Opposition unites for “mother of all battles!”

Tuesday, 11 November 2014 02:10 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Ven. Sobitha Thero, Ranil, Chandrika and Fonseka and others form common platform
  • Key demands: Abolish executive presidency; implement 17th Amendment; introduce new electoral system
  • Ven. Sobitha says President must walk the talk and deliver his original promise and he can do it in the next two years without holding snap polls
  • Warns failure will lead to Opposition fielding a trustworthy common candidate seeking mandate for change for the better
  • Urges likeminded groups to join national movement; mega rally planned tomorrow
  • Ranil says existing Parliament could empower change; calls for masses to demand for free and fair polls
  • CBK alleges current regime abusive, endangering true democracy, violating fundamental rights, eroding independence of Judiciary, public service, Police and media
The country’s leading Opposition parties and groups said yesterday they were uniting to usher in a new era of true democracy, justice and prosperity for Sri Lanka, agreeing to abolish the executive presidency and revert power to Parliament. Spearheading what is described as a national movement, are National Movement for Social Justice headed by Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera, UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, former President Chandrika Kumaratunga, Democratic Party Leader Sarath Fonseka, MP Arjuna Ranatunga, Democratic People’s Front (DPF) Leader Mano Ganeshan and Muslim Tamil National Alliance (MTNA) Leader Azath Salley. Though not present yesterday but lending his support to the cause is Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) MP Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thero. Leading figures yesterday at a media briefing explained the urgency for an overhauling of the 1978 Constitution including the abolishing of the executive presidency and reverting to a Parliamentary system, implementing the 17th Amendment and introducing a new electoral system. Ven. Sobitha issued a stern warning to President Mahinda Rajapaksa to deliver his original promise prior to his election in 2005 as well as when he was an Opposition activist. “Rajapaksa used to vehemently oppose the 1978 Constitution and he even went on a pada yaathra from Colombo to Kataragama enlisting people’s support. The SLFP led by Sirimavo Bandaranaike also opposed it. The ‘Mahinda Chinthana’ also promised to abolish the presidential system and revert power to Parliament. President Rajapaksa has two more years in his term and he must deliver on his original promise,” emphasised Ven Sobitha. “He can do it without calling for a snap presidential election. However, if he fails and goes for a poll, then the joint Opposition is ready to field a trustworthy common candidate to seek a mandate not to rule the country but abolish the executive presidency and implement other changes within six months of assuming office,” he added. He recalled that even the leftist parties opposed the 1978 Constitution but their representatives were enjoying ministerial positions.  The UNP, which introduced the Constitution, having realised its dangers has joined this new movement for change. A popular Opposition party, the JVP is yet to join this movement. The vocal Thero urged likeminded people and groups to shed party, religious, race and ethnic differences and unite for the common cause to end the executive presidency. “We need to rally to end this debilitating dictatorship. This system, which isn’t answerable to Parliament, has taken law unto itself. We need to ensure victory for change for the better,” Ven. Sobitha said. In a message read out at the media briefing, former President Chandrika Kumaratunga said that she was backing the new movement, claiming the current President was abusive, endangering true democracy, violating fundamental rights, and eroding the independence of the Judiciary, the public service, police and media. She said a change of the system would ensure human freedom, dignity, democracy and good governance for the benefit of all the people.  Kumaratunga described the new movement as a catalyst for credible change, adding she was hence fully supportive. UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe speaking at the event described the united front as being crucial for change and noted yesterday’s meeting was symbolic, with a resolve to take concrete steps to ensure an overhaul for the better. He said that the existing Parliament has enough mechanisms to implement the changes needed including the abolishing of the executive presidency. However for this the 17th and 19th Amendments were crucial. Wickremesinghe warned that in the event the President opts for early polls, the masses must unite to ensure free and fair elections. Failure will lead to the corrupt regime grabbing power against the wishes of the masses using State resources and machinery. “This Government is not democratic,” Wickremesinghe charged. Speaking at the same event, Democratic Party Leader Sarath Fonseka, who had a bitter experience of being a common candidate, struck a note of caution with regard to the common candidate, whilst he also said there were certain benefits in the presidential system. “I can tell it with my past experience as the common candidate. At the beginning, there will be many surrounding you, but nobody is with you when things go wrong. Therefore, the prospective candidate should be very careful when taking a decision in this regard. One has to languish in jail if plans go awry. One cannot rule out such a predicament given the political culture of this country,” he said. Fonseka said his party stood for the pruning of executive powers rather than abolishing it in full. He said the presidential system existed in other countries, but its powers were exercised for the good of their people. He said his Democratic Party, as a matter of policy, would decide on its stance on the common candidate after taking into account his or her past integrity, track record and ability. However, Opposition MP Arjuna Ranatunga, who was with Fonseka initially and later fell out with him, said one should the put the country before self in this hour of need.