this house also. That’s what you do in this house also.

I must put something else also right. Today also His Excellency said the opposition leader was invited to form a government, and he did not do that, and that’s a violation of the public trust. That’s wrong, he’s wrong, President was wrong about many fronts today. When he described the constitutional council as part of the executive, he was wrong; you don’t have part of the executive something that the Speaker presides! That’s part of the legislative structure. He was wrong, because the entire opposition had agreed on something at that appointing time.

And there was a document, a national plan that was formulated by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka. And that gave certain time lines to the then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. So that he would go out gracefully and executive presidency would abolished. And that if he agreed to that, the opposition leader would take over as Prime Minister.

That was the agreement, we as a party was agreed to that, the JVP was agreed to that, the SJB was agreed to that. His excellency as a single member was agreed to that. He violated that. That is why I was the first person here in this house when he took over as Prime Minister, I told him this is a shameful conduct. He was very upset over that, but it was in fact a shameful conduct by him.

That he breached, the agreement that all oppositions have taken together. And a single person ran and took that office for a mess of pottage. He violated that agreement. So I am not defending the leader of the opposition but I think it is time even after a lapse of one full year, that I put the record right. There was that agreement that was violated by his Excellency the President because he saw a crack in the door. He was opportunistic; he put his foot in there, got in there and became the Executive President of this country.

The UNP under him in 1996 in Hambantota had passed a resolution to abolish executive presidency. Now there’s no talk about that. Now there’s no talk about that. Violation of public trust is a very very serious matter.

The reply his excellency gave today amounts to nothing. If you have violated public trust and that’s a pronouncement of the highest court in the country, those persons have been named have no moral right to sit in this house anymore. In another place -in a mature democracy they would have resigned, in another place where they value democracy, where there is value for rule of law, those persons who are found to have violated the public trust would have resigned the next day. But not the Rajapaksas.

They don’t care two hoots, whether it is the public trust or whatever that they have violated. It is only their family and the loot that they have taken from this country that they are concerned about. They can remain that way, but they will have to face the serious ire of the citizens of this country, if they don’t even at this point of time respect rule of law, accept responsibility and bow out of this house. They have no right to continue as representatives of the people in this house. There is only one person there, President Mahinda Rajapakse, but he must resign, if he has any semblance of a sense of dignity, and if he respects rule of law, if he respects democracy, he must promptly resign and accept responsibility.

His Excellency the President Ranil Wickramasinghe, I remember in 2015 at the budget, he spoke volumes, the fact that President Maithripala Sirisena’s expenditure then compared to his predecessors was almost half, but that’s not what we see today. The President’s expenditure is far more than what was there in last year’s budget. So we see a huge shift in his perspective even with regard to allocations for expenditure.

Thank you.