13A: President determined to REsolve problem | Sunday Observer

13A: President determined to REsolve problem

13 August, 2023
A group of students from Girls’ High School, Kandy representing the Student Parliament, visited the Presidential Secretariat. Pic: Courtesy PMD
A group of students from Girls’ High School, Kandy representing the Student Parliament, visited the Presidential Secretariat. Pic: Courtesy PMD

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution is a problem that has been dragging on for over 30 years.

There was no change in President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s stance on the 13th Amendment as Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition. Even after becoming the President, his opinion was that this problem should be resolved somehow. That is why the President said that no one can change the 13th Amendment as it is included in the Constitution.

President Wickremesinghe strongly believes that Parliament should decide whether to implement the Provincial Councils or not. Therefore, the President outlined his position to Parliament on Wednesday to take this decision during his presidency. Accordingly, he presented a 10-point proposal to the Parliament for the enforcement of the 13th Amendment.

Even though President Wickremesinghe had informed the country in advance that he would present this resolution summarising the views of the All-Party Conference, the stalwarts of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) were not present in Parliament on Wednesday. The President went to Parliament on Wednesday with a stack of documents about his position on the 13th Amendment.

When the President came to Parliament, he went straight to the Chamber. After presenting their position about the 13th Amendment, the Opposition MPs started raising questions and all of them were answered by the President.

Leader of the Opposition Sajith Premadasa quoted a statement of US President Abraham Lincoln and President Wickremesinghe’s reply by recalling American history of how he dissolved the State Councils, drew praise from both the ruling party and Opposition MPs.

Although there were Tamil party leaders such as TNA Leader R. Sampanthan, D. Siddarthan and S. Adaikalanathan, they did not ask questions from the President. It was also noticeable that Parliamentarians such as Wigneswaran, Sumanthiran and Rasamanickam were not present in the House at that time.

When President Wickremesinghe, who had been in the House for almost an hour, came out, the ruling party and Opposition MPs who were in the lobby surrounded the President.

Minister Chamara Sampath said, “What is the Opposition Leader saying? While he was looking at a piece of paper and telling a story told by Abraham Lincoln, Sir you gave a story about a court decision that Lincoln rejected.” The crowd could not stop laughing.

Minister Prasanna Ranatunga said, “They are stuck because of the views expressed by the President on the 13th Amendment. Sumanthiran tried to rally the Opposition but now the division continues.”

An Opposition MP said seriously, “Nobody in the Opposition had the right answer. The Leader of the Opposition should have kept quiet and studied the proposal before speaking.”

When MP Vajira Abeywardena said, “The President boxed the Opposition on three points. One is the proposals submitted for the 13th Amendment. The other is that the Speaker made a statement about the sovereignty of Parliament. The third is that Sajith Premadasa as the Leader of the Opposition could not agree even though the President gave the day for the No Confidence Motion. The Opposition did not have the right strategy to face this,” everyone nodded in agreement.

Prof. Ashu Marasingha said, “There were no leaders in the Opposition. People such as Champika Ranawaka got up and left. How did the change happen a year after the President came to power.”

State Minister Shehan Semasinghe, joining the conversation said, “He was afraid to take over the Government at that time. I was also afraid of the No Confidence Motion today. All they do is ask for an election for everything but the people don’t care about elections.”

Prof. Ashu Marasinghe said, “The division in the TNA was also evident. The other is what Wigneswaran says about the President’s proposals. That’s why I don’t know whether other people came or not.”

When Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya said, “Many people did not understand what the President said about MP Harshana Rajakaruna when he interrupted the President’s speech. Why don’t you know that he is a relative of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.” Those present nodded in agreement.

When the President was about to leave the Parliament, MP Weerasumana Weerasinghe arrived and presented the Communist Party’s proposals on the 13th Amendment.

When the President left after asking MP Weerasumana if there were two people with opposite views sitting together it was a puzzle for the MPs. Then Prof. Ashu Marasinghe solved the problem. “Why MP Gevindu Kumaratunga and MP Weerasumana are in Parliament at the same place.” Everyone burst out laughing.

Last Friday morning, there was an invitation to President Ranil Wickremesinghe to sign as a witness at a wedding engagement. The wedding of the daughter of the President’s Media Director Piyasena Dissanayake at the Colombo Hilton Hotel with a limited number of guests.

