By Skandha Gunasekara
The Government had no interest in delaying Provincial Council Elections, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told Parliament yesterday.
The Prime Minister made this statement in response to a question posed by Joint Opposition MP Dullas Alahapperuma in Parliament yesterday, during the session allocated to raise questions with the Premier. MP Alahapperuma, pointing out that several Provincial Council (PC) terms had expired, charged that the Government was unduly postponing PC elections. “Despite a Court Order, the Government used technical measures to delay elections in three provincial councils. Accordingly, elections for the North Central, Sabaragamuwa and Eastern Provincial Councils were postponed, and it has been nine months.
In September last year, the Prime Minister assured Parliament during the debate that the Provincial Council elections would be held by March this year. However, the Government has failed to even take the National Delimitation Committee report for debate in Parliament. Within the next three months, the North, Wayamba and Central Provincial Council terms will also end, but still the Prime Minister and the subject Minister have failed to say when the elections will be held.”
Responding to Alahapperuma, the Prime Minister said that the matter of which electoral method to conduct the elections must be first resolved. “The Provincial Council elections need to be held. The issue that has arisen, and which is currently in discussion, is whether following the same electoral system used for the Local Government elections would create administrative issues. Various parties have differing views and some are of the view that we should hold the election under the former electoral system and decide on the new system at a later election, while other parties are yet to express their views on their preferences. Therefore, we hope that these parties would decide soon so that we could amend the laws if needed and hold the elections without further delay.”
He said the party leaders’ cooperation was needed to swiftly move forward with the PC elections. “In order to move forward, we need to know what the party leaders’ position is in this regard. If the party leaders’ come to a consensus on the electoral system to be followed, we can go ahead with conducting the elections,” the Prime Minister said.
Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, who also commented, hoped for a productive debate tomorrow. “At the last party leaders’ meeting, we could not come to an agreement on the electoral system that the election should be held under. There were two opinions, and we hope that with Friday’s debate, we could come to some settlement,” said the Speaker.
While asserting that there would be no revival of the LTTE, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe assured Parliament yesterday that action would be taken against State Minister Vijayakala Maheswaran for her recent remarks on the terrorist organisation.
The Premier made these remarks while making a special statement in Parliament yesterday, establishing the UNP’s official stance on the controversial statement; adding that he would meet with the State Minister and listen to her explanation on the matter before deciding on what disciplinary action to take.
The Speaker of the House has already taken steps to hold an inquiry with regards to the matter. “Our political committee met immediately and discussed the matter. Maheswaran will be given an opportunity to explain herself. Necessary steps will follow her explanation,” he said.
The Premier further pointed out that the people and the military were able to free the country of terrorism, with many sacrificing their lives. “The Parliament was attacked. We will always secure the sovereignty of this country. The LTTE is already banned. There is no need of reviving. We are still to reach a political solution that can be agreed upon by all communities in the country. The Government, under the headship of President Maithripala Sirisena, is presently carrying out the land-releasing process. Development is compulsory for the North and East,” the Prime Minister said.
He then charged that those who were responsible for bribing LTTE leader Prabhakaran to win elections were now criticising the Government over Maheswaran’s statements. “These are the very persons who gave party resident portfolio to an ex-LTTE head, Karuna Amman, who has killed over 600 police officers. These are the same people who bribed LTTE leader Prabhakaran to win an election. These are the very people who sent the Army Commander who won the war to prison. How right is it for them to make such a big fuss about this when they have acted like the way they have?” he demanded.