JO/SLPP demands interim govt, early general election

Won’t mind UNPers in caretaker govt. as long as Ranil is out

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Joint Opposition/Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna yesterday ruled out an agreement with President Maithripala Sirisena to allow the government to continue until the scheduled parliamentary polls.

The general elections are scheduled to be held in two and a half years.

In spite of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s claim that he commands the majority in Parliament the JO/SLPP is cranking up pressure on President Sirisena dislodge the UNP-led government.

Opposition MP Bandula Gunawardena insisted that JO/SLPP would support an interim arrangement. The MP said so in response to media queries at a special briefing at Vajirasharma Temple, Punchi Borella.

Gunawardena said that those who had exercised their franchise overwhelmingly in favour of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa wouldn’t endorse propping up President Sirisena’s SLFP for the remaining period of the Aug. 2015 mandate. JO parliamentary group leader Dinesh Gunawardena has informed President Sirisena in writing of our stand, Gunawardena said.

The MP said that JO/SLPP wouldn’t mind President Sirisena accommodating UNPers in an interim government to secure the required simple majority. Gunawardena insisted they didn’t care how President Sirisena finalized the deal with UNP rebels as long as Wickremesinghe was deprived of premiership.

Of the 95 members elected and appointed on the UPFA ticket at Aug. 2015 parliamentary polls, 54 (all elected) back the former President.

Asked by The Island to explain how President Sirisena could secure the required support against the backdrop of the TNA (16 seats) and JVP (6) unlikely to support the initiative and the JO itself refusing to accept ministerial portfolios or at least join the government, Gunawardena said that it was not their problem. Formation of an interim government would be President Sirisena’s responsibility, Gunawardena said, dismissing the possibility of any extended arrangement with the SLFP other than simple interim project to pave the way for early general election.

Gunawardena refrained from responding to The Island query whether JO/SLPP had set a condition that couldn’t be met by President Sirisena to undermine him further.

Swarnavahini queried whether the JO/SLPP weren’t ashamed to cooperate with President Sirisena as serious corruption charges had been directed against them, too. Gunawardena said that the electorate had voted overwhelming for Rajapaksa thereby proved they didn’t endorse such accusations. Yahapalana parties couldn’t manipulate the electorate though they engaged in mega costly propaganda campaigns.

Gunawardena explained that the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government had caused irreparable damage to the national economy. They had pursued controversial policies severely inimical to the national economy and detrimental to political stability, the country needed a new administration, Gunawardena said.

Gunawardena asserted that the SLFP and the UNP were equally responsible for the near collapse of the national economy.

Commenting on the fallout of Treasury bond scams involving Perpetual Treasuries Limited (PTL), Gunawardena flayed Premier Wickremesinghe and Auditor General Gamini Wijesinghe for propagating lies at the expense of the national economy. They had caused enormous unprecedented damage, Gunawardena said, urging the Central Bank of Sri Lanka to publicly disapprove Wickremesinghe’s claim pertaining to the issuance of treasury bonds worth Rs 4702 bn under controversial circumstances. Wijesinghe had caused further chaos by claiming on the eve of Feb. 10 local government polls misappropriation of funds amounting to Rs. 9 trillion, Gunawardena said.

The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe coalition had ruined the national economy that couldn’t be repaired by mere cosmetic political changes. Gunawardena called for change of Sri Lanka’s economic direction asserting that such course correction wouldn’t be possible as long as the UNP remained in control or be part of the government.

Now that the local government polls were concluded the government was likely to increase the price of petrol and gas as well as implement other IMF dictates to secure the next tranche of the USD 1.5 bn facility, Gunawardena said.

ULF briefing

Constitutional affairs expert National List MP Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne has called special media briefing today (Feb. 19) at Sama Samaja Piyasa, 1003, 1/1 Sri Jayawardenepura Mawatha, Rajagiriya to explain post-local government polls developments. Wickramaratne will speak on behalf of the United Left Front. Attorney-at-law Lal Wijenayake is also scheduled to address the gathering.

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