Opposition demands devolution draft

[TamilNet, Thursday, 10 February 2000, 10:40 GMT]
The Leader of the Opposition and United National Party Mr.Ranil Wickremasinghe has asked the President to table the draft constitutional reforms already made public three years ago, in Parliament immediately. "We are amazed that instead of finalizing and tabling the draft constitutional reforms made public in October 1997 in Parliament, your government is now engaged in an exercise preparing new draft" said Mr.Ranil Wickremasinghe in a letter sent to the President today.

Excerpts from the letter sent by Mr Ranil Wickremasinghe to President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge are given below:

I have to date not received a reply to my letter dated January 19 this year sent to you in my capacity as the Leader of the UNP, explaining the policy that my party proposed to follow in respect of the draft constitutional reforms.

chandrika_kumarathunge_8-p.jpg"The decision to write that letter was taken to inform you that despite our reservations on certain provisions included in the draft constitutional reforms, we did not wish to follow an obstructionist policy. It is the belief of your government that the proposed reforms are the only solution to the ethnic problem. However we were amazed that instead of finalising and tabling the draft made public in October 1997, in Parliament, your government is now engaged in an exercise preparing new draft.

"What have you now got to say about constant refrain that you could not end the war and abolish the executive presidency because the UNP did not co-operate to pass the draft constitutional reforms.

"Whatever the constitutional reforms proposed to be introduced are, our party which bows to the wishes of the people believes the reforms should broaden democratic rights and not limit them. That they should be reforms that enhance the scope of fundamental and democratic rights and promote and protect media freedom. That these reforms must also broaden and protect the freedom and independence of the judiciary and pave the way for a system of free and fair elections. Further, the reforms should ensure an end to disunity between races and promote inter-ethnic harmony, confidence and mutual respect.

ranil_161299.jpg"In your address to the Nation on Independence Day too, you urged all parties to co-operate with you to find a solution to the ethnic problem. On matters of national importance, the United National Party is committed to co-operating to solve problems while rising above narrow party politics.

"Regrettably however, we note that although you have a responsibility to create an environment conducive for such co-operation, you have failed to do so. You cannot be unaware of the fact that at present a terror campaign is in operation throughout the country, threatening, assaulting, vandalizing property and even murdering not only activists of political parties but artists, media personnel and intellectuals who hold different views different to that of your government.

"We are prepared to extend our co-operation in relation to the constitutional reforms which you believe is the only solution to peace. However you must immediately put an end to the campaign of harassment and intimidation of UNP activists, artistes and media persons, a campaign which the government is carrying out with the help of certain criminal elements.

"At a time when the UNP has extended its support to the policy of constitutional reforms, which you believe will end the war, this campaign to terrorize not only UNP activities but the whole country, makes us wonder whether this is being done with the intention of creating a situation where we will no longer be able to give our support to you.

"Your constant refrain was that you be given the 16 votes needed to pass your constitutional reforms. We open the doors of co-operation and we believe it is your bounded duty to make use of that co-operation.

"Please take immediate steps to table in Parliament the constitutional reforms which were made public in 1997.

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