Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) parliamentarian and the ‘Pivithuru Hetak’ (Clean Tomorrow) National Council leader, Venerable Athuraliye Rathana Thera dropped a political bombshell to a packed audience, including several ministers and opposition leaders at the main hall of the BMICH last week.
The outspoken monk, in a hard-hitting speech, said he was presenting the 19th Amendment with sweeping reforms to the Executive Presidential system. He warned that if the main proposals in the 19th Amendment were not accepted and passed by Parliament, he and his influential party would do everything in their power to defeat President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the next presidential election, widely reported to be scheduled for January 8 or 9 next year – two years ahead of schedule.
The prelate told a stunned audience his main aim was to restore democracy, good governance and accountability because at present the government was acting according to the wishes of the one individual, one family and a handful of government officials. His movement believed the dates of the presidential election should be fixed according to the laws of the country and not by astrologers. Going by the stars and planets, he said was not an intelligent strategy for the future of some 21 million people of Sri Lanka and the generations to come.
Among the main proposals in the draft 19th Amendment presented by the monk are:
The term of office of President will begin on the date on which the results of the presidential election are announced.
Any person elected or succeeding to the office of President after this Amendment comes into force shall upon assumption of office cease to be a member of any political party and shall be disqualified from being nominated as a candidate at any subsequent election of the office of President.
The creation of a Constitutional Council which would consist of the Prime Minister, the Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition, Presidential representative and six MPs.
The creation of an executive committee for each ministry to advise the minister.
The implementation of the Freedom of Information Bill.
Former Chef Justice Sarath N. Silva who drafted the 19th Amendment told the meeting he believed the Constitution should not be amended for the benefit of an individual or party with selfish aspirations. At another meeting on Friday, the former Chief Justice made a public confession that a certain mistake he made while holding his post had caused turmoil in the country today, He apologized to the nation for this mistake. Mr. Silva, speaking at a public seminar organized by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) in Colombo said he did not do anything to prevent the present government from going for a snap presidential election when he delivered a judgment with regard to a candidate who was running for national election in 2005.
The former CJ said it was his view that the government could not hold a snap presidential election according to the third amendment to the Constitution. He said whoever was serving the second term as an executive president under section 31 3(d) of the Constitution had to complete the full six-year term.Mr. Silva also said the incumbent president could not contest for a third time unless the clause in the Constitution which makes the incumbent president disqualified as a candidate in a presidential election was removed.
Speaking at the BMICH meeting, Upul Jayasuriya, the courageous and outspoken President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), described the current constitutional powers of the executive as a tragedy to the nation. He warned that the breakdown of the rule of law would give rise to the rule of the individual and therefore the country could not be governed in a democratic manner.
According to our sister newspaper the Sunday Times, the Venerable Rathana Thera had said in an interview that several Cabinet ministers had responded positively to the proposed 19th Amendment. The newspaper also reported there was a possibility of Pope Francis’ visit being called off, if a presidential election is held in January. We urge government leaders to act according to their conscience for the welfare and wellbeing of all the people of