‘We are all opposed to it’

SLFP clears PM of engineering vote against delimitation report

by Shamindra Ferdinando

SLFP spokesman Mahinda Samarasinghe and Senior SLFP Vice President Nimal Siripala de Silva yesterday said there was no way their party could endorse the delimitation report on the basis the five-member committee that produced it had been named by President Maithripala Sirisena.

They explained it was an independent committee given a vital specific task though political parties could not reach consensus on it.

Altogether 139 lawmakers representing the UNP, SLFP, Joint Opposition and the TNA voted against the report. They strongly defended Provincial Council and Local Government Minister Faiszer Musthapha voting against the report. He on his own submitted to parliament several months ago. Faiszer couldn’t be blamed for performing his ministerial responsibilities, they said.

Samarasinghe alleged that a section of the media and some political elements were making an attempt to blame Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe for the rejection of the report. Samarasinghe dismissed claims that Wickremesinghe directed the UNP to vote against the delimitation report to teach a lesson to Sirisena. Samarasinghe explained that the SLFP on its own decided to vote against the delimitation report.

Both Samarasinghe and De Silva pointed out that the Joint Opposition, too, voted against the report therefore all political parties represented in parliament didn’t approve of the report.

Samarasinghe explained the SLFP decision to oppose the Thawalingham report as a political decision.

He and de Silva explained that now that a five-member committee headed by PM Wickremesinghe had been asked to review the report and make tangible measures to secure required approval, Provincial Council polls could be held within the next three and perhaps three and half years.

According to them, the primary defects were absence of multi-member constituencies and disputes pertaining to delimitation.

SLFP General Secretary Rohana Lakshman Piyadasa said that the party reorganization process was going on smoothly and the party would be ready to face PC or presidential election. Asked by The Island whether President Sirisena would try to take advantage of the constitutional provision in terms of the 19th Amendment to call for early presidential polls in January, De Silva asserted they wouldn’t do so. "We’ll not seek to take advantage of that," De Silva said, expressing confidence that PC polls could be held soon.

Both Samarasinghe and De Silva said that once the President endorsed the delimitation report following amendments proposed by Wickremesinghe’s committee, it would not be subjected to parliamentary approval.

Asked by The Island whether as a senior parliamentarian he could explain the failure on the part of UNP and SLFP leaders to ensure the participation of their respective lawmakers at least on days when crucial decisions were taken, De Silva admitted that their efforts to improve members attendance had failed. The Minister acknowledged that the absence of 86 lawmakers on the day, Aug 24, when the vote on delimitation report was taken up was an unsatisfactory situation.

SLFP spokesmen refrained from responding to queries regarding a statement attributed to MP Susil Premjayanth. They insisted that regardless of different agendas pursued by the JO and its allies in the SLFP, the party was confident of achieving its political objectives.

Recently, Northern Province Governor Reginald Cooray reconfirmed that President Sirisena would seek a second term.

Minister de Silva acknowledged the difficulties experienced by the party but asserted that they would forge ahead with those remaining with the party.

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