Apart from the relatives, several people from the political field were present. While MP Wajira Abeywardena was having a friendly conversation with the people present, the Chief of Staff of the President’s Office, Sagala Ratnayaka congratulated the new couple and spent a few minutes there. Then President Ranil Wickremesinghe arrived.

The President who congratulated the new couple started talking to the crowd. MP Wajira Abeywardena started talking about the President’s parliamentary speech on the 13th Amendment. “Gamini Lokuge has said that you have finally handed over everything to the Parliament and left.”

“Yes, what I can do is to propose. Parliament should take all the decisions including holding of elections.”

A journalist asked, “Sir, did MP Wimal Wirawansa suggest you talk to Sinhala MPs?” to which the President replied, “Yes, that means Wimal also supports and I agreed to that proposal.”

Since Dissanayake has been working in the media industry for over thirty years, several people related to the media industry were also invited. Sri Lanka Foundation Chairman Saman Athavudahetti, Presidential Media Director General Dhanushka Ramanayake and another journalist were present.

Sunday papers

Therefore, the President started talking about newspapers. “Those days, a newspaper was bought by a man who travelled by train or bus. People going to office read the newspaper, so the newspaper was addressed to that crowd. Now, most of the newspapers are read by people driving three-wheelers. Things like crimes have to be carried in the newspapers to cater to their interests.

“The print media should be more creative. The media should report incidents. Now, more people are starting to read things such as crime stories,” the President said.

Saman Athaudahetti and Dhanushka Ramanayake also joined the conversation. “It’s bad for the Sunday papers to be published on Saturdays.”

The President asked one of the editors about what time the Late City edition is printed now. “It’s 12 midnight, Sir.”

“I remember those days, even though it was early in the morning, the newspaper was recast and the City Edition was done. I have seen how the newspaper is printed early morning,” said the President, gesturing his hand towards the adjacent Lake House building.

As the President often visited Lake House owned by his mother’s side when he was a child, his memory of it may have unfolded like this.

“There was no technology at that time. Newspapers were not published on Saturday and publishing Sunday newspapers on Saturdays should be stopped,” the President said while talking about the challenges of the newspaper industry. Referring to the challenges faced by the media, the President commented on the sale of newspapers.

As it was a morning ceremony, traditional sweets such as kiribath and kavum were laid on the table.

The President only had some kokis for his meal. President’s Secretary Saman Ekanayake was also at the table without much conversation and Sagala Ratnayaka left the ceremony early as he had to attend to a lot of work.

President Wickremesinghe went to the Royal College Stadium, Colombo last Saturday to watch the Bradby Shield rugby match. Chief of Staff to the President Ratnayaka and many Royal College alumni were present.

Before Royal College won the trophy, a group of students who came to the side looked at the President and Sagala Ratnayaka and said that they would like them to watch their match. When the two were facing each other, a student said, “There is a belief among the students that we will win the match when you all come sir.”


The Cabinet meeting was held on Monday evening and the issue of release of Samanalawewa water for farmers was discussed. The decision to release water and continue to provide electricity was taken at the Cabinet meeting.

Later President Wickremesinghe also informed of the decision at the Government Parliamentary Group meeting.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera explained about the electricity problem.

Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya gave an explanation about the casino tax increase Bill to be brought in the future and the Ministers Diana Gamage, Prasanna Ranaweera and Nalin Fernando asked for more details about it.

When they took the countries of the world as examples and questioned the officials of the Ministry of Finance and the Income Tax Department, the President and the Prime Minister, who were looking at each other, said, “We do not understand these things.” When Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya said that the draft has not been finalised and that the matters presented by the Ministers will be studied further, the President said yes, you will have to take advice from the Ministers as well.

In the middle of the Government Parliamentary Group Meeting, President Wickremesinghe brought a birthday cake for MP Sanjeewa Edirimanna’s birthday.

In the middle of the meeting, President Wickremesinghe and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa also joined in cutting the birthday cake.

Then the President explained the issues of water and electricity and the drought at length. He also revealed the facts about the attempt by an Opposition political party and a media institution to change the Government by taking advantage of the drought.

