SLMC pledges support to MS, but won’t topple UPFA-run Eastern PC

SLMC, UNP seek pact for next parliamentary poll

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Having quit the SLFP-led UPFA government, the SLMC yesterday declared its support to Opposition presidential candidate Maithripala Sirisena.

The SLMC also revealed that it was seeking an electoral agreement with the main Opposition UNP to contest on its ticket at the next parliamentary election, while assuring the government that it wouldn’t topple the UPFA-run Eastern Provincial Council (EPC).

Addressing the media at SLMC headquarters, Darussalam at Slave Island, SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem said that the party had joined Maithripala Sirisena’s camp to ensure the re-establishment of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution.

Hakeem stressed that as the party strongly believed in good governance and accountability the re-establishment of the 17th was high on its agenda.

Flanked by members of his parliamentary group as well as other elected and nominated members at Provincial Councils and Local Government bodies, Hakeem said that he had given up justice portfolio in accordance with a unanimous decision taken by the party.

The repealing of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution in September, 2010 to pave the way for the 18th Amendment had caused turmoil in the country. The 18th Amendment had caused irrevocable damage, Hakeem said, asserting that people of all communities wanted to see what he called a reversal of the situation.

The 18th amendment was passed in parliament with a majority of 114 votes. The required 2/3 majority was obtained with 161 members voting for it and 17 against it. The eight-member SLMC parliamentary group voted for the 18th Amendment.

The SLMC contested the last parliamentary election on the UNP ticket in April 2010. Subsequently it switched allegiance to President Mahinda Rajapaksa

Responding to a query regarding the SLMC’s position at the EPC, Hakeem said that his party was committed to UPFA-SLMC provincial administration though two SLMC ministers had quit their portfolios. Hakeem insisted there was absolutely no dispute with the government as regards the running of the EPC. The SLMC leader dismissed the notion that he was having discussions with the five-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA) to decide the future of the EPC.

The UPFA polled 200,044 votes to secure 14 out of the total 37 seats at the EPC.

The TNA won 11 seats after securing 193,827 votes whereas the SLMC which contested alone, won 7 seats with 132,917 votes.

The UNP and the National Freedom Front won 4 and 1 seats respectively.

Hakeem said that talks with the government and Maithripala Sirisena’s camp had lasted for about a month before a decision was taken on Saturday night. In spite of difference of opinion among members, the party after having had series of talks succeeded in taking a unanimous decision, he said.

The former Justice Minister said that he had held talks with President Rajapaksa, SLFP National Organiser and Minister Basil Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, SLFP General Secretary Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva as well as presidential secretary Lalith Weeratunga.

Commenting on polls campaign undertaken by the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) in support of president Rajapaksa’s candidature, Hakeem said the SLMC wouldn’t question the right of that organization to engage in politics. "As members of a democratic political party, we have no issue as regards BBS participation in the electoral process."

Asked by the Colombo based Hindu correspondent whether the SLMC could sit alongside the nationalist JHU as well as the TNA, Hakeem pointed out that both his party and the JHU had been with the UPFA. Hakeem asserted that there couldn’t be any issue over the JHU. The SLMC leader didn’t comment on the TNA.

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