Members of the United National Party (UNP) Working Committee have requested party leader, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe not to proceed with the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the formation of the proposed Democratic National Front (DNF), until several amendments are made to the draft Constitution of the proposed political alliance.
Several Working Committee members have forwarded written requests on the matter to Wickremesinghe.
Meanwhile, several Working Committee members have submitted several amendments proposed to be included in the DNF Constitution.
Amendments/additions to the proposed Constitution of the Democratic National Front are as follows:
i. Amendment to Article 33
The General Secretary of the Front to be a nominee of the UNP.
ii. Amendment to Article 19(ii)
Every Founder Constituent Party of the front who shall have two or more members represented in Parliament, shall be entitled to nominate one member of such Constituent Party to the Leadership Council, as long as such Constituent Party is a Constituent Party of the Front. Such nomination shall be made by the General Secretary of that Constituent Party.
iii. Addition of the following to Article 19
The UNP to be entitled to nominate members to the Leadership Council to make up a numerical majority of members of the Leadership Council t any given time (eg.: the constituent party nominees number five, then the UNP to be entitled to nominate six members)
This Numerical Majority of the UNP shall apply even when the Leadership Council requests nomination of members to the Leadership Council under Article 19.4
iv. Article 26 is vague and ambiguous (should reflect the view of the majority)
v. Deletion of Articles 16, 17 and 18 as they transgress the functions and powers of the UNP and other Constituent Parties.
vi. Deletion of Article 21 as it does not reflect a transparent and democratic process in selection. It is also vague and ambiguous (Seniority)
vii. Amendment of Article 24
The Leader of the Front shall be a nominee from the UNP. Such nominee to be nominated and endorsed by the UNP.
viii. Amendment to Article 63
The nominee for the Presidential Election will not be considered a Casus Omissus and in no way will be dealt as an omission to the Constitution.
ix. Amendment to Article 3
Heated Working Committee meeting
The UNP Working Committee meeting held at Temple Trees yesterday (1) resulted in a heated debate over concerns raised on the draft Constitution presented of the proposed political alliance.
While all members agreed to the formation of the alliance, a majority objected to several contentious clauses in the draft Constitution and called on the party leadership to halt the signing of the MOU until a consensus is reached on the constitutional amendments.
Contention over draft Constitution
The UNP members have pointed out that the proposed Constitution of the Democratic National Front would undermine the rights of the UNP parliamentary group, especially the party’s Working Committee to decide on the UNP’s candidate at the next presidential election.
Clause 23 (b) of the Constitution has pointed out the manner in which nomination of candidates would take place for parliamentary, provincial council and local government elections.
However, the clause does not refer to the selection of a candidate for the presidential election.
Deciding the presidential candidate
Clause 62 of the proposed Constitution states, “The Leadership Council shall be entitled to take suitable decisions on all matters on which Constitution is silent.”
Therefore, the Leadership Council of the proposed alliance would make the final call on the matter.
The members of the Leadership Council have been explained in Clause 19.
It states “i) There shall be a Leadership Council consisting of not less than ten (10) members who shall, subject to the provisions of this Constitution, enjoy equal status and authority.
“ii) Every founder constituent party of the Front shall be entitles, so long such party is a constituent of the Front, to nominate one member of the party to the Leadership Council. Such nomination shall be made by the secretary of the party.
“iii) An individual founding member shall be a member of the Leadership Council so long as he/she is an individual member of the Front.
“iv) The Leadership Council may request a constituent party which is not a founder constituent party to nominate a member of such party to be a member of the Leadership Council. Such nomination shall be made by the secretary of the party.
“v) A person nominated by a constituent party to the Leadership Council shall, unless Parliament is dissolved at the time of nomination, be a Member of Parliament."
Clause 20 of the proposed Constitution has given decision making powers to the UNP nominee.
The clause states, “If the Council is unable to reach consensus on any issue, the decision shall be supported by a majority of the members of the Council AND a majority of the constituent parties represented in the Leadership Council. The values of the vote of the nominee of the United National Party shall be equal to fifty per centum plus one (50%+1) of the total membership of the Leadership Council.”
Therefore, Clause 20 of the proposed Constitution needs to be read along with Clause 23 (e) and 62.
Accordingly, UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has the power to either nominate himself of a representative of his choice as the presidential candidate and it cannot be challenged by any person.
In such a scenario, the powers currently vested with the UNP’s parliamentary group and the Working Committee to select the party’s presidential candidate with a majority vote will be taken away from the party.
In the event the proposed Constitution of the Democratic National Front is granted approval, the senior members of the UNP, which holds close to 80 percent of the vote base of the proposed alliance, would lose their democratic right to choose a candidate of their choice from their party.
According to the proposed Constitution, electoral organizers of the UNP will be removed and will be replaced by organizers appointed by the proposed alliance.
Clause 16 states, “As organiser may be appointed to each and every polling division in the country. Where the polling division consists of members of different communities, more than one organizer may be appointed.”
Evergreen Leader- Ranil
Through the proposed alliance, Ranil Wickremesinghe will receive the opportunity of becoming the leader of the Democratic National Front for an indefinite period.
Clause 24 states, “There shall be a Leader of the Front. The Members of the Leadership Council shall at its first meeting and whenever a vacancy occurs in the position of Leader, select the Leader of the Front who shall function as the Head of Council for a given period decided by the Council.”
Betrayal of UNPers’ powers
(c) All constituent parties and individual members of the Front shall be bound by such decision.”
General Secretary of the alliance
The UNP will not receive the post of general secretary of the proposed Democratic National Front.