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Lt. Gen Dias will spearhead campaign against 13A

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Vijitha Herath asks for PM’s stand

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Lt. General Jagath Dias has declared his intention to campaign against the full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

Having agreed to give leadership to a newly formed movement against the division of the country, the former Gajaba Regiment officer has convened a meeting at Sri Sambuddhathwa Jayanthi Mandiraya on Thursday (10 August) at 3.30 pm, to announce their stand on the 13th Amendment and related developments, including how those who betray the war-winning military should be dealt with.

Ven. Medagama Dhammananda of the Asgiriya Chapter will chair the meeting. President’s Counsel Manohara de Silva will deliver the main speech. In addition to the top lawyer, Lt. Gen. Dias, Dr. Wasantha Bandara and convener of Jaffna civil society collective Arun Siddhartha will address the gathering. Among those scheduled to attend the event are Prof. Ven. Induragare Dharmaratne, Prof. Ven. Malwane Chandraratane and Prof. Ven. Iththademaliye Indrasara.

Maj. Gen. Dias was promoted to the rank of Lt. Gen following his retirement in Dec. 2015. The former General Officer Commanding (GOC) of 57 Division – one of the frontline fighting formations deployed on the Vanni front – served as the Chief of Staff at the time of his retirement.

Lt. Gen. Dias said that implementation of land and police powers, in line with the 13th Amendment, enacted in late 1988, would divide the country. That would make Sri Lanka’s triumph over separatist LTTE terrorism irrelevant, the war veteran said. Combined security forces brought the war to a successful conclusion in May 2009.

Dias and two other retired officers, Brigadier Athula Hemachandra de Silva and Lt. Col. Anil Sumeda Amarasekera recently petitioned the Court of Appeal against the government’s decision to release state land around the historical Kurundi temple in the Mullaitivu District, the one-time LTTE bastion.

The new public campaign gets underway in the wake of President Ranil Wickremesinghe requesting all political parties and groups, represented in Parliament, to submit their written proposals/recommendations pertaining to the 13th Amendment by or before 15 August. Parliament has altogether recognized 15 political parties. Nine of them, including the UNP, are represented by one MP each.

The President’s Office said on 04 August that Saman Ekanayake, the Secretary to the President, has written to them in terms of a consensus reached at the All- Party Conference (APC), chaired by President Ranil Wickremesinghe, at the Presidential Secretariat on 26th July.

The JVP-led Jathika Jana Balawegaya (JJB) skipped the meeting. JJB lawmaker Vijitha Herath told The Island that they declined the President’s invitation, to attend APC on 26 July as it was nothing but a farce. How could the President even contemplate a consensus on this contentious issue when his party was reduced to just one MP? the JVP spokesperson asked.

Alleging that the UNP leader, in his capacity as the Yahapalana Premier, deliberately bungled an opportunity to address the entire gamut of issues by introducing a new Constitution at a time he had 2/3 majority in Parliament, MP Herath challenged Wickremesinghe to secure the support of parliamentarians who elected him as the President in July last year to serve out the balance period of ousted President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Wickremesinghe received 133 votes, primarily from the SLPP. The JVPer said that during the failed bid to reach consensus on a new Constitution, all political parties, except the UNP, submitted their proposals. Perhaps the UNP couldn’t remember how Wickremesinghe transformed the Parliament in to a Constituent Assembly to facilitate the process, the Gampaha District MP said, urging the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government to adopt a realistic strategy. Wickremesinghe’s whole intention was to convince India and other members of the international community of his readiness to resolve the national issue. “The President didn’t want to settle this issue. He just wanted to deceive those who are interested in settling the issues at hand.”

Responding to another query, lawmaker Herath said that President Wickremesinghe, soon after receiving the presidency, declared that the national issue would be settled by the last Independence Day. The JJB MP said the President, first of all, should consult his Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena in this regard. Could the President be confident of MEP leader Dinesh Gunawardena’s support for the full implementation of the 13th Amendment? The MEP parliamentary group consists of three MPs, including the PM.

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