“UNHCHR chief’s comments on 20A unwarranted” | Sunday Observer

“UNHCHR chief’s comments on 20A unwarranted”

20 September, 2020

Co-Cabinet Spokesman and Minister of Mass Media, Keheliya Rambukwella said the architects of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution were President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the Cabinet and as such the Government had no intention whatsoever of withdrawing it simply because of divergent views expressed about it.

The Minister said the President and the Cabinet will take the full responsibility for 20A as the people have given a resounding mandate to the SLPP Government and President Rajapaksa at two major elections to replace 19A with 20A. Minister Rambukwella said all proposals, amendments and changes would be considered at the Committee Stage in Parliament when it is taken up for debate.

The parliamentary debate on the proposed Amendment is to be held during the first week of November. It is due to be presented to Parliament on September 22. The Government plans to debate 20A and pass it in Parliament before the Budget. Budget 2021 is due to be presented to Parliament in the second week of November. Government sources said that most probably a two or three-day debate will be held on the 20A on November 3, 4, 5 or 6.

A senior Government Minister said it has been decided to further discuss the Amendments proposed by the nine-member Committee appointed by the Prime Minister to study the 20A and present them at the Committee Stage of the debate in Parliament.

Reliable sources said at present nearly 10 Opposition MPs have pledged to extend their support to 20A, adding that the discussions held with them by Government lawmakers were successful. Government lawmakers are of the view that it is essential to pass 20A as early as possible to carry out the future activities of the Government without any let or hindrance. They are optimistic that the Government will pass this legislation in Parliament with a two-thirds majority as some Opposition MPs have already pledged their support.

Akila denies

Akila Viraj Kariyawasam has categorically denied media speculation that he has decided to resign from his post of UNP General Secretary. Kariyawasam told the media that he has not taken any decision whatsoever to give up his post. However, Kariyawasam said that an overall change should be made to all party positions when it is subjected to restructuring. He said if a change of the party General Secretary post is expected from within the party circle, then he is ready to give up the post.


The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) on Thursday, September 17 urged the Government and Opposition MPs to come forward to defeat the 20th Amendment to the Constitution claiming that the country would have to face repercussions of the 20A before long.

JVP Propaganda Secretary Vijitha Herath told a news conference that Ministers have become helpless in the Cabinet where they have been forced to approve 20A without sufficient time to study it.

Herath said, “It seems that there is an issue within the Government on 20A. That is why, Committees are appointed to study it. Appointing Committees to study the 20A which was approved by the Cabinet clearly shows the rift in the Government on the issue. Ministers in the Cabinet had approved without studying it and that is not democracy. If there was democracy, Ministers would not have been forced to approve it on the same day when the 20A was presented. JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake told journalists that the JVP has organised a series of seminars to educate the people on 20A from September 24.

Democratic process

The Government said the comments by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet on the proposed 20th Amendment are unwarranted and pre-judgmental, based on presumption.

This was highlighted in the statement by Sri Lanka’s Acting Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Dayani Mendis during the General Debate at the 45th Session of the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday, September 15.

The High Commissioner on Monday, September 14 said the proposed 20th amendment to the Constitution may impact on the independence of key institutions, including the National Human Rights Commission.

The draft 20th Amendment to the Constitution submitted through the Parliament will be discussed and debated following a complete democratic process where all stakeholders will have the opportunity to present their views, she said, stressing that the new Government remains committed to the assurances given before this Council in February this year when it withdrew from the co-sponsorship of Resolution 30/1.

Sri Lanka also hit back at the references made to false and unsubstantiated allegations levelled against senior military officials being appointed to key positions of institutions.

Mixed feelings

Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Parliamentarians appear to have mixed feelings on the election of Ruwan Wijewardene as the Deputy Leader of the United National Party (UNP).

SJB Parliamentarian J. C. Alawatuwala told a news conference that his party was not too concerned about the UNP because the people have chosen his party as the main Opposition in Parliament. Alawatuwala said, “The people have given a clear verdict by electing over 50 MPs from our party to Parliament while not electing even a single UNPer at the General Elections.”

Meanwhile, SJB MP Harsha de Silva said he hoped it would be possible to have a meaningful discussion with UNP Deputy Leader Wijewardene. He said, “I hope we can discuss with Wijewardene how to move forward as a broad political alliance.”

Newly elected UNP Deputy Leader Ruwan Wijewardena said that if the confidence of the Working Committee remains with him until December, he is ready to take over the leadership of the party, he told the media following a visit to the Gangarama Temple to invoke blessings after he was appointed Deputy Leader.

At a secret ballot during the UNP’s Working Committee meeting on September 14, Wijewardene obtained 28 votes against 10 by Ravi Karunanayake to be elected as the Deputy Leader of the party. He said that he would have to sacrifice a lot to make a difference for the party and that he would have to win back the confidence of the electorate. Following religious observances at the Kelaniya Rajamaha Vihara, Wijewardene told journalists there is room for anyone in the UNP to become the party leader in the future other than himself. He said the UNP is not the private property of anyone.

Committee report

The Committee looking into the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution presented its report to Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on September 15. The Committee members briefed the Premier on what should be included in the 20A and what needs to be amended.

