The Sunday Leader

13th Amendment Is UNP’s Brainchild – John Amaratunga

By Camelia Nathaniel

John Amaratunga, Chief Opposition Whip and UNP parliamentarian, while admitting that there are certain drawbacks in the 13th Amendment, stresses that the main principle was devolution of power. Pointing out that if the TNA is not willing to participate in the Parliamentary Select Committee, the UNP too would avoid it, Amaratunga notes that the JVP is not a party that could ever come into power to bring about devolution. On granting police and land powers to provincial councils, Amaratunga says he is unable to comment.
Following are excerpts of the interview:

Q. There has been a lot of focus on the 13th amendment recently. What is the UNP’s proposed solution?
A. Our stand is that we are having a parliamentary select committee. But the TNA is not participating.

The people who are affected are those in the North and if those political parties are not participating what is the point in us going there?

It is being done purely to accommodate and satisfy their request and if they are not willing to participate, we are also avoiding it.

First of all we want to see what the government’s stand is and then we will make our decision clear whether we support or oppose it.

Q. The UNP, following the Indo Lanka Accord, formulated the 13th Amendment, but the UNP itself admits that there are certain shortcomings that have failed to address the national issue. How does the UNP see an alternative solution?
A. We also concede that this 13th amendment was put through in a hurry. It has certain drawbacks, lapses and faults.
But the main principle was devolution of power.

Therefore in that context there have been certain shortcomings and should we come into power we will rectify them, and ensure that there is proper devolution and it is beneficial for the people who are affected.

Q. Could the abolition of the 13th amendment help bring a solution?
A. We are not toying with the idea of abolishing the 13th amendment.
That is our brainchild and we have to develop it or ensure that it grows for the welfare and benefit of the people.

Q. The JVP has presented proposals to help lay the foundation for a lasting solution, they claim. What is the UNP’s view on this?
A. I have not seen that proposal and therefore I am unable to comment on it.
The JVP however, is not a party that could ever come into power to bring about devolution, solution or anything concerning the 13th amendment.

It is either the SLFP or the UNP that has to do this.

These are the two alternative parties that governed the country from time to time.
Therefore their contentions in fact do not make any impact.

Q. The UNP having come out with a draft constitution, could you elaborate on the current situation?
A. The draft constitution is being circulated among the civil society of all organisations in order for them to come up with any further developments to those provisions that are laid down in the draft constitution.

The main idea is to make it as democratic as possible and collect the ideas of these societies and then come up with the final draft.

Q. The president has stated that police and land powers will not be given to the provincial councils in the current form. In your opinion will this have any purpose?
A. That is a point that we have to be careful because even at the very inception police and land powers were not given to the provincial councils.

Therefore I am unable to comment on it as to whether we as a political party will give those land powers and police powers or withhold them.
I am unable to make a comment at this stage.

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