Prez-Govt. clash pushes country further into chaos
The war declared by President Maithripala Sirisena on Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and his United National Front (UNF) Government keeps taking new twists with last week bringing about a series of political dialogues that resulted in Sri Lanka receiving international attention as well. However, it could be said that the attention received is not for good reasons.
The week’s events were clouded by the statements made by the President at his monthly meeting with the heads of media institutions.
At the meeting convened at the President’s House in Fort, one media head inquired from the President whether he would appear before the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) probing the Easter Sunday attacks to testify.
“I have not been summoned by the PSC and I will not go before it anyway. The PSC cannot summon the President,” Sirisena has said before launching a scathing attack against the PSC.
The President has charged that the PSC was nothing but a “political drama”.
“The drama is being staged by Temple Trees and practiced there every evening. It is then staged for the public the following day. It is simply a script written and directed by Temple Trees, practiced there, and staged before cameras,” the President added.
The President has then gone on to express his concerns about the PSC, which he has been saying in public since the committee commenced sittings earlier this month.
When the President was posed a question on whether he will be contesting the next presidential election, instead of giving a direct response, Sirisena said: “I have been in politics for 52 years. I have passed many milestones in those 52 years. I will act according to the decision of my party, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). Since no other party has announced their candidates, the SLFP is in no hurry to announce its plans.”
Afterwards, the President spoke of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.
“The country has been destroyed by the 19th Amendment. The 18th Amendment is akin to a monarchy. The 19th Amendment brought instability to the country. The Prime Minister has said that two drivers cannot steer a vehicle. I would like to note that the vehicle needs to be steered by the driver who has received the license endorsed by 6.2 million voters. But another driver took a license from Parliament and sat in the front seat,” Sirisena said, explaining to the media heads about how two drivers came into being.
According to the President, the driver who has received the endorsement of over 6.2 million voters needs to be given the opportunity to steer the vehicle.
“When the driver with 6.2 million votes tries to shift the gear and move the vehicle forward, the driver who has also come to the front seat with a license from Parliament tries to shift the gear as well.
“Occasionally, the other driver tries to hang on to one side of the steering wheel as well. Then the vehicle veers of the street and meets with an accident,” the President has elaborated.
He has then called for the abolition of the 19th Amendment before the next presidential election.
The President has further noted that a group of pundits who have never had experience in drafting a constitution had drafted the 19th Amendment. He has added that the 19th Amendment was drafted by a group of NGO personnel.
Be that as it may, it is the next topic broached by the President that resulted in Sri Lanka once again being in the limelight before the international community.
Sirisena has then spoken of his decision to end the moratorium on capital punishment, which Sri Lanka has endorsed before the UN.
According to the President, he has already signed the necessary documents to hang four individuals found guilty of drug peddling and the date to carry out the sentences has already been set.
Govt. turns away
Hearing the statements made by the President at the media heads’ meeting, the UNF Government led by the Prime Minister, decided to ignore the comments made about the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.
A senior UNF Minister told the Black Box that if the President had a problem with the amendment, he should then refer it to Parliament since that was the forum to take up such issues.
According to the Minister, it is important to understand that the 19th Amendment was a piece of intermediary legislation that was to pave the way for the eventual abolition of the executive presidency.
However, if there are any issues regarding the amendment, it is a matter for Parliament, he added.
Former President, Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa, once again came out criticising the 19th Amendment without referring to the negative impact of the 18th Amendment that pushed for the implementation of the 19th Amendment.
Rajapaksa and his loyalists conveniently ignored the objections raised by Sirisena with regard to the 18th Amendment, which he claimed created a rule similar to a monarchy.
Be that as it may, the star last week was the move to re-implement capital punishment in the country.
While the Justice Ministry and the Prisons Department were caught unawares, Sirisena has had to hold on to his plans with the Prisons Commissioner General giving an undertaking to court that the capital punishment would not be carried out for a period of one week. This was made in reference to the writ application filed by senior journalist Malinda Seneviratne, seeking an enjoining order against the President’s move to end the moratorium on capital punishment.
The international community has also come forward expressing concerns over the comments made by the President. (See box)
On the other side of the political divide, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) met for the sixth round of talks last Wednesday (26).
