By Shamindra Ferdinando
Former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, in his new capacity as the Chairman and Convenor of the National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ) today (17) will unveil his campaign against the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution.
A spokesperson for NMSJ told The Island that the former Speaker recently accepted their invitation to take over the movement formed by the late Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera.
Responding to a query, the official said that Prof. Sarath Wijesuriya, who succeeded Ven. Sobitha in the wake of the latter’s demise in Nov. 2015, made the request on behalf of the NMSJ.
Jayasuriya will brief the media at the Solis hotel , Pita Kotte at 10 am today.
NMSJ official said that Prof. Wijesuriya offered his position in the wake of the outfit requesting the former UNP MP to spearhead a campaign to protect the 19th Amendment enacted during his tenure as the Speaker. Karu Jayasuriya accepted the new role close on the heels of the UNP rejecting his offer to succeed Ranil Wickremesinghe as its Leader. The offer was made after the party suffered a debilitating setback at the August general election. Jayasuriya however did not contest that election.
NMSJ announced the new campaign in the wake of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) vowing on Tuesday (15) to prevent the passage of the 20th Amendment.
Addressing a gathering at the New Town Hall, SJB leader Sajith Premadasa said that the government bid would be thwarted.
Among those present were many civil society activists, including the Executive Director of the Center for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu.
Opposition Leader Premadasa told The Island that the SJB was ready to lead the campaign against the government’s bid to establish an authoritarian administration. Colombo District lawmaker Premadasa said that the draft of the 20th Amendment in its present form wasn’t acceptable at all. The SJB leader pointed out that the SLPP was in turmoil with some sections of the ruling coalition as well as those who supported the SLPP at the 2019 presidential and 2020 parliamentary polls publicly complaining about the draft gazetted on Sept 2. The former Deputy UNP leader pointed out that there hadn’t been discussion at least within the SLPP regarding far reaching constitutional changes envisaged through the 20th Amendment. Lawmaker Premadasa noted that the SLPP’s move had received the attention of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council. He was referring to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s criticism of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution.
Delivering opening remarks at the 45th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva Monday, Bachelet said she was troubled by the swift changes the Sri Lankan government was making after withdrawing its support to the UN resolution 30/1.
Bachelet said among other developments, the proposed 20th amendment to the Constitution may negatively impact on the independence of key institutions, including the National Human Rights Commission.
Having secured 145 seats at the last general election, the SLPP needs five more votes to enact the 20th Amendment with a 2/3 majority.
The parliament comprises: SLPP (145), the SJB (54), the ITAK (10), the JJB (3), the AITC (2), the EPDP (2), UNP (1), the OPPP (1) the TMVP (1), the MNA (1), the TMTK (1) the ACMC (1), the NC (1) and the SLMC (1).
The UNP and the OPPP are yet to name their National List members (one each).
The NMSJ official said that the outfit would conduct consultations next week with a cross section of interested parties as regards the 20th Amendment to reach consensus on a set of proposals to the SLPP government. According to him, there should be consensus among all stakeholders before the parliament debated the proposed new law. It wouldn’t be fair to introduce amendments at the Committee Stage as happened during the passage of the 19th Amendment under the previous dispensation, the NMSJ spokesperson said.