By Ranga Jayasuriya
The Left parties in the ruling coalition have taken a collective decision not to support an amendment that envisages weakening the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, Senior Minister and General Secretary of the Communist Party, D.E.W. Gunasekara said.
A coalition of traditional Left parties including the Communist Party, Lanka Sama Samaja Party, Socialist Left Party and Desha Vimukthi Janatha Party which are constituent parties of the ruling United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) hold 12 seats in the current Parliament.
At present, the government holds 161 seats in Parliament, including the MPs who have crossed over from other parties. However, the government cannot reach the two-thirds majority required to pass a constitutional amendment, without the 12 votes of the Left parties and the support of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and the Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP). Both the SLMC and the EPDP have opposed the campaign to abolish the 13th Amendment and the effort to trim the powers of the Provincial Councils.
Minister Gunasekara said the combined Left parties have taken a collective decision to defend the 13th Amendment. The decision was first announced when powerful Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, called for the abolishment of the 13th Amendment.
Meanwhile, Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka, at a public seminar organized by the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), said yesterday, his party would present a private member motion to abolish the 13th Amendment and the Provincial Council system.
JHU National Organizer, Nishantha Sri Warnasinghe, told this newspaper the private member motion would be finalized in two weeks and the JHU would canvass for the support of other political parties to the Bill.
Meanwhile, Indian External Affairs Minister, Salman Khurshid, rang up his Sri Lankan counterpart G.L. Peiris late last week to ask that Sri Lanka would not take action that would weaken the 13th Amendment. Khurshid reminded Prof. Peiris that President Mahinda Rajapaksa himself had given regular undertakings to Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, to build on the 13th Amendment in order to seek a political solution to the ethnic conflict.