Direction Sri Lanka Press Conference
‘Direction Sri Lanka – Independent Professional for the Nation’- a collective of professionals consisting largely of legal and medical practitioners held a press conference on April 20. At the press conference, they put forth their statement consisting of proposals for the parliament to look into. “We spoke to those protesting, looked at their demands and translated their demands to an action place that is within the legal framework of this country,” stated Rajeev Amarasuriya, a member of Direction Sri Lanka and former Secretary of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL).
Immediate action plan
“Caretaker/Interim National Government shall function for a maximum period of 1 year. The persons holding portfolios in this Caretaker/ Interim National Government should have adequate and appropriate educational qualifications and specialized skills required for them to hold their respective portfolios and also be persons of the highest integrity”
– Rajeev Amarasuriya, Member – Direction Sri Lanka
He shared that the action plan they had put together had two phases: actions that should be taken immediately and actions that should be taken in the long term. As for the actions that should be taken immediately, the group called for the resignation of the President in response to the demands of the people using Article 38(1) (b) of the Constitution, a Successor President be elected using Article 40 (1) (a) of the Constitution, the Prime Minister to resign after the election of the Successor President using Article 47 (2) (b) of the Constitution. “It is important to have a government during this crisis situation. Therefore, we call for the formation of a Caretaker/Interim National Government comprising of a new Prime Minister and a cabinet limited to 18 essential portfolios along with an equal number of Deputy Ministers, representing all political parties. This Caretaker/Interim National Government shall function for a maximum period of 1 year. The persons holding portfolios in this Caretaker/ Interim National Government should have adequate and appropriate educational qualifications and specialized skills required for them to hold their respective portfolios and also be persons of the highest integrity. MPs on the National List should be encouraged to resign as necessary to pave way for professionals/experts of highest integrity to be represented in the Caretaker/Interim National Government,” said Amarasuriya, adding that the Caretaker/ Interim National Government should take steps to rescind the 20th Amendment and reintroduce the 19th Amendment with necessary amendments addressing the democratic way of governance.
Long term action plan
As for the long term action plan the group called for the Caretaker/Interim National Government to have a moratorium on the sale of country’s assets, establish a transparent Government Procurement Process to ensure accountability and interest of the country, appoint a group of experts with core competencies in economic management to advice the government on reviving the economy of the country, secure Bridge Financing at concessionary interest rates and conditions, not to obtain commercial financing with commercial interest rates, conclude agreements with IMF and other Financial agencies following due parliamentary process and with complete transparency, ensure provision of essential services and supplies to the public promptly, to take all measures to stabilize the Sri Lankan Rupee, strictly observe Rule of Law including measures to protect and consolidate wealth of the nation and to take immediate measures to ensure efficacy of the Commission of Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption.
In their statement, the group had also proposed to hold Presidential and Parliamentary elections within the maximum period of one year and enact the necessary constitutional amendments reflecting the will of the people. “Currently we don’t have the money and resources to go for an election, but we call for National Elections (Presidential and Parliamentary) to be held within a year. In the case of weak economic situation, National Elections should be given precedence over Local Government and Provincial council elections,” Amarasuriya elaborated.
We have a duty to provide guidance to people’s movement
“Our action plan is able to operationalize the demands of the people within the legal framework. We put this forward because we cannot be silent anymore.
– Dr. Ruvaiz Haniffa, Member – Direction Sri Lanka,
Speaking at the press conference, Dr. Ruvaiz Haniffa, a member of Direction Sri Lanka, shared that as senior professionals, they have a sense of duty to provide guidance and advice to the people’s movement. “Our action plan is able to operationalize the demands of the people within the legal framework. We put this forward because we cannot be silent anymore. The future of the youth of this country is threatened and we have a duty to provide guidance to the youth who are at the forefront of the people’s movement.”
Dr. Sarath de Silva, a member of Direction Sri Lanka and Prof. Indika Karunathilake, Vice President of the Faculty of Medicine Teachers’ Association and member of Direction Sri Lanka shared that as professionals, they serve the people so they have a duty to stand with the people. Prof. Karunathilleke called for the need for transparency and accountability in the parliament. Dr M.K. Ragunathan, a Member of Direction Sri Lanka shared the solution should come from the parliament and that as professionals, they are putting the pressure on both; government and opposition to come up with a solution to the crisis.
People’s demands are within the constitution
Those in the parliament have a duty to uphold the constitution, uphold the sovereignty of the people and work towards the betterment of the people.
– Ikram Mohamed PC
Ikram Mohamed, PC, stated that the Constitution of Sri Lanka vests sovereignty in the people. “The sovereignty is expressed by the Constitution and exercised through the government organs. The Supreme Court has said in numerous cases that what is vested with the authorities such as Prime Minister, President and all other authorities is not absolute. That is an authority that should be exercised for the benefit and welfare of the people. They cannot do what they want to do. The present context seems to indicate that the authority has breached that and violated the sovereignty of the people.” He also touched upon whether the demands of the people asking the President and Prime Minister to go home are legitimate. “Since all of us can’t get to the parliament, we have the concept of electing members to the parliaments for the fixed period of time. Those in the parliament have a duty to uphold the constitution, uphold the sovereignty of the people and work towards the betterment of the people. People have given the proxy to the parliament to act on their behalf, and this proxy can be revoked if the proxy holders act in contrary to the intention and requests of the people. Removal of President, Prime Minister and other authorities are in the Constitution but what people can do is to protest requesting them to step down. People’s demands are within the constitution.” He also added that since no member of parliament including the President came in with votes of the entire population, the demands of the majority should be heeded to. “No one was elected winning 100% of the polls, those who received majority of the votes entered the parliament. Even the President only received 6.9 million votes while the main opposing candidate received 5.5 million votes. The President was elected because he received majority of the polled votes. Therefore, when majority of the population are protesting, they should heed it and resign.”
“One must have the humility to say they were here to serve, they failed to do so therefore they are giving it up to someone else who can serve the people, and they should leave. We don’t have that sort of accountability here. We must hold them accountable” – Geoffrey Alagaratnam PC
Geoffrey Alagaratnam PC, shared that all these offices are held in trust and that people elect rulers to serve them, not to rule and laud their power over the people that elected them. “One must have the humility to say they were here to serve, they failed to do so therefore they are giving it up to someone else who can serve the people, and they should leave. We don’t have that sort of accountability here. We must hold them accountable.”
“Protests are extremely disciplined and peaceful, and the demands are very clear. The use of lethal force on unarmed protesters cannot be justified under any circumstance.
– Chanaka de Silva, PC – Member, Direction Sri Lanka
We condemn the usage of lethal force
“Protests are extremely disciplined and peaceful, and the demands are very clear. The use of lethal force on unarmed protesters cannot be justified under any circumstance. The use of lethal force can create an environment where it seems like authorities are asking for trouble,” said Chanaka de Silva PC.
The people are protesting not just for themselves, they are protesting for the betterment of the entire country, for the benefit of the entire Sri Lankan population. So, I request the armed forces and police to think about that”
– Dr. Sunil Wijayasinghe, Member – Direction Sri Lanka
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