20th Amendment: JVP, TNA team up on common agenda | Sunday Observer

20th Amendment: JVP, TNA team up on common agenda

17 March, 2019

In a bid to muster support for the JVP’s private motion on the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, the red party leaders met the Tamil National Alliance parliamentarians last week to receive a hearty ‘yes’.

The TNA, despite its call for a new Constitution that addressed issues of the Tamil-speaking people in the country, told the JVP leaders that they would throw their weight behind the effort to help see the motion being passed with a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

The JVP leaders had met the ‘Joint Opposition led by Mahinda Rajapaksa’ in their campaign to ensure the 20-A, which they call an important piece of legislation to abolish the Executive Presidency, to have a smooth sailing in the House and let it face a final test at a referendum.

“Our plea for the political parties is not to block the 20-A. This way people of the country, not the politicians, will have a chance to decide if they want it or not,” JVP Propaganda Secretary Vijitha Herath told the Sunday Observer adding that his party believed that the people’s voice is more important than legislators ganging up to steamroll it in Parliament.

The JVP MP said, “It has been six months since the 20-A Bill was tabled in parliament. We have not made any efforts to include it in the agenda and fix a debate in the House. We want to speak to all the political parties in Parliament before a debate on the Bill is scheduled because we want to see this end in success,” he said.

The Bill was tabled in Parliament on September 5. When a private Member’s Bill is brought before Parliament, whoever is responsible for moving the Bill, invites the party leaders for a discussion, with the blessings of the Speaker and select a date for a debate, then it will be placed in the agenda of the day.

The meeting between the JVP parliamentarians and the TNA top-brass led by R. Sampanthan took place on Monday at 2.00pm at the JVP headquarters in Battaramulla. Seven TNA parliamentarians representing the constituent parties, including TELO, TULF and PLOT were present at the historic meeting between the two one-time arch rivals.

Among those who attended in the dialogue were Anura Kumara Dissnayake, Tilvin Silva and K.D.Lalkantha from the JVP and R.Sampanthan, M.A. Sumanthiran, Mavai Senathirajah, Selvam Adaikalanathan and D.Sidharthan from the TNA.

“At the meeting, we promised to support the 20-A if it reaches Parliament for consideration, and we also reached an agreement to identify common areas that we can work together in the future,” TNA MP Mavai Senathirajah said.

A joint press conference was held after the meeting at the JVP Headquarters. TNA Leader R.Sampanthan told the media in Sinhala, “The two parties discussed as to how they should plan to work together in the future to bring the SLFP and UNP back on track to meet people’s aspirations.”

“We informed the JVP of our recent discussions with the Prime Minister and the President on the devolution of power,” he told the media.

Herath said both parties endorsed the notion that the two main political parties, the UNP and the SLFP, had failed to fulfil the aspirations of the people and had not offered solutions to their burning issues, despite sharing power alternately for decades. “Our policies stood worlds apart on certain issues, but we agreed to work together on issues that we can find a common ground. The abolition of the Executive Presidency is one of them,” he said.

The party leaders had not identified the areas of common interest at the meeting, but agreed to work them out later.

Among the topics discussed were where the country should be steered in the future and how they can change the course of the two main parties for the benefit of the people.

TNA parliamentarian Senathirajah said their intention is to push for a new Constitution to address the issues of the Tamil people and the JVP’s proposal to abolish the Executive Presidency can be accommodated.

“We think there is no need for a new motion for this purpose,” yet Senathirajah said at the meeting, the TNA promised the JVP leaders to support the 20-A at a future endeavour to pass it in Parliament.

JVP Parliamentarian Herath said they could hold a referendum on the 20-A, only if it gets passed in Parliament with a two-thirds majority.

The party leaders are expected to meet Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and other minority parties, including the SLMC and other Tamil and Muslim parties led by Mano Ganeshan and Rishad Bathiudeen to discuss the 20-A. The JVP leaders have called for meetings with these parties and the discussions are expected to take place within the coming days.

At a meeting, the Joint Opposition MPs agreed in principle to the proposal to abolish the Executive Presidency and said that the electoral reforms to the Parliamentary elections must come simultaneously,” the JVP MP said.

“As we know that a new electoral system accompanies a delimitation process, as an alternative, we proposed to hold the election under the old system and allocate previously-agreed bonus seats for the wining party to ensure the stability of the government,” Herath said.

The meeting had concluded without a final decision as former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, parliamentarians Dinesh Gunawardena and Dullas Allahapperuma wanted to discuss the JVP’s alternative proposals with the constituent parties of the Joint Opposition.

The JVP parliamentarian said even the Government has not conveyed its stand on the 20-A. Nevertheless, they were determined to see that the Amendment will not be voted down in Parliament, letting the people be the final judge, Herath said.