Constitutional Assembly: Joint Opposition divided

Saturday, 22 July 2017

The Joint Opposition (JO) group is divided over the Constitution making process with one group insisting on immediate withdrawal from the Constitutional Assembly (CA) and the other adamant on remaining in it.

The Federation of National Organisations led by Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekara yesterday lashed out at the Joint Opposition (JO) for deciding to remain in the Constitutional Assembly.

This was after the five Parliamentarians from the National Freedom Front, led by Wimal Weerawansa decided to leave the assembly.

The CA was formed following a resolution passed unanimously in Parliament in March last year to formulate a new Constitution.

All 225 MPs are members in it and its first sitting was held on April 5 and appointed a 21 member Steering Committee headed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to deal with the core issues relating to the Constitution.

In the meantime, six sub-committees were appointed by the CA on “fundamental rights, Judiciary, finance, public service, law and order, centre-periphery” and their reports were placed before the CA by the Prime Minister on November 19, 2016. The CA has so far conducted four sittings.

Dr. Amarasekara, speaking to the media in Rajagiriya in the wake of the National Freedom Front (NFF) led by MP Wimal Weerawansa pulling out of the CA, made a scathing criticism on the other JO members for not following suit.

“We condemn the JO’s decision to continue in the CA. The JO is acting against the advices of the Chief Prelates. The people will stand against the JO and reject them in the next election,” he warned.

However, when the Daily News spoke to Prasanna Ranatunga, who represents the JO at the Steering Committee of the CA along with MP Dinesh Gunawardena, said they have not taken any immediate decision to withdraw from the Constitutional making process. He said they would participate in the next round of Steering Committee meetings due next week.

“We have decided to let the constituent parties of the JO decide separately as to whether they wish to continue in the CA or not,” he added.

Dr. Amarasekara further accused MP Dinesh Gunawardena for writing “secret letters” to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremeisnghe over problems that have cropped up in the Constitutional making process