Former Speaker of Parliament Karu Jayasuriya called on the President, Prime Minister, and the Government to protect and enhance the essence of democracy embedded in the 19th Amendment.
In his policy speech, His Excellency Gotabhaya Rajapaksa announced the wish of his government to abolish the 19th Amendment to the Constitution and, subsequently, to introduce new constitution to the country, said the Former Speaker adding the 19th Amendment was a near-unanimous amendment to the Constitution.
In fact, the majority of the approving votes came from the UPFA members, led by President Maithripala Sirisena in 2015 he added besides, even the present Parliament consists of a majority of members who have voted for the 19th Amendment.
He said if the government abolishes the 19th Amendment, and a new Constitution is passed, that must be done after wide consultation with all stakeholders, including all political parties, citizens’ organizations, and eminent individuals and the general public.
He requested the President and the Prime Minister to undertake to properly analyse and evaluate any technical shortcomings of the 19th Amendment while respecting and upholding the essence of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in future reforms.
The 19th Amendment to the Constitution embodies the democratic aspirations of the people at the time of its adoption, he said noting the only progressive reform before the 19th Amendment was the 17th Amendment to the Constitution that was passed in 2001.
The former Speaker went on to note as envisioned by Most Venerable Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero, the 19th Amendment could build on that and strengthened the Parliament, reduced excessive powers accumulated in Presidency, re-introduced independent commission to ensure that critical institutes of the country such as public service, judiciary, electoral system, human rights, and Police, etc. are protected from political influence.
In the spirit of the 19th Amendment, it is welcoming to note that the President appointed 26 Ministers to the Cabinet, thereby following the 30-member limit introduced under 19A, said Jayasuriya.
Democracy is a much-valued legacy of Sri Lanka and people treasure the freedoms they have and the 19th Amendment symbolizes this democratic spirit.
As the proverb goes, one should not ‘throw the baby away with the bathwater’ and as such, respect for democracy and rule of law is mandatory for us to rise as a proud nation in the world, he added.