UNF vows to block President's move to change the constitution

Mar 6 (IL) Amidst repeated claims by President Chandrika Kumaratunga that she was seeking direct approval from the people to change the constitution, her main rival, the UNF vowed yesterday it would not be part of any unconstitutional exercise to bring about a new Constitution.

Cabinet Spokesman G.L. Peiris told a news conference the government believed any move to change the constitution without a two-thirds majority in parliament would be unconstitutional.

"There must be stability, permanency and predictability with regard to the Constitution of a country. Otherwise we will have a situation in which the Constitution can be changed by a simple majority in Parliament. If that is allowed to happen there won't be a difference between a Constitution and any other written law. Imagine that after every other general election, the country will have a new Constitution. In other words the constitution would be no more than a periodical. This will be an absolute intolerable state of affairs," Minister Peiris said.

The Minister admitted that there was a need for changes to the Constitution in respect to the strengthening of fundamental rights, electoral reforms and the abolishing of the Executive Presidency, but added that such a procedure should be carried out in a lawful manner.

"We will not agree to any ad-hoc methods to change the Constitution as that is no way to resolve any problem facing the country," he said.

The UNF also blamed what it called the Alliance's lack of transparency and demanded that it named their potential Prime Minister if a UPFA administration was elected to office at the April election.

The Cabinet Spokesman claimed the stance adopted by the UPFA had brought about a 'strange situation', militating against tradition that a party generally nominates their favorable candidate for the office of the Prime Minister.

"There is a total lack of transparency on the part of the Alliance in this regard. We think it is appropriate for the Alliance to tell the country who they propose to have as Prime Minister, if the UPFA is elected to power," he said.

He also alleged little was known about what President Kumaratunga had up her sleeve. "The UPFA's national list for instance which has been announced is marked by 'uncertainties', and no one knows what the correct list is," Prof. Peiris said.

The minister also charged that there was an increasing tendency on the part of the President to take over Ministries for political purposes. He also claimed she was interfering with the functions of the police and other vital forces.

"Stories are planted in the government media relating to alleged abuses or malpractices. These stories are planted without any foundation and it is very clear that they are politically motivated. The stories are published with a view to prepare a foundation for action to be taken by the President. As large resources are available in these institutions, they can be used for her party's propaganda work," Prof. Peiris alleged.

Referring to some media reports, which referred to a senior Minister who was initially in the People Alliance, Mr. Peiris alleged those stories were planted in a bid to get certain police officers in the area transferred out."