Tamil MPs walk out in protest

[TamilNet, Monday, 24 September 2001, 08:53 GMT]
The MPs of Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO) and the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) walked out in protest when the bill on the 17th amendment to Sri Lanka's constitution was presented by the Prime Minister in the Parliament Monday morning. Tamil parties are protesting that the government is rushing the 17th amendment according to the dictates of the Marxist Janata Vimukthi Peramuna by ditching the effort to find a solution to the ethnic problem. "For more than fifty years you did not take any interest in solving the Tamil question. If you continue to ignore our problem in this manner, a united Sri Lanka would soon be a thing of the past," said Selvam A. Adaikalanathan, MP for Vanni, addressing the house before walking out with other Tamil MPs.

"The most pressing problem in the country is the ethnic question. You should first solve our problem. But you are acting only according to the JVP’s bidding to keep yourself in power," the MP said.

Responding to a call by the Prime Minister for the Parliament to express support for America's war on terrorism, Adaikalanthan said: "The attack in America was certainly terrorism. We too condemn it. But we denounce your attempt to brand our struggle as terrorism. What is happening in this country is the Tamil people's struggle against prolonged ethnic discrimination and oppression. Our people are fighting state terrorism".

He further said: "You will not be able to get the benefits of the 17th amendment if you do not declare a ceasefire, negotiate with the Liberation Tigers and lift the economic embargo on the Wanni".

The sole MP of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress, Mr. A. Vinayagamoorthy did not join TULF and TELO as he awaited his time slot to speak on why his party is opposing the bill.

"We are not opposed to the establishment of constitutional council. But we oppose the government for not giving topmost priority to find a negotiated political settlement for the ethnic problem before bringing piecemeal constitutional reforms. Hence our walkout from parliament when debating the 17th amendment" said leaders of Tamil parties later.

At the commencement of parliament the Speaker Anura Bandaranaike announced the determination of the Supreme Court on the 17th amendment draft bill. The Supreme Court said, "the 17th amendment would become law if it is passed with 2/3rd majority in parliament. Referendum is not needed."

Thereafter the Prime Minister tabled the 17th amendment for debate. Opening the debate Mr.Ratnasiri Wickremanayake said the government has brought the amendment to establish constitutional council and four independent commissions fulfilling a promise given by the People's Alliance in 1994 elections.

The Prime Minister announced the proposed composition of the constitutional council.

"The Prime Minister, Opposition Leader and Speaker will be ex-officio members of the constitutional council. President's nominee will be also a member of the council. In addition to this the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader would jointly nominate five other members. Among them two would be from minority communities. One more member would be appointed to the council on the advice of other opposition parties except the party represented by the opposition leader" said Mr.Ratnasiri Wickremanayake.

Mr.Tyronne Fernando, United National Party parliamentarian said the opposition has submitted several suggestions to be included in the draft bill. If these suggestions were included in the draft bill during second reading, his party would participate in the voting. Otherwise his party would not support the draft bill.

"According to the draft bill by the government in parliament, the independence of the constitutional council is tampered. Hence our party is not in a position to support the draft amendment at this stage", Mr.Tyronne Fernando said.

The parliamentary group of the main opposition UNP met at parliamentary complex Monday morning decided not to participate in the voting of the 17th amendment if the government failed to include the suggestions made by it and other opposition parties.

In the meantime, Mr.Gamini Atukorale, UNP Assistant Leader Monday said that his party would hand over a no-confidence motion against the PA government to the Speaker on Wednesday.

He said,"already 80 parliamentarians have signed the motion. Several parliamentarians are expected to sign the no-confidence motion Monday and Tuesday".

He said his party wanted to debate the no-confidence motion before October 10.

The Executive President is empowered to dissolve the parliament after the expiry of one year since the last general election, according to the present constitution. The last general election was held 10th October 2000.


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