‘Opposition attempts to postpone imminent defeat’ | Sunday Observer

‘Opposition attempts to postpone imminent defeat’

The arrest of former Health Minister Dr.Rajitha Senaratne on Wednesday, who was later remanded until May 27 over a controversial media briefing he held on the eve of the Presidential Election last year, became the main topicin media circles even amid the battle to combat Covid-19 pandemic in the country.

Another highlight of the week was that former UNP Parliamentarian Mangala Samaraweera was grilled for over five hours by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on Thursdayover allegations of misuse of state property when he was the Minister of Finance.

Former Minister Senaratne had surrendered to the CID on Wednesday, hours after the Colombo High Court repealed a court ruling that granted him bail in connection to the case.

He was produced before the Colombo Chief Magistrate’s court on Wednesday evening. Senaratne is accused of fabricating information on ‘white van’ abductions alleged to have taken place before 2015, during a media briefing attended by two other men who claimed to have links to the abductions. Senaratne had been released by the Colombo Chief Magistrate’s Court on December 30.

The Opposition lawmakers told the media that the arrest of former Minister Senaratne indicates that the Government has acknowledged defeat at the forthcoming elections.

Former UNP Parliamentarian Ashok Abeysinghe at a press briefing questioned why the Government follows separate policies in treating those who favour the Government and the ones who do not.

SLPP frontliner Udaya Gammanpila countering the Opposition’s allegation said when a Magistrate granted bail to Senaratne in December what the UNP said was that the Judiciary is fully independent and they highly respect to that.

When that same Magistrate ordered to remandSenaratne for two weeks, the same UNP members say it is a political witch-hunt and they would appear to meet justice for him. Gammanpila said, “This clearly shows the UNP’s double standard on two court rulings given on the same person.”

Meanwhile, former Parliamentarian Mangala Samaraweera was questioned by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) on Thursday for over five hours. Samaraweera had been summoned by the CID to record a statement regarding allegations of using Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) buses to transport voters during theNovember 2019 Presidential Election when he was the Minister of Finance.

Former Minister Samaraweera defended his decision to approve funds for the transport of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from Puttalam to the Northern Province to cast their ballots at the election and denounced his five hour interrogation at the CID as a political witch-hunt. He told the reporters outside the CID that the interrogation was aimed at the coming election.

Samaraweera said the money was approved at the request of the Northern Rehabilitation Department for displaced persons whose polling booths were several hundred miles away in the Northern Province even though they had lived in camps in Puttalam for 30 years.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) following a meeting with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on Tuesday said they are ready to support the Government if a proper system for power devolution is provided for in changes made to the Constitution. Former Parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran toldthe media after the meeting that his party agrees with the President’s opinion on the need for a new Constitution.

Sumanthiran has made a request to the Prime Minister on releasing ‘political prisoners’ who were arrested, some convicted for their association with or role in the LTTE. He has also handed over a list of the detainees under the Prevention of Terrorism (PTA) Act to the Prime Minister. Sumanthiran said the Prime Minister asked him to discuss the matter with the President. He said the meeting between the TNA representative and the Prime Minister was a follow-up to a recent discussion between Premier Rajapaksa and former TNA Parliamentarians held in Colombo.

When both the Government and Opposition lawmakers talk about the possibility of holding the General Election, a resolution forwarded by Ven. Omalpe Sobitha Thera said that holding a General Election could be dangerous in the prevailing situation of the country and a National Government should be reconciled between the parties in Parliament for the approval of the financial regulations.

Government lawmakers are of the view that they have no confidence on National Governments as all the recently formed such Governments were ended in failure.

They said it would be more appropriate to go for a joint program to get the support of all parties in former Parliament. That is why several rounds of talks with political party leaders have been held under the patronage of the Prime Minister.

He also invited all 225 Parliamentarians of former Parliament to a meeting and it was boycotted by the MPs of the UNP, SJB and the JVP. The Government lawmakers said instead of forming a National Government, this kind of continuous dialogue is the ideal forum which would help overcome this situation.

The Government and Opposition lawmakers expressed their views to the media on the Covid-19 pandemic and the General Election. Former UNP Parliamentarian Patali Champika Ranawaka told the media that they hope the Election Commission would consider in a justifiable manner on the health condition of the people of the country and act accordingly.

SLPP General Election candidate Prof. Channa Jayasumana said the SJB and the UNP have been split into several factions and added that even if these factions are united, they won’t secure 50 seats in Parliament. The JVP is not in a position to get more than three seats.

The Opposition attempts to postpone the election to avoid their imminent defeat, Jayasumana said. Former State Minister Shehan Semasinghe said the Government has prevented the spread of Covid-19. If the Election Commission deliberately attempts to postpone elections, the people would come to streets protesting against it. Minister Wimal Weerawansa told the media if former Yahapalana Government were in power, they would have allowed spreading Covid-19.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa during a discussion with officials and ministry secretaries related to the Plantation Industry has said that irrational laws should not obstruct the policies formulated to achieve the economic objectives of the people.

The meeting was called to find solutions to issues in the Plantation Industry. President Rajapaksa had stressed that the State and affiliated institutions should not resort to legal measures and instead resolves their issues through discussion.

Legal issues dragging for years between the State Timber Corporation and the Sri Lanka State Plantations Corporation had also been discussed in depth during the meeting.

The President had told the officials that State institutions should be maintained without burdening the treasury.

Mutual understanding among State institutions and proper awareness about State policies will ensure that there would not be conflicts among institutions. When a Government takes an accurate decision with regard to a State policy, all the State institutions should comply.

“There should be no room to prevent doing the right thing. The State official who could not execute the morally right thing is a burden to the nation. The State official is an individual who resolves issues and not neglects them,” President Rajapaksa said.

He said that a decision was taken to stop the importation of Ethanol which had been traumatising the economy for a long time, and added that he would not withdraw his decision due to any influence from businessmen.

Meanwhile, the President’s Media Division (PMD) said that President Rajapaksa has donated the equivalent of three months of his salary to the Covid-19 Healthcare and Social Security Fund.

Thecheque has been handed over to Secretary to the President Dr.P.B. Jayasunderaat the Presidential Secretariat on Thursday.

The President set up a fund named ‘Covid-19 Healthcare and Social Security Fund’ in March to strengthen activities aimed at controlling the spread of the Covid-19 virus outbreak in the country and related social welfare programs. Rs. 100 million from the President’s Fund was credited to the Fund as the first donation. With corporate and individual donations and direct deposits, the Covid-19 Fund had surpassed Rs. one billion.

The crisis between the UNP and the SJB has worsened. The UNP candidate Oshala Herath has filed a petition at the Supreme Court seeking a writ order for the Election Commission to reject the nomination papers submitted by the SJB for the General Election.

Members of the Election Commission, including Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya, former Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, SJB General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara, Chairman of ‘Ape Jathika Peramuna Party’ Senaka Haripriya de Silva and its Secretary Diana Gamage have been named as respondents of the petition.

The petitioner said that the party which has handed over nominations for the SJB is based on the ‘Ape Jathika Peramuna’ party’.

The petitioner points out that the appointment of Ranjith Madduma Bandara as the General Secretary of the SJB has not been approved by the UNP Working Committee. The nomination papers submitted with the signature of Ranjith Madduma Bandara as the General Secretary of the SJB are illegal, petitioner claims.

The petitioner has appealed to the Supreme Court to rule that the Elections Commission has no jurisdiction to accept the SJB’s nomination papers.