The Committee chaired by Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris was appointed by the Prime Minister after many parties raised concerns over the proposed amendment. Government lawmakers Udaya Gmmanpila, Ali Sabry, Wimal Weerawansa, Nimal Siripala de Silva, Susil Premajayantha, Dilan Perera, S. Wiyalendran and Premnath C. Dolawatte are the other members of the Committee.

Co-Cabinet Spokespersons Ministers Keheliya Rambukwella and Ramesh Pathirana were ‘grilled’ by journalists regarding the report prepared by the Committee. However, Minister Pathirana said, “We have not taken any steps to withdraw or amend this draft.” He said that any changes to the 20th Amendment will be made during the Committee Stage in Parliament.

The Chief Opposition Whip and SJB Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella said that the people had a right to know who had prepared the 20th Amendment and the Government should reveal the names of its architects.

He told the media at the SJB Headquarters in Etul Kotte, “Those who framed all Constitutions since 1948 are known. In 1948, we got a Constitution that had been prepared by Lord Soulbury. In the preparation of the Soulbury Constitution, all parties including delegations from Jaffna, Up-country and Southern provinces were given the opportunity to submit proposals. That should be the procedure.

In 1970, we had the Republican Constitution. It was framed by Dr. Colvin R. de Silva and others. We had a Second Republican Constitution in 1978 with President J.R. Jayewardene as its author. President Chandrika Kumaratunga also tried to introduce a new Constitution and Prof. G. L. Peiris was its author. Thereafter, we brought in the 19th Amendment to the Constitution and I presented it to the House. It was prepared by Dr. Jayampathy Wickremaratne. Now, we have before us a draft amendment which has no architect.”

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa who telephoned Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday, September 17 expressed their strong desire and commitment to further strengthen the relationship between the two neighbouring countries.

The Sri Lankan President and the Prime Minister called Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday to convey their warm wishes on the occasion of the Indian Prime Minister’s birthday. The Sri Lankan leaders had expressed appreciation for the continued bilateral cooperation including the joint fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. The Indian Premier thanked both Leaders for their warm wishes and said that he looked forward to working with them to further expand cooperation between the two countries in line with India’s ‘Neighbourhood First Policy’.

Fourth anniversary

A series of meetings were held at the SLPP headquarters at Nelum Mawatha under the patronage of SLPP National Organiser, Basil Rajapaksa, to educate its representatives at district level on the SLPP Convention to be held at Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium on November 2 to mark its fourth anniversary.

All district level SLPP Parliamentarians, Provincial Councilors and the Heads of the Local Government institutions had been called for the meetings and Rajapaksa had briefed them regarding the arrangements for the ceremony which has been planned on a grand scale. The SLPP National Organiser had informed his staff that the participation of Ministers Rohitha Abeygunawardena and Prasanna Ranatunga is essential as they have been entrusted with the responsibility to organise the Party Convention and other affiliated organisations of the SLPP.

National Organiser, SLPP, Basil Rajapaksa told the meeting of Gampaha district representatives “Although the SLPP is of recent origin, it won three major elections during the past four years with an overwhelming majority. I thank all those who made this sacrifice for our victory. Therefore, we should organise our party convention on a grand scale. Rajapaksa requested everybody to extend their support to make this endeavour a success.

Rural Roads and Alternative Infrastructure State Minister, Nimal Lanza, said the Yahapalana Government had introduced the 19th Amendment to strengthen the position of the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe by pruning down the executive powers of then President Maithripala Sirisena.

At a recent public gathering in the Negombo Town Hall, State Minister Lanza said the 19th Amendment had not done any good to the country. He said after the Easter Sunday carnage, the Yahapalana Government which was in power at the time had not been able to remove the IGP and elections were not held on time and there was a tug-of-war between the President and the Prime Minister.

He said, “The country moved backwards under the Yahapalana Government and national security was jeopardised.” Due to those drawbacks, the people gave a two-thirds majority to the incumbent Government at the last General Election. Lanza said that after Wickremesinghe’s dream of becoming the President of the country was shattered, he started enhancing the powers enjoyed by him as the Prime Minister by making use of the 19th Amendment and one of his prime concerns was to do everything possible to remove the Rajapaksas from politics once and for all.

Former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, former Minister Mangala Samaraweera, former Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka and JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake arrived at the Presidential Commission of Inquiry appointed to probe incidents of political victimisation around 10.15 am yesterday, September19.

They appeared before the Presidential Commission yesterday. This is with regard to a complaint filed by former Director General of the Divi Neguma Department, Kithsiri Ranawaka.


On Friday, September 18, State Minister Arundika Fernando climbed a coconut tree to talk about the soaring prices of coconuts in the local market. He told the media from atop a coconut tree, that coconut prices in Sri Lanka have risen due to increased demand for coconut products in the world market. The Minister had climbed the coconut tree at his home garden in Dankotuwa with the help of a coconut tree climbing machine manufactured by a person in the Warakapola area.

Minister Fernando who personally tested the machine said that this will be introduced to the local market in the next few months. The Minister, who plucked a few coconuts from the tree, said the price of a coconut today has gone up to Rs.100 and a worker who climbs a coconut tree should also be given Rs. 100.