- RW claims people have lost faith in elections, politics and combined support of all political parties does not exceed 50% of the voter base
- Stresses need for unity among parties, not solely for elections but to steer country towards recovery from ongoing economic crisis
- SJB leader Sajith Premadasa calls comments ‘shocking’ and said it is Wickremesinghe who has an aversion to polls
- Challenges Wickremesinghe to bring forward Presidential polls and allow SJB to prove it can obtain over 51% of the vote
- JVP says it will file fresh case against Govt. for fraudulently delaying elections; reiterates it is ready for any poll
- Sees President’s statement as denying fundamental rights of people
- Alleges President who has no mandate along with a distorted Parliament is working to prevent polls from taking place
By Maneshka Borham
Opposition parties yesterday slammed President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s claims of people’s disinterest in elections and politics.
Though under flak for not holding local polls as scheduled, President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Saturday claimed about a loss of faith in elections and politics among the majority of the population, including the youth.
Speaking at the inauguration of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL)-organised National Law Conference at the Grand Hotel in Nuwara Eliya, Wickremesinghe said looking at the current political situation, it is unprecedented to have a President with only one member in Parliament, working alongside a Parliament that includes crossbenchers.
“However, what concerns me is the lack of political parties with stable political structures. This situation poses a danger,” the President said.
He said that even though there may be disagreements among members of Parliament, the combined support of all political parties in Sri Lanka does not exceed 50% of the voter base. “Considering our highly politicised country, this number could have been as high as 70%, leaving only 10% to decide our fate,” the President opined.
He emphasised the need for unity among the parties, not solely for the purpose of elections, but to steer the country towards recovery from the ongoing economic crisis.
Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa labelled the statement as ‘shocking’ and said that as an MP who obtained over 300 000 preferential votes he was awe-struck by the comments made by Wickremesinghe. “Perhaps it is not shocking for him but it definitely is for us,” Premadasa said while addressing a gathering in Uddakandara yesterday.
Premadasa said however it was not difficult to deduce why Wickremesinghe made such a comment. “This is coming from a party leader who destroyed an age-old party and reduced it to one measly national list slot. Therefore I am not surprised by his comments,” he said.
“It is very likely that it is he who has no interest in polls as he is aware of the fate that will befall him,” he added.
Premadasa challenged Wickremesinghe to bring forward the Presidential election scheduled for next year and said his party will support the Government to pass the legislation necessary to do so. “Then we can see if one party has 51% or not,” he noted.
The Opposition leader said the Finance Minister who is refusing to provide funds for the Local Government polls thus arbitrarily preventing it from going ahead has now decided by himself that the people do not want elections.
He expressed his concerns if Wickremesinghe would continue to block all polls scheduled in the same manner. “It is a signal of an end to his political career,” Premadasa said, adding that the SJB will fight against all moves to delay elections.
Separately the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) Propaganda Secretary Vijitha Herath yesterday announced the party will file yet another case before the Supreme Court against the Government for fraudulently delaying the Local Government election.
Herath said the Government delayed the election which was scheduled to take place on 9 March without any valid reason. “Now it has been indefinitely postponed. The President who has no mandate along with a distorted Parliament is working to prevent the polls from taking place. The President is claiming no party will be able to secure over 50% of the vote while taking away the fundamental rights of the citizens,” alleged Herath adding JVP/NPP is ready for any election.
He also said the Government’s claim it does not have funds to conduct an election is an outright lie. According to Herath this was revealed through a Right to Information application submitted by the party.
In a letter sent to the Finance Ministry Secretary, the Election Commission in February requested the relevant funds to be released in several instalments. They had requested for Rs. 1.1 billion prior to 17 April. The Police, Postal Department and the Government printer had also requested funds needed. Accordingly a total of Rs. 2.4 billion had been requested. However this has not been released to date,” Herath said.
However, according to him, based on reports from the Treasury it has received a revenue of Rs. 177.9 billion during the month of January and was left with Rs. 21.41 billion following payments. “The total funds leftover in January and February as per an official document signed by the Deputy Treasury Secretary Seneviratne is Rs. 84.27 billion,” he said.
“The Election Commission had asked for a mere Rs. 2.4 billion,” Herath noted. He said the party has all documentation and proof necessary to prove the Government has delayed the elections in a fraudulent manner. “We will prove they lied when they claim there were no funds,” he said.
He said the National People’s Party (NPP) led by the JVP is prepared to face an election and prove it can obtain over 51% of the vote. The NPP has also planned a series of protests commencing on 8 June demanding the Government conducts elections as scheduled.