“Just like last year, this year too, a conspiracy is under way to bring people to the streets. I have received reports that the JVP is taking the lead in this and a private media institution also supports it,” said the President and showed the related reports and videos to the MPs. It was decided to appoint a Parliamentary Select Committee to look into the matter.

The President went to the Ministry of Defence on Tuesday morning to attend the Security Council meeting. That afternoon, a group of students from Girls’ High School, Kandy representing the Student Parliament, visited the Presidential Secretariat.

President Wickremesinghe who met them, explained the history of the Presidential Secretariat from the time of the Constitutional Assembly to the present and also about the valuable library.

UNP Management Committee meeting

Later the President joined the United National Party (UNP) Management Committee meeting. There was an exchange of views about the party’s 77th anniversary and convention.

According to the proposal put forward, it has been planned to hold the party convention at the Nelum Pokuna Theatre on September 10, but a proposal was presented to hold the convention on September 6 as the Nelum Pokuna had been reserved for another program on September 10.

Those present said that since it was a week day, those who come to the convention could cause inconvenience for the people going home after work. In the end, the general opinion was that it is appropriate to hold it on September 10, a Sunday, instead of holding it on a weekday without causing inconvenience to the people.

The proposals were passed that the convention should be held at the Viharamahadevi Park. UNP General Secretary Range Bandara said that all arrangements have been made to get the people to participate in the party convention. He informed the President that the setting up of 143 party Bala Mandalas can be completed before the convention.

He revealed information about the interviews for the appointment of organisers held at the Sirikotha party headquarters that morning and the opening of foreign branches of the party.

In the evening, the President went to join the ASEAN Day program at the Indonesian Embassy. The Ambassadors from East Asia were present. The President’s remarks about the economic region that extends from Asia to Australia were praised by diplomats.

President Wickremesinghe went to Parliament on Wednesday to attend several meetings.

Meanwhile, Chief of Staff Sagala Ratnayaka joined a lawyers’ conference on the instructions of the President and Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya was the chief guest. Chief of Staff Ratnayaka delivered the keynote address.

On Thursday morning, the President came to the Ministry of Finance for the economic review of the week. When the President came to the Ministry of Finance, Public Security Minister Tiran Alles telephoned the President and informed him that the TNA Parliamentarians who came to meet him were talking about Police powers.

Book launch

The launch of the book “Sithamu” written by the Senior Vice President of Samagi Jana Balawegaya and Member of Parliament Imthiaz Bakeer Markar took place at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute, Colombo on Thursday. A large number of people including politicians, artists and journalists were present.

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa also joined the event and sitting next to him was SJB General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara.

Madduma Bandara and Imthiaz Bakeer Markar were contemporaries at Ananda College, Colombo. The Prime Minister and Speaker were also present.

Veteran journalist Chandana Suriyabandara said, “Imthiaz is a philanthropic leader who has always worked according to his conscience. I have a great respect for him because of his advocacy for social justice. It is still the same today.”

Sajith Premadasa told General Secretary Madduma Bandara, “On the one hand, Imthiaz is engaged in political affairs day and night. On the other hand, he writes books about literature. I can’t imagine how he finds the time.”

Madduma Bandara replied, “That’s how Imthiaz is. He dedicates himself to any work. He does it to the best of his ability.”

Sajith Premadasa recalling the past said, “When my father became the President, he gave the Housing Minister portfolio to Imthiaz because he had so much faith in Imthiaz.”

Wrong order

The leaders of the Opposition jointly said that the statement made by Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena against the court ruling was a violation of the Constitution and a completely wrong order as the optimisation of local debt took place with the approval of Parliament.

“Speaker, keep your place. Protect the dignity of your position.” Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa started the verbal exchange in Parliament and at the same time many in the Opposition started expressing their stand against the behaviour of the speaker.

With the intervention of Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, a discussion was held between representatives of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and micro, mini and medium entrepreneurs on July 28 regarding many financial and credit problems faced by them over a long period.

Previously, only political representatives came together for such discussions, but it was notable that small and medium entrepreneurs were also given the opportunity to present their problems.

The representatives of the ADB said that they are ready to implement a new program based on their own suggestions and ideas to solve the financial problems faced by micro, small and medium entrepreneurs. Previously, such programs were implemented with the intervention of high officials of the Government, but here the intervention of the people was remarkable.