MR rules out need for presidential polls

Monday, 26 November 2018 00:53 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Insists he has majority in House but also terms Parliament a “problem”
  • Reiterates call for a general election to establish stable govt. 
  • Insists only caretaker government established after 26 Oct. 
  • Says stepped forward to save failing economy but acknowledges turnaround impossible in a couple of months 
  • Calls for public support similar to what he had during the war


Contending that delaying general elections would postpone a chance for the public to elect a stable government, MP Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday sought public support, similar to what he received during the war, insisting he had a majority in Parliament and the capacity to save the economy.

MP Mahinda Rajapaksa

In a statement, Rajapaksa steered clear of any mention of two votes on the no confidence motion and instead heaped blame on the United National Party (UNP) for taking decisions since 2015 that were detrimental to the economy. He reiterated that when he was asked by President Maithripala Sirisena to take up the Prime Minister post he did so because he felt he had a responsibility to arrest the economic decline facing Sri Lanka. The aim was the appointment of an interim government, he noted. 

“It is now barely a month since the change of government on 26 October. What we have now is only an interim government. When a downward trend manifests itself, it is difficult to turn things around in a month or two. As the general election, which would have enabled the people to elect a stable government, has been delayed, it will take some time for a stable government to be formed.


During this interim period, I request the people to stand by us and to participate in the effort to restore economic stability to this country. 

The people will remember that during our period of rule between 2006 and 2014, we took every measure possible to avoid imposing heavy burdens on the people,” he said.

“This is why we reduced the price of fuel and some essential foodstuffs soon after assuming office on 26 October. We reintroduced the fertiliser subsidy and reduced taxes on agricultural incomes so as to reduce the burden on the people and to increase production,” he added. 

Rajapaksa argued that even though people voted in 2015 seeking greater democracy in Sri Lanka, the opposite had happened with them not just losing democracy by being unable to vote due to the postponement of elections but also facing greater economic hardship. 

“The people living in this country are aware of the difference in the situation that prevailed before 2015 and after 2015. The Cabinet Spokesman of the previous government has publicly stated on numerous occasions that in 2015 the people had not voted for a change of government due to any lack of food and clothing. He said that the people voted for a change in 2015 for the sake of democracy. But after that change of government, the people ended up without democracy, without the right to vote and without food and clothing as well. Is that not what happened? The endeavour that we are engaged in now is Sri Lanka’s last chance to come out of the crisis it is in. Let us all join hands to defeat the forces that seek to destroy this country by perpetuating their rule without holding elections.”

In his view it was the UNP that was preventing a general election and the chance for the people to elect a new government. Rajapaksa also insisted that he held a majority in Parliament despite not being able to show it at least four times since 14 November.  

“In my speech in Parliament on 15 November, I proposed to all political parties that we agree among ourselves to hold a general election to enable the people to exercise their sovereign right to elect a government of their choice. The JVP agreed but the UNP has been evasively saying that we should hold a presidential election instead of a general election.”

Rajapaksa went on to say that the change of Prime Minister ran into problems because it was not supported by Parliament and stressed that was the reason why a general election should precede a presidential poll. 

“The problem is in Parliament. Hence there is no need to hold a presidential election at this stage. No party obtained a clear majority at the general election held in August 2015. The UNP obtained 106 seats, the UPFA obtained 96. The difference was just 10 seats. A UNP-led government was formed only on the basis of an agreement entered into with a group of UPFA parliamentarians. The UPFA group left the Government on 26 October. Thereafter, several UNP parliamentarians joined our ranks. Today I am the leader of the largest group of MPs in Parliament. After the parliamentary elections of 1994, 2001 and 2004, Presidents D.B. Wijetunga and Chandrika Kumaratunga who held office at that time, invited the largest group in Parliament to form a government. On that basis, governments were formed by the People’s Alliance in 1994, the UNP in 2001 and the UPFA in 2004.”

Following the removal of UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister on 26 October, efforts had been directed at forming an interim government with the aim of heading to elections. He charged that this effort was being disrupted by the UNP and opposition parties because their goal was to delay elections.    

“What we did on 26 October was form an interim government that would have lasted only until the conclusion of the general election that has already been declared but temporarily put on hold by the courts. We never had any intention of running an administration through the government which has been formed at present. The whole country can see that only a few members of the Joint Opposition hold office in this government. 

“That is because this is only an interim arrangement. I have been stressing ever since I took oaths as Prime Minister that our foremost aim was to go for an election in order to establish a stable government. However, the objective of the other side is to revive the previous government and to rule the country for as long as possible without holding any election at all. That is the reason for the present political situation.”