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UNP engineers a crossover with
next general elections months away

Although the UNP says it will push for legislation to prevent crossovers in Parliament, the party intends to accept anyone willing to switch sides ahead of the forthcoming presidential and parliamentary polls.

Former Army Chief turned politician General Sarath Fonseka is on record as saying that many UPFA members had pledged their support to the alliance and that there would be many crossovers in the near future. The war veteran recently went on to inform the Mahanayake theros of Asgiriya and Malwatta Chapters of the impending crossovers.

Responding to The Island queries at his inaugural press conference at the JAIC Hilton, Fonseka said that legislation should be introduced to block crossovers. UPFA National List MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, who had clashed with the SLFP leadership over its failure to act on COPE findings, yesterday accepted UNP membership and received the post of Organiser for Maharagama.

Interestingly, the day before yesterday, Akika Viraj Kariyawasam, MP said that tangible action should be taken to stop MPs from switching allegiance to another party for personal gain or to escape damaging inquiries.

Addressing the media at the Opposition Leader’s Office on Tuesday (Dec 1), the Kurunegala District MP said that among the UNP dissident group which had joined the UPFA in January 2006 were several members implicated in COPE reports on public sector corruption. He said that more than 40 Opposition MPs had joined the UPFA for perks and privileges. Among them are UNP, JVP and SLMC members, including all UNP National List MPs except Hussein Ali (a SLMCer appointed to Parliament on the UNP National List).

The Island raised this issue at a recent UPFA media briefing at the Mahaweli Centre where the ruling coalition took up the position that anti-crossover legislation could not be brought overnight. Minister Dilan Perera said that this should be part of the proposed Constitutional reforms as the judiciary could now block moves to expel MPs. Perera recalled an instance when the Supreme Court had intervened to restore an MP (now with the UPFA) after he successfully moved the judiciary against the politician. The bottom line is that an overall change was needed to prevent crossovers.

During the then President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s time, the PA and the UNP had discussed an agreement to suspend crossovers from either party though it never materialised.

The present Parliament will go down in history as the one with the largest number of crossovers, numbering almost 50.

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