What the people want in 21A | Daily News

What the people want in 21A

Last week the entire country was talking about the proposed 21st Amendment to the current Constitution. It is very interesting to analyze what is in the newly proposed 21st Amendment to the current Constitution and what the ordinary people of this country demand.

No matter whether we listen to the so-called ‘protestors’ who are purely undergraduates belong to a tiny political party with a representation of three percent and its sister political party which does not have any representation, we have to carefully listen and respect for the ordinary people of Sri Lanka who have been experiencing the current Constitution and all its past 20 Amendments during the past four decades. They exactly know the situation before and after the 1978 Constitution. They are the people who were born in 1952 or before.

It is very interesting to see what the ordinary people of this country want and what they have been given so far. All Sri Lankans who were born on or before 1953 (now they are 70-years-old) have the full experience of the current Constitution which was introduced to Sri Lanka in 1978 by former President J.R. Jayewardene. All the others who were born after 1953 have only a part of the experience and have the right to speak only about their part of the experience because they were just children by the time the current Constitution came into effect.

The current Constitution has been amended on 20 occasions in the past four decades and now there is a proposed 21st Amendment. There are three 21st Amendments. The first one was the one presented by the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) on May 17 and now it is in the Supreme Courts. The second one which was the 22nd Amendment was introduced by the current Justice Minister as one of his private proposals before he became the Justice Minister of this Government. The third 21st Amendment is the one he introduced after he was appointed as the Cabinet Minister of Justice.

What matters is what the ordinary people demand while fulfilling International demands. Priority should be given to the people's well-being and only then we need to fulfill the demands of foreign nations who financially assist Sri Lanka to recover from the current crisis. But there is no way of ignoring people's demands in the name of foreign aid. All Sri Lankan politicians in all political parties should understand this very clearly in order to save the country from all future blood sheds and other types of disasters.

People’s demands

What people demand is included in all three amendments mentioned above and all what is rejected by the ordinary people are also included in all three amendments. Therefore, the responsible authorities should forget their personal views, petty differences, political agendas, ‘deals’ etc. and take all three Amendments into their consideration and then include what people demand and remove what people reject.

To do this they have to take parts from all three amendments and remove parts from all three amendments. The end product should contain parts from all three amendments, the SJB Amendment, the 22nd Amendment and the 21st Amendment clearly mentioned above. Only for this final product, people should demand their representative in the Parliament to support and not for anything else as mentioned by certain politicians recently.

Recently certain politicians said the people should gather in front of the gates of the MP who represent them in the Parliament and demand him/her to support the 21st Amendment. This is not acceptable at all because it is not the last product demanded by the people and the ordinary people do not want thugs, drug addicts, criminals and a handful of wicked and vicious supporters of two certain political parties to destroy the houses of politicians for the second time within one month. Their houses have already been destroyed and there is no need to destroy them for the second time. Therefore, stupid politicians should stop provoking the people for no reason.

According to the ordinary people of this country, certain parts in all three Amendments should be included in the final product. They point out examples for those parts. They say there is a part in the Amendment presented by the SJB which says crossing over cannot be done hereafter by Parliamentarians once they get elected into the Parliament from one political party. People demand this part to be included in the last product of the 21st Amendment. It has also given the due place for the National Security Council and it should be included in the 21st Amendment. But the people say other parts of this SJB's 21st Amendment cannot be accepted and should not be included in the 21st Amendment. They reject all the other parts.

The people say that dual citizens should not be allowed to be appointed as Parliamentarians. They hate dual citizens after their experience in 2015 with the Central Bank fraud. They do not like dual citizens at all especially after the 2015 experience. But they accept anyone who gives up their foreign citizenship. They say then they can trust those Sri Lankans who give up their foreign citizenship. They say having a dual citizenship in the past should not be an issue because anyone can be a dual citizen before he/she becomes a Parliamentarian in Sri Lanka and the current dual citizens who had been appointed by the people into the current Parliament through their vote should be allowed to function as Parliamentarians until their current term ends. No National List required. No National Governments allowed. We hate the preferential system, they say.

The ordinary people say that no individuals who have connections to INGOs or NGOs should be allowed to function in any Councils, committees, panels etc in the Parliament. The representatives of the civil society are not the individuals who represent INGOs and NGOs. They are the ordinary people from far away villages in Sri Lanka who can be Government servants, farmers, self-employed persons who should possess a sound education. Even some farmers have degrees obtained from State universities.

The ordinary people say that the President should have the Defence Ministry and the President should be directly elected by the people. Only the people will be able to send the President home and no one else. They say that both the Executive President and the Prime Minister should be appointed through two separate direct elections just as it happens since 1978 up to now. This system should not be changed. They say no room should be left for the Parliamentarians to take the Prime Minister or the President to ransom. This is the weakness we saw during the past four decades from time to time especially after 2014, they stressed.

Benefits for Parliamentarians

The ordinary people ask where the cutting down of special benefits for Parliamentarians are. They say the retirement age for Parliamentarians should be 60 and they should not be entitled for a pension no matter how long they serve as a Parliamentarian. They say that the salaries of Parliamentarians, Ministers etc. should be in accordance with the Central Salaries and Remuneration Commission. No need for any other Ministers except 25 Cabinet Ministers, they say.

Parliamentarians should not have a special health care system. The people say that all benefits such as free travel, free rations, free electricity, free water, free telephone services, etc. should be abolished. All subsidies available for Parliamentarians including food at the Parliament Canteen should be withdrawn. They say that no individual with defamatory reports, criminal allegation, convicts etc. should be allowed to contest in elections. This should be included in the 21st Amendment.

The ordinary people do not stop there. They say that financial losses caused by all Parliamentarians must be recovered from them, their families, nominees and properties. All Parliamentarians should abide by all the rules laid on the common people. All required legislation should be included in the 21st Amendment.

The most important part of the ordinary people's view on the Sri Lankan Constitution did not receive any attention at all because no mainstream media or social media mentioned those views even at once. The ordinary people of this country who are public servants in low grades, farmers, three-wheeler drivers, self-employed people etc. say that they had no issues at all with the current 1978 Constitution during the first decade. All the amendments should be removed from this 1978 Constitution and it should be the original 1978 Constitution, they say.

When questioned about the political, social, religious, cultural, etc. changes that took place during the past four decades and the need of addressing those changes through the Constitution, they say that only minor Amendments can address all those changes without making any significant change in the 1978 Constitution. We are almost 70 years or older by now. We very clearly saw and heard ourselves what happened before 1978 and after 1988. So no need to tell us what the country needs and what the country does not need. We need a Constitution and not a pickle (Achcharuwa) that cannot find what taste it is, they say. 

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