Determined Ranil to build pro-democracy coalition

Tuesday, 13 November 2018 01:08 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • In response to President’s statement, says will battle to restore democracy 
  • Laments political developments, slams dissolution of Parliament as unconstitutional 
  • Defends Speaker’s actions, believes they were justified, followed international practices 
  • Plans to build coalition of people working for democracy
  • Pledges to continue battle to protect freedoms restored in 2015  


Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday pledged to build a broad coalition against what he described as a return to authoritarianism and to continue the battle to restore democracy, transparency and institutional independence in Sri Lanka. 

Releasing a statement in response to the national address made by President Maithripala Sirisena on Sunday, Wickremesinghe insisted the United National Party (UNP) would stand by its efforts begun in 2015 to restore democracy to Sri Lanka, protect and uphold the Constitution and work for the development of the people. Conceding that these efforts did not progress as swiftly as was desired, he nonetheless insisted that progress was made and people were allowed to live in freedom. 

“We will not allow the precious freedoms that we fought so hard to secure to be stolen from us. I promise you that we who value our democracy will work together to save our nation from this unprecedented crisis,” he said.    

Wickremesinghe also emphasised great self-restraint was exercised by him to keep the coalition Government moving forward. Given the deep ideological differences of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the UNP, Wickremesinghe noted that he was mindful at every instance not to react emotionally, and keep the equilibrium of power intact so Sri Lanka could benefit from having its typically divisive political parties working together. 

“During the past months, I faced much heartache and many challenges. They insulted me, scolded me and lied about me but I faced these with much patience and decency. This is because I have always respected the mandate of the people. To protect this mandate, I, my party and our coalition partners worked very carefully.

“Because of this care and patience, we were able to take the coalition Government forward. This was no easy task. Look at the chaos that has been wreaked over the last two weeks. It gives you some idea of how difficult our journey of the last three years has been. During my entire career as a politician, I have worked for democracy. Twice I gave up the chance to be Presidential candidate because I wanted to do what was best for the people. Even when I was a Presidential candidate, the LTTE wanted to make agreements with me but I refused. I never betrayed my country. At that time, I protected democracy. Even now, I protect democracy and I will work to build an alliance with others who protect democracy.”

Wickremesinghe criticised President Sirisena’s actions on 26 October as betraying the mandate given to him in 2015 and an effort to return to power former President Mahinda Rajapaksa who had been rejected by the people. He pointed out that, in that instance, all the UNP wanted was to convene Parliament so the Constitution could be upheld.     

“Speaker Karu Jayasuriya was given a letter signed by 116 members of Parliament, and eight others contacted him by phone. Therefore seeking a vote on the day Parliament was to be reconvened was not a wrongful action by the Speaker. This has been done by other democracies around the world, including India multiple times. In April, when a No-Confidence Motion was moved in Parliament, I proved my majority. But days before Parliament was to be reconvened, it was unconstitutionally dissolved.”

As a result of the efforts to buy Parliamentarians, public respect of MPs had dropped to a record low, Wickremesinghe observed, adding that this was a regrettable situation that could have been avoided. He also rejected claims by President Sirisena that there were fears of violence if Parliament was reconvened, contending that if such concerns existed, then they could have been resolved through discussions with the Speaker and other party leaders.  

“Instead the decision to dissolve Parliament unconstitutionally has plunged the country into political uncertainty and damaged Sri Lanka’s reputation internationally. It has alarmed people who respect democracy and Parliamentary traditions. Due to the political fallout in the last two weeks, many young people are very discouraged. Many are openly talking about leaving Sri Lanka, but where do the people who cannot do that go? What happens to their future?”

“We will work to remove Sri Lanka from these circumstances. We will strengthen the Constitution, and create unity among the people. We will create a Government that respects the rule of law, and the sovereignty of the people.”