Rajapaksa also said that even though the upcoming local government election is not an election at which political power changes hands, this election is of special significance because this is the first time the people will have an opportunity to use the ballot to demonstrate their opposition to the present Government.
“The only election held previously under the so called yahapalana government was the parliamentary election of August 2015. The president ensured the victory of the UNP at that election through stratagems such as issuing public statements to destablise the UPFA election campaign and by sacking the general secretaries of the SLFP and the UPFA on the eve of the poll. Thereby the message that was conveyed to the whole country was that since it is the President who calls the shots, the UNP will ultimately end up triumphant even if they lose the election,” he said.
He says this is why the Joint Opposition is contesting this local government election under a different symbol and a different political alliance.
“The objective of the Joint Opposition is to provide all those opposed to this Government with a political alternative. Even though the SLFP group in the Government makes various criticisms against the UNP, they serve in the same cabinet and cooperate in all matters necessary to keep the coalition government going. SLFP ministers vote every year for the UNP’s Budget. The whole country saw the manner in which the SLFP group in the Government voted in favour of the 2018 Budget just days ago. We see the two sides cooperating with one another in selling off our national assets as well. When the UNP minister of ports and shipping objected to the Hambantota port deal, the President removed him and appointed an SLFP minister to that position to push through the unfavourable deal entered into by the UNP. When the Hambantota Port was handed over to the foreign company recently, the whole country saw how the SLFP ministers present applauded as the UNP Prime Minister hugged the cheque for 292 million USD,” Rajapaksa said.
Rajapaksa said that the joint opposition sees the UNP and the SLFP group in the Government cooperating with one another in the preparations being made to introduce a new constitution which will divide the country into nine semi-independent federal states.
The former President said that the local government election that is to be held in February 2018 will be the first of a series of elections running up to the next presidential election. According to the change effected by the 19th Amendment to Article 30(2) of the Constitution, the term of office of the President was reduced to five years. By the provisions of Section 49(1)(b) of the 19th Amendment, that change has been made specifically applicable to the incumbent President as well.
Hence the term of office of the incumbent President ends on 9 January 2020. According to Article 31(3) of our Constitution, a Presidential election has to be held not more than two months and not less than one month before the incumbent President’s term of office expires. Hence the next presidential election will have to be held between 9 November and 9 December 2019. (Colombo Gazette)