Anura questions Prime Minister on criteria used

Anura Kumara Dissanayake

Jathika Jana Balawegaya (JJB) Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, yesterday (10) questioned Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa as to the criteria applied in appointing the Chairman and members of the ‘One Country, One Law’ Presidential Task Force.

Speaking in Parliament, Dissanayake said the Government pledged to bring a new Constitution.

“Have you appointed a committee to draft a new Constitution? Who are the members of it? Also, there is a Presidential Task Force appointed on ‘One Country, One Law.’ I would like to know the criteria you used to appoint the Chairman and the members of this task force. There are controversial figures in this task force. Why did the Government think that they are suitable for the job? I hope the Premier will give us an explanation about it.”

In response, the Premier said the committee of experts appointed to draft a new Constitution was expected to submit its final draft at the end of this year.

“The committee headed by President’s Counsel Romesh de Silva consisted of President’s Counsel Manohara de Silva, President’s Counsel Sanjeewa Jayawardena, President’s Counsel Naveen Marapana, Prof. Nazeema Kamardeen, Dr. A. Sarveswaran, President’s Counsel Samantha Ratwatte, Prof. Wasantha Senevirathne, Abdul Wahid Abdul Salam and Prof. G.H. Peiris,” he said.

Speaking on the ‘One Country, One Law’ Presidential Task Force, Rajapaksa said the intention of appointing the task force is to study the matter and come up with necessary proposals.

“The expert committee is only tasked with preparing a draft Constitution. The intention of appointing the ‘One Country, One Law’ Presidential Task Force is to study the matter in the Sri Lankan context and present their opinions and proposals.”

However, Dissanayake was not satisfied with the Premier’s answer.

Dissanayake: “I asked several questions, especially about the criteria used to appoint task force members. You did not give an answer for that. I hope at least the Leader of the House would be able to provide an explanation.”

Leader of the House, Dinesh Gunawardena: “The task force was appointed according to the power vested in the President. If they provide proposals, the Minister of Justice would be consulted. That is what happens when a Presidential Task Force is appointed.”

Dissanayake: “I think both the PM and the Leader of the House were dumbfounded by my question. I asked a question, but you failed to provide an explanation. We know that the President can appoint task forces. But there should be a justification about the persons who are appointed to them. I think the PM knows this better. The expert committee to draft a new Constitution comprised legal experts. We might have problems with them, but it cannot be denied that they are experts in their field. So we can have faith in the expert committee. Now under what logic have you appointed the ‘One Country, One Law’ Presidential Task Force members?”

The JJB Leader further said some members of the Presidential Task Force are notorious for calling to suppress minorities in the country.

“I see that you are struggling to provide an explanation. I understand your situation. You do not have much information about this either. It seems you have not been consulted about the appointments. Now, I have an additional question. There were reports that Justice Minister Ali Sabry is also not happy about this task force and that he is going to resign from the ministerial post in protest. It seems that, when appointing this task force, the Justice Minister too was kept in the dark. I do not know whether Public Security Minister Sarath Weerasekara knew about this, as he too has a role to play in this ‘One Country, One Law’ matter.”

Moreover, Dissanayake pointed out that following the appointment of the task force, several communities in Sri Lanka became worried. We have to unite all the communities in the country, not further divide them. We cannot help but assume that appointing this task force is an attempt to further divide the communities. If it is not, the PM can give an explanation. But if he fails to do that, I will think that our assumption is correct, he said.

Prime Minister: “There is no such problem.”

At this juncture, the Public Security Minister said the President can appoint whom he deems fit according to the power vested in him.

Weerasekara: “You are now questioning about the qualification of task force members. During the Yahapalana regime, you were in several committees on anti-corruption too and none of us questioned about your qualification. Therefore, you should not question about qualifications of task force members. Just let the President carry out his duties.”

Dissanayake: “I have an additional question. What will happen to the country, if its Public Security Minister behaves like this? I have every right to be in a committee against corruption. Such committees should be made up of persons with clean records. So I have a right to be in it. That anti-corruption committee was not a Presidential Task Force. He said the President can appoint such task forces as he wishes. It means that, he, the Public Security Minister also does not have an idea about it. The PM tried to provide an explanation while Weerasekara delivered gibberish. It is not ethical.”

(Source: Ceylon Today – By Methmalie Dissanayake)