SJB tells govt.:Elections not prerogative of President
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) lawmaker Harshana Rajakaruna yesterday (18) said that calling of regular elections couldn’t be under any circumstances the prerogative of any President.Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), still the party with the largest group in Parliament, should be ashamed of its response to President Ranil Wickremesinghe putting off the Local Government polls indefinitely, the SJB MP said in response to The Island query regarding Chief Opposition Whip Prasanna Ranatunga, MP, backing the indefinite postponement of the LG polls.
MP Ranatunga, over the weekend, declared that President Ranil Wickremesinghe would hold what he called, an election suitable for the country at an appropriate moment.The Gampaha District MP, who is also Urban Development and Housing Minister, said that they should continue with the rebuilding process of the national economy
until President Wickremesinghe decided on an appropriate election.The Minister said so, addressing members of the Gampaha District SLPP operations committee at the Reggie Ranatunga Commemorative hall, Udugampola, Gampaha.
MP Rajakaruna pointed out that postponement of the LG polls couldn’t be justified against the backdrop of the Supreme Court ruling issued on 03 March, this year, pertaining to a fundamental rights application filed by SJB General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara.
The former UNP MP said that the appointment of Cabinet ministers was the prerogative of President Wickremesinghe, hence the delay in expanding the Cabinet-of-Ministers though the SLPP submitted a list of nearly a dozen names last July. But, the President couldn’t decide when to conduct elections, MP Rajakaruna said, adding that the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government obviously felt uncomfortable holding the election.
MP Rajakaruna asked the SLPP whether it wanted President Wickremesinghe to decide on presidential and parliamentary polls without adhering to the election map. Referring to President Wickremesinghe’s declaration at the National Law Conference at Nuwara Eliya that the people weren’t interested in elections at the moment, MP Rajakaruna alleged that the powers that be seemed to be conspiring to side-step elections.
“LG polls were sabotaged against the backdrop of all Provincial Councils being under the executive rule by way of Governors running the show. Now, President Wickremesinghe has appointed new Governors for four of the Provinces,” MP Rajakaruna said, warning of possible moves to put off presidential and parliamentary polls. The MP referred to reports that the UNP may consider a referendum to extend President Wickremesinghe term.
UNP leader Wickremesinghe received appointment as the 8th executive president with the SLPP’s backing in July last year to complete the remainder of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s five-year term won at the November 2019 presidential election.
MP Rajakaruna questioned the rationality in Minister Ranatunga’s claim that the JVP led the campaign for LG polls. The Chief Government appeared to have quite conveniently forgotten that the SJB sought Supreme Court intervention to hold LG polls. In fact, most of the Opposition, including the rebel SLPP group, wanted LG polls as soon as possible, MP Rajakaruna said,
Responding to another query, MP Rajakaruna said that President Wickremesinghe’s reluctance to face the electorate at the moment is quite understandable. Having been reduced to just one National List slot in the 225-member parliament, the UNP feared elections at any level, MP Rajakaruna said.
“The UNP is in a deepening dilemma. Can UNP leader Wickremesinghe depend on the SLPP, especially against the problematic environment caused by their failure so far to reach consensus on Cabinet appointments,” MP Rajakaruna said.
Referring to continuing controversy over several Bills, including one on broadcasting regulatory commission and counter terrorism law, MP Rajakaruna emphasized the government was seeking to consolidate power outside the electoral process. Those Bills, if enacted, posed quite a challenge to democratic Opposition, MP Rajakaruna said, urging the government to release funds required to conduct the long delayed LG polls or face the consequences.