Tamils nominate lawyer, express reservations on council

[TamilNet, Friday, 05 October 2001, 07:25 GMT]
The three opposition Tamil parties in the Sri Lankan Parliament Thursday night unanimously elected Mr. R. I. Thambiratnam, a leading lawyer, to represent the Tamil people of northeast province in the constitutional council. However, Mr. 'Selvam' Adaikalanathan, MP for the Vanni and the leader of the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO) said, "The constitutional council and the independent commissions on Police, elections, judicial services and public service are clearly aimed at clipping the powers of the executive presidency. They are intended to make the unitary state machine run more efficaciously. But the unitary state is the root cause of Tamil grievances. The council and the commissions would ensure more democracy for the Sinhala people but not the Tamils. One would have no illusions about this when one considers how these Sinhala parties which united to pass the 17th amendment dumped the equal opportunities bill."

"Nevertheless, we have nominated Mr. Thambiratnam to preclude anti-Tamil political forces in the north from nominating their candidates," he added.

The decision to appoint Mr. Thambiratnam was taken at a meeting of leaders of Tamil United Liberation Front, Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization and All Ceylon Tamil Congress held at the office of the TULF.

Several names were suggested and finally the choice was Mr.Thambiratnam, party sources said. Seventy-two year old Mr. Thambiratnam, a native of Vasavillan in Jaffna is an engineer and lawyer. He practices in the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal. His wife is a Sinhalese and a doctor by profession.

Meanwhile Mr. S. S. Wijeratne has been nominated to the constitutional council by the minor opposition parties in parliament excluding the parties represented by the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition.

This decision was taken at a discussion held Thursday at parliamentary complex with the Speaker Mr.Anura Bandaranaike in the chair. Representatives of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, Janata Vimukthi Peramuna, Sihala Urumaya, All Ceylon Tamil Congress, Tamil United Liberation Front, National Unity Alliance, Eelam Peoples' Democratic Party, Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization and Ceylon Workers Congress attended the discussion.

The Janata Vimukthi Peramuna on behalf of the minor opposition parties proposed the name of Mr. S. S.Wijeratne, a former UN consultant, for the constitutional council. The representatives of other parties accepted the JVPĚs proposal.

However the representative of Sihala Urumaya protested against representatives of National Unity Alliance, Ceylon Workers Congress and EPDP attending the discussions as their parties were in the ruling alliance.

Sihala Urumaya parliamentarian Champika Ranawake said that of the five members jointly to be nominated by the Prime Minister and Leader of Opposition, three should be from minority communities. As such it was unfair to allow representatives of Tamil and Muslim parities to participate in deliberations in nominating a person on behalf of other minor opposition parties represented in parliament, he pointed out.

In the meantime Upcountry Tamil and Muslim parliamentarians are meeting Friday separately at the parliamentary complex to select their nominees to the constitutional council.

The Prime Minister and the Leader of Opposition are also scheduled to meet Friday to discuss the question of jointly nominating five members to the constitutional council. Leaders of all political parties represented in parliament have been invited to the meeting.

Tamil and Muslim parties have been also asked to submit their nominees at this discussion.

According to the17th amendment to the constitution, the Prime Minister and the Leaders of Opposition are empowered to jointly nominate five members. Three of them will have to be from minority groups - a Sri Lankan Tamil, an upcountry Tamil and a Sri Lankan Muslim.

The ten-member constitutional council would comprises of a nominee of the President, three ex-officio members -the Prime Minister, Opposition Leader and Speaker- five members jointly nominated by Prime Minister and Leader of Opposition and a nominee by the minor opposition parties in parliament.


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