SLPP Chairman Prof. G.L. Peiris was unable to attend the meeting since he was overseas and SLFP representative MP Thilanga Sumathipala was also absent since he was held up at an urgent engagement. Therefore, the SLFP was represented by Party Secretary MP Dayasiri Jayasekara and former Secretary Rohana Lakshman Piyadasa. The SLPP was represented by MP Dullas Alahapperuma and Jagath Wellawatte.
The discussion lasted for about 45 minutes.
The discussion was focused on the structure of the alliance, especially the office bearers of the alliance.
Both the SLFP and SLPP have presented their own proposals on the structure of the proposed political alliance.
Focus has been paid to the appointment of an alliance leader, chairman, general secretary, national organiser, treasurer, and the politburo.
Accordingly, the SLFP has handed its proposal to the SLPP representatives and vice versa.
While the SLPP is currently studying the proposal handed over by the SLFP, the SLFP’s Central Committee (CC) is to appoint a committee to study the SLPP’s proposal.
The next round of talks between the SLFP and SLPP is to be fixed after Prof. Peiris returns to the country this Friday (5 July).
Meanwhile, several political parties represented in the “Joint Opposition” in Parliament have called on Opposition Leader Rajapaksa to form a broad alliance between those parties and the SLPP.
The National Freedom Front (NFF) led by MP Wimal Weerawansa, the Pivithuru Hela Urumaya led by MP Udaya Gammanpila, and the Democratic Left Front (DLF) led by MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara have made this request from Rajapaksa.
Another 100-day programme
While the SLPP is in discussion to finalise the formation of a broad alliance consisting of political parties represented in the “Joint Opposition”, plans are also underway to formulate a 100-day programme that would eventually force the removal of the Government.
MP Alahapperuma said earlier last week that following the announcement of the SLPP’s presidential candidate by Opposition Leader Rajapaksa on 11 August at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium, the party would launch a 100-day political programme that would eventually culminate in the removal of the UNF Government.
Referring to the 100-day programme that was launched by the “Yahapalana” Government in early 2015, Alahapperuma said that the SLPP’s 100-day programme was aimed at toppling the Government.
As for the SLPP’s presidential hopeful, MP Prasanna Ranatunge, taking a swipe at the SLFP last week, charged that regardless of what political alliance is formed, the next presidential candidate would be fielded by the SLPP.
Meanwhile, the SLFP CC met on Wednesday (26) at 6 p.m. under the patronage of Party Leader, President Sirisena.
Both Jayasekara and Piyadasa had arrived at the CC meeting after concluding the discussion with the SLPP.
Following a request made by Sirisena, Jayasekara and Piyadasa had briefed the gathering of the matters discussed at the meeting with the SLPP representatives.
It was then decided to appoint a committee consisting Jayasekara, Piyadasa, Sumathipala, and MPs Nimal Siripala de Silva, Mahinda Amaraweera, Faiszer Musthapha, and Lasantha Alagiyawanna to study the proposal presented by the SLPP on the structure of the proposed alliance.
The next matter taken up for discussion was the issue of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution that was raised by the President earlier that day. The President had explained the issues that have arisen due to the implementation of the 19th Amendment and MPs Jayasekara, de Silva, and Amaraweera have also joined in the discussion.
It was then decided that a broad discussion needed to be initiated to create public awareness on the political issues created by the 19th Amendment.
It was the North Western Province Governor Peshala Jayaratne who proposed to the CC that the SLFP should field its own candidate at the next presidential elections scheduled to be held in another four months.
The proposal was approved unanimously and a majority of the members at the meeting have voiced their approval, saying the SLFP must field its own candidate at the next presidential election.
JVP to the streets
The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) meanwhile, announced last week that the party will hold a protest march in July against the Government.
The JVP has planned to launch a protest march from Kalutara on Sunday (7 July), which is to conclude on Monday (8 July) with a rally in Nugegoda.
Announcing the protest march, JVP Leader MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake said that it is now time to seek a new mandate from the people since the incumbent Government had failed to ensure public security, economic development, and eliminate corruption in the country.
He called on all the legislators in Parliament to support the No-Confidence Motion moved by the JVP against the Government.
However, Dissanayake immediately added that it did not mean the country needed a Rajapaksa-type rule once again.
According to the comrade, the public should stand for a new political culture.
The JVP commenced its anti-Government agitation campaign with a protest held earlier this month on Wednesday (12) in Colombo.