Government should not rush through 20A – SJB

Harsha De Silva

The Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) yesterday raised concerns about the possibility of the Government trying rush through Parliament the proposed 20th Amendment when the House convenes on Thursday.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, SJB member and Parliamentarian Dr. Harsha de Silva stated that the Government should allow ample time for the public to have a broad discussion on the proposed amendment and for members of Parliament to debate its content.

“The Government should not rush the 20th Amendment. They have a majority Government, they must give time for the public to discuss its content and for parliament to debate it properly,” Dr. de Silva stressed.

He pointed out that new legislation could not be rushed through as per the 19th Amendment and time needed to be given for the new Bill to be properly scrutinised.

Dr. de Silva conceded that there were parts of the 19th Amendment which needed to be fixed and that while the SJB were open to discussions on those points, the party, as the main Opposition, would stand against changing or removing the core components of the 19th Amendment. He stressed that the SJB would fight to keep in place independent institutions, such as the Human Rights Commission and the Police Commission. “The 19th Amendment has done a lot of good. But we need to be cognitive of some lapses; there were practical issues which arose from the 19th Amendment, which need to be fixed. We are ready to discuss proposed changes, but we will not support any action to remove the 19th Amendment completely or to strip its core components,” he said. Silva pointed out that the separation of powers and the introduction of independent institutions were important to furthering democracy in Sri Lanka.

Responding to a question, Dr. de Silva said that the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) had failed to bring the promised change the voters wanted, pointing out that many of the those who were championed as ‘professionals’ had not been given suitable Cabinet portfolios. He also alleged that the technology-oriented approach promised by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had not been reflected in the newly-gazetted Cabinet, with no minister tasked with a technology-oriented ministry. Dr. de Silva questioned as to how the Government would prioritise economic recovery amidst COVID-19 with no dedicated minister for technology.

The Parliamentarian stated that he was ready to play the role of Chief Opposition Whip, if appointed, explaining that he had 10 years of experience in Parliament, both in Government and in Opposition.

The SJB plans to rally dissatisfied UNP voters and others as it prepares to face the upcoming Provincial Council Elections under the telephone symbol.

(Source: Daily FT – By Asiri Fernando)