Colombo, June 26 (newsin.asia): The Sri Lankan President Maithipala Sirisena said here on Wednesday that if the country is to be saved from chronic instability, the 19 th.Amendment of the Constitution must be amended either before or immediately after the Presidential election which is to be held in four months’ time.
Addressing the media, Sirisena said that “as a matter of priority” all political leaders must put their heads together and agree on proposals to suitably amend 19A.
The 19A had created two centers of power in place of one which existed earlier, the two centers being the President, who is directly elected by 6.2 million people, and the other being the Prime Minister who derives his power from parliament.
These two have been clashing because of the structural flaws in the 19A, he said.
Sirisena quoted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as saying that the Sri Lankan government is like a car which has two drivers at the wheel. No wonder the car has been hitting the sidewalk or bumping into other cars.
The President said that the car should have only one driver and that should be the President, who is directly elected by the people. In his case he was elected by 6.2 million votes and not by a 225-member parliament.
Sirisena said that the 19A was enacted not in the interest of the people of the country but in the interest of Non-Government Organizations and certain vested interests. Its provisions were not thought though. Many loose ends remained to be tied.
Independent Commissions were set up, but these have been functioning without any set rules and regulations.
“The Independent Human Rights Commission sent a list of 300 complaints of rights violations to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva without consulting the government and without examining the veracity of the complaints. Only complaints which had been investigated and found to be true should be sent, and that after discussing the matter with the government,” Sirisena said.
The 19A was enacted in a frightful hurry, with the result, many issues were not considered in-depth for their ramifications. And the chickens came home to roost as the days passed by.
Asked if he favors an entirely new constitution or only some amendments to the existing one will do, the President said that suitable amendments to the 19A would do.
He pointed out that he did not want the resurrection of the 18 the Amendment which was replaced by the 19A because the 18A gave too much power to the President.
By rejecting the 18A, Sirisena has sent a message to the Opposition Leader and former President Mahinda Rahapaksa that he will not support any move by the latter to revive 18A. The 18A was brought in by Rajapaksa to further strengthen the Presidency and enable him to be President any number of terms.
On the question of going in for a referendum if his term should be counted from the date on which the parliament Speaker signed 19A into law ,or on the date on which he was elected, Sirisena said that he never said to anyone that he wants a referendum to be held on this matter.
“It is a total fabrication” the President said and wondered why his party (Sri Lanka Freedom Party) General Secretary, Dayasiri Jayasekara, made a statement on that.
Not To Attend PSC
The President said that he will not answer any summons from the Parliamentary Select Committee on the April 21 blasts which claimed 259 lives because there is no law under which the PSC can summon him.
At any rate, he added, he is opposed to the PSC given the fact that the blasts are being probed by the police; a committee he had appointed had submitted its final report; and there are seven cases filed in the court on the matter.
“The PSC is just a political drama,” Sirisena said.
Pointing out that June 26, is the World Drug Prevention Day, the Lankan President presented a grim picture of drug misuse scene in Sri Lanka.
“Drugs are used in city social parties in which one does not know what happens to the girls present. Drugs are of common use even in village schools. Sri Lanka is woefully short of drug addicts rehabilitation centers. Over 60% of inmates in Lankan jails have been booked in drug cases,.” Sirisena stated and re-iterated his resolve to send serious repeat offenders to the gallows.
“Four offenders have been earmarked for execution. And the date for execution has also been fixed,” he said but declined to give any more details.
Justifies Foreign Trips
Sirisena accused the Prime Minister’s office of spreading false news about his foreign travels. All his overseas visits had been at the invitation of other countries and never has his delegation comprised more than ten persons.
And every visit of his has brought in gains for Sri Lanka, he asserted. China’s President Xi Jinping gave 100 military jeeps and 100 million Yuan for post-Easter Sunday bombing reconstruction and rehabilitation. Besides, China and Sri Lanka are to sign two Defense Agreements, he added.
The Lankan President spoke warmly about his interactions with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He told Putin about the difficulties in buying defense equipment from Russia due to US sanctions but recalled that the three MIGs given by the Soviets in 1972 to fight an insurgency are still in service in the Lankan air force.
On his relations with India, Sirisena said that when Prime Minister Narendra Modi called him on the phone after the April 21 suicide attacks, he asked what kind of help India could render. Sirisena said that it would send a powerful message to the world if Modi came down to Colombo even if only for a few minutes. That is why Modi came for a four-hour visit.
Explaining his changed stand on foreign involvement in the Eastern Container Terminal in the Colombo harbor, the President said he did oppose the initial deal to give it to Indian companies. But later, the terms were changed in favor of Sri Lanka. The Sri Lanka Ports Authority will now have a 51% stake, India will have 15% and Japan the rest. The international partners will also bring in the money, Srisena said.
Opposed to SOFA
The Lankan President reiterated his stand that the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the US should not be entered into.
He also expressed his opposition to changes in the land laws which will enable foreign entities to buy private land.
It is believed that in addition to SOFA, the Americans are seeking 18,000 acres of land near Trincomalee to develop it as a logistics base.