On 3 May 2007, Minister Dinesh Gunawardena and the then Minister of Public Security were castigated by the Supreme Court (SC) for having misled the Cabinet on two important matters. This was in connection with President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s unprecedented request to be given a plot of land close to Parliament when she retired. Being in charge of the Urban Development Authority (UDA), Minister Gunawardena had identified a 1.5-acre plot of land, presumably in close consultation with President Kumaratunga, and went on to inform the Cabinet that the piece of land was of “insignificant value”, notwithstanding the fact that it had been filled at great cost by the State. Furthermore, she herself had previously stated that, in the event of being given the said plot, she would waive her pension rights and also her entitlement to an official residence. A few months after this proposal had been approved by the Cabinet, its members were told that President Kumaratunga lacked an official residence in Colombo, without any mention of her having waived her right to have one, and approval was secured not only for her to be given an official residence on Independence Avenue but, before that, to throw out the two government institutions which were housed there. To add to these wrongdoings, she was allocated funds of the order of Rs35 Million for renovating the vacated building. The Citizens’ Movement of Good Governance (CIMOGG) has previously referred to these matters, including the fact that the official residence was renovated by breaching the requisite tender procedures (see www.cimogg-srilanka.org).
Just a few days ago, Minister Gunawardena is reported to have stated to the media that the 17th Amendment is now “defunct”. As a lawmaker, he is undoubtedly aware that Articles of the Constitution do not become null and void at the behest of politicians. The facts are that the 17th Amendment is still very much a part of our Constitution and that it is being violated shamelessly by the government of which Minister Gunawardena is the Chief Whip. By stating that the 17th Amendment is now defunct, without revealing that he and his governmental colleagues are flouting it brazenly, he appears to have graduated from misleading only the Cabinet, as in the President Kumaratunga matters, to the larger task of misleading the whole Nation as well.
Mr Somapala Gunadheera has, in the ISLAND of 11 January 2010, very clearly exposed the falsity of Minister Gunawardena’s claim. CIMOGG would like to add that this Minister was one of those 224 MPs (with one other MP abstaining) who helped to pass the 17th Amendment, bringing it into effect on 3 October 2001. From about the end of 2004, he, together with all his colleagues in the government, has persisted in dishonouring the oath that he and the other 223 MPs took on assuming office, the last few words of which read “… I will to the best of my ability uphold and defend the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka”. The People of Sri Lanka deserve better.