If Mahinda Rajapaksa was opposed to the creation of a new Constitution, he should have expressed his opposition at the time it was suggested without trying to stir communal tensions now by interpreting it as an effort to divide the country, Opposition Leader R.Sampanthan said in Parliament yesterday.
Joining the debate on the Second Reading on the budget proposals for the fiscal year 2018, Sampanthan appealed to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to cooperate in ensuring reconciliation in the country.
“You are a very senior politician, who commands much respect from the people of this country and we want you to be a party to the making of a new Constitution,” the Opposition Leader appealed.
However, Sampanthan said while Rajapaksa was in power for over 20 years, the people did not vote for him at the 2015 election.
“The vote you received at the Presidential and Parliamentary election diminished considerably and the people clearly did not want you be elected as President or Prime Minister. That was the verdict of the people and that must be respected. However, the people have voted in an SLFP President and UNP Prime Minister, which means they want the two parties to work together for the benefit of this country,” Sampanthan said.
The Opposition Leader said there was a resolution to concert Parliament into a Constitutional Assembly, the Constitutional Assembly was to become a Committee of the whole Parliament and work was to commence in introducing a new Constitution. That resolution was circulated among the Members of Parliament and it was adopted in the House on March 9, 2016.
“I want to ask Mahinda Rajapaksa if you were opposed to the introduction of a new Constitution, why did you not come to that session of Parliament and oppose that resolution? Why didn’t you come and say the country doesn’t need this? Why are you trying to stir communal feelings now? Why did you not oppose it at that point of time? Now the LG elections are going to be held, and you want to win the election and defeat the government which is your political right and no one can complain about that. But in order to achieve that you are trying to stir communal tensions in this country by stating that through this Constitution an effort is being made to divide this country. If that was your position, you should have come to Parliament at the time the resolution was adopted and opposed it. You did not do that. I am sorry to say that this is not the way to resolve the problems of our people,” he noted.
Sampanthan said we have a situation where a resolution has been adopted at the UNHRC in October 2015. While that resolution welcomed the commitment of the Sri Lankan government to a political settlement by taking the Constitutional measures, it encourages the government’s efforts to fulfil its commitments on the devolution of political authority which is integral to reconciliation and the full enjoyment of the people’s rights.
Sampanthan pointed out that through this resolution, the country had given a commitment that it would take certain Constitutional measures to ensure reconciliation and peace in Sri Lanka. He said prior to 2015 our position in the United Nations became worse and there was a time when this country could have had economic sanctions imposed against us and the country could have been in a difficult position.
“But, fortunately that did not happen because of the new direction taken by the new government,” Sampanthan said.
“I want to ask you are we not obliged to follow the commitment that we have already made to the UNHRC?”
Sampanthan said he held D.A Rajapaksa in high esteem as he was one man who crossed the floor of Parliament with S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike on principle.
“Therefore, we would also like to hold you too (MP Mahinda Rajapaksa) in high esteem. Therefore, you must support the formulation of a new Constitution. I say to you, Mahinda Rajapaksa this is your fundamental duty and you must not fail in that duty,” he said.