The discussion paper of the Constitutional Amendments prepared by the Expert Panel was rejected by the Steering Committee yesterday (July 19). Meanwhile, the opposition accused MPs Dr Jayampathy Wickramaratne and M. A. Sumanthiran of engaging in the drafting process for their own personal gains. The two MPs responded to these allegations today in Parliament (July 20).
In his address to the Parliament, TNA MP Sumanthiran stated that the six ‘experts’ agreed on the submitted document via email, which leaves out any questions on signatures being forged. He also added that the steering committee was conscious that the experts cannot be forced to agree on anything.
“There are 10 experts, sometimes there can be 10 documents that might emerge. But it was our request that they try and bring one document. So this is all that happened. – We had no involvement in that document at all”, he said.
MP Sumanthiran also refuted statements which said that the document was drafted by him, along with Suren Fernando and Dr Jayampathi Wickremeratne. He continued: “As far as I’m concerned, after the dispute arose, I went and had a look at those documents.There are many matters in that with which I don’t agree. I will bring it up at the deliberations of the steering committee. It is the steering committee that will eventually prepare a draft constitution according to the resolution that was adopted by the Parliament…”
UNP MP Dr Jayampathy Wickramaratne also responded, saying that he did not contribute to the process of preparing the document which was put forward by the six experts. Dr Wickremaratne stated that he has a separate opinion on some of the clauses. He added: “I will not state them here as there is a separate forum for that which is the steering committee. We represent the unity and sovereignty of the country…”
Following the statement by Dr Wickramaratne, UPFA MP Dinesh Gunawardena responded to the two MPs, requesting them to convene the constitutional council and summon all the experts and ascertain what took place, if there’s nothing to hide.
“If the report is presented, anyone would be able to understand what exactly took place. Some of those in the Leftist Movement are bought over by the NGOs. This is an open secret. Summon the Constitutional Council, I make this request from the speaker…” – said MP Gunawardena.
The 19th amendment
Dr Jayampathy Wickramaratne was one of the key personalities behind the process of preparing the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which finally saw certain powers of the President being vested in Parliament.
The powers vested with the President to remove the Prime Minister were restricted and it was made into a more complex process. Though the team led by Dr Jayampathy Wickramaratne made attempts to make the Prime Minister even more powerful through the constitutional amendment, it was weakened following the conclusion given by the Supreme Court. The amendment included weakening the powers of the president and the media. It also included regulations that would see journalists being imprisoned. However, these attempts were foiled by the court.
This incident itself is sufficient to understand the ulterior motives of the team which includes Dr Jayampathy Wickramaratne.
Meanwhile, a number of incidents which took place in the past give the people an understanding of the conduct of M.A. Sumanthiran. He appeared as Counsel for Central Bank employee S. Pathumanapan who faced allegations of being involved in the Central Bank Treasury Bond Scam at the Bond Commission. Sumanthiran also appeared for Pathumanapan in Court.
During the vote to elect a Deputy Speaker of Parliament, the TNA led by R. Sampanthan spoke in support of opposition candidate Sudarshini Fernandopulle, however, when the vote took place they were missing and Political Groups accused Sumanthiran as the person who was behind it.
These are just a few examples to showcase their conduct as MPs. They represent the legislature, but who are they actually working for?
Are they working for the people of the country? or, are they working towards their personal objectives?