Parliamentarian and Leader of the National Freedom Front (NFF), Wimal Weerawansa speaks to the Rivira Group on the new Constitution.
Q; Do you claim that the separatists attempted to divide the country long since? Yes.The state minister of internal affairs in the JR Jayawardene cabinet, Devanayagam changed electoral map to include Pulmudai area in the Trincomalee district removing it from the Anuradhapura district by a gazette notificationin order to achieve the separatists’ agenda. No one in JR’s cabinet took notice of this vicious plan. According to Devanayagam’s plan, he wanted to surreptitiously annex the Pulmodai mineral mine and one third of the North and East sea coast to the north-east. This was the way they wanted to achieve the separate state step by step. But Prabhakaran wanted to establish a separated state straight away, but our brave soldiers averted it in May 19, 2009.
Q: Did JR try to introduce 13th Amendment to do away with the unitary state of the country? By the 13th Amendment, the Provincial Councils got immense powers including land, police, legal powers, etc. When the 13th Amendment was challenged in the Supreme Court, Chief Justice S. Sharvananda gave judgement that law enacting powers should be in the possession of Centre. Though provincial councils can enact laws, Parliament can make them null and void by a two third majority. Due to this parliamentary power we still have a unitary and not a devolved country. Though the 13th Amendment was introduced at the behest of India, still the unitary state of the country remains intact thanks to certain safeguards taken by JR Jayewardene.
Q: What are those safeguards? Through the 13th Amendment land, police and law enactment powers were devolved to the provincial councils. It also introduced a parallel list of powers which enabled both provincial councils and the central government to enact laws in the province. Due to the powers held by the president when Varadaraja Perumal declared the North and East as a separate state the executive president could dissolve it and give the administration of it to a governordue to the safeguards in the 13th amendment. Sadly, Ranil Wickremesinghe is trying do away with those safeguards. The present leaders of the JVP who protested vehemently against the 13th amendment now support Ranil to remove those safeguards.
Q: Do you mean that when all those safeguards are removed the central government would become powerless over the provincial councils? Yes. When a parallel list and powers of the governor are removed by the new Constitution, the President’s powers will be weakened. In that case, the provincial council can pass any law however detrimental to the whole country.
Q: But today many sections of the country clamour for a new cCnstitution. There is no opposition to a new Constitution but the way it is made is objectionable. The UN who wants a new Constitution to this country in order to please the Tamil Eelam groups who are striving to establish a separate state.
Q: The SLFP members in the government are of the opinion that if the new constitution affects the unitary state of the country it could be defeated at a referendum. Do you agree? Yes. It is not mandatory to hold a referendum for that. It can be defeated at a referendum but a referendum is not necessary to pass an amendment to the constitution as the clause 4 of the constitution empowers the parliament topass an amendment without a referendum.
Q: Why do the National Freedom Front (NFF), the party you lead, wait till a referendum comes without making your protest from now on? We should start our protests from the start. The first step is to prevent the new amendment getting two thirds majority in parliament. Initially we have mobilize the public support against the new Constitution because MPs could be lured by more perks to vote. Q: Though you say Constitution making is the burning issue in the country there are other serious issues. Isn’t it? True. There are many other issues the face but this is one of the major issues. The government is trying to make many attempts to divert the attention of the public from this major issue. Q: You went to meet the president on this regard with the member of the central committee? We went to meet president to hand over our proposals to the new constitution as the government invited the public to forward their proposals. The UNP and the SLMChave not forwarded their proposals because they are agreeable to the new constitution. According to the proposed new constitution, the president cannot dissolve a provincialcouncil without adducing valid reasons. Otherwise the provincial council can seek redress from court. Under the proposed Constitution the president cannot dissolve a provincial council under emergency like what happened when Vardaraja Perumal declared a unilateral state. The prime minister is trying to clip the powers of the president. We met president to alert him about these dangers in the new constitution.