We will hold referendum to get new constitution endorsed by people: MR

Saturday, 27 July 2019

Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa says there is no point in talking about constitutional reform at the tail end of the tenure of a government and that the matter has to be taken up by a new government elected by the people.

He said that they will put forward a set of proposals to reform the constitution at the forthcoming presidential elections and that once a new government is in power, they hope to obtain the support of all political parties represented in Parliament for the new constitution.

“We will definitely hold a referendum to get the new constitution endorsed by the people,” he said, delivering a speech in Parliament on Friday.

The former President said there only a few more months left for the next presidential election. “Is there any point in holding a debate on constitutional reform at the tail end of the tenure of a government?”

He said an initiative to amend the constitution should be taken when a government has been newly elected to office, not as the final task before leaving office.

Rajapaksa charged that though the incumbent government said that they were going to abolish the executive presidency during the election campaign, once elected to power, they pointed to their election manifesto and said that since constitutional amendments can be made only to the extent that a referendum is not made necessary, the executive presidency cannot be abolished.

“So from the very beginning, the constitutional reform process of this government was riddled with deception and perfidy,” he alleged.

Rajapaksa said they are resolutely opposed to the draft constitution that was presented to Parliament by the Prime Minister. It would have had the effect of dividing Sri Lanka into nine semi -independent states, he claimed.

He also alleged that the draft constitution that was presented to Parliament was prepared by TNA Parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran and some NGO activists. He said after presenting it to Parliament, the Prime Minister repeatedly denied ownership of the document. “Ultimately it appears that this government had taken the Tamil National Alliance too for a ride.”