Opposition’s call to reconvene Parliament is baseless | Sunday Observer

Opposition’s call to reconvene Parliament is baseless

UPFA General Secretary and Minister of Transport Services Management, Power and Energy, Mahinda Amaraweera said at present the UNP is divided into several factions. Therefore, they somehow want to reconvene the old Parliament and create an uproar in the well of the House and pass legislation to cancel the nominations which have been given. They don’t think of the country nor do they have a genuine desire to face this national disaster irrespective of petty political differences.

In an interview with the Sunday Observer, the Minister said at present the Opposition is focusing on a baseless issue of reconvening the old Parliament. A genuine Opposition would not be scared to face the election and capture power. However, the present Opposition attempts to postpone the elections due to their inability to face elections. Minister Amaraweera said the Government is working to gradually ease the Covid-19 counter measures to support the people, and it is not targeting the election. Whatever steps are taken by the Government it would fully adhere to the guidelines given by the health authorities.

Q:   Government lawmakers are of the view that the President will not reconvene Parliament and say that if Parliament is reconvened the Opposition would use its majority to sabotage the Government’s efforts to contain the Covid-19 pandemic in the country. Could you comment on this?

A: At present, there is no need to reconvene the old Parliament and there is no provision to do so. The Government has the ability and the strength to successfully face this issue. At present the UNP is divided into various factions. Therefore, the UNP somehow wants to reconvene the old Parliament and create an uproar in the well of the House and pass legislation to cancel the nominations which have been given. They don’t think of the country nor do they have a genuine desire to face this national disaster. They are talking about a baseless issue of reconvening the old Parliament.

Q:   How do you respond to the Opposition claim that re-opening the country was done to hold elections?

A: I categorically reject that claim. Even today, the entire country is not re-opened. The curfew is still on in the Colombo and Gampaha districts and only state and private sector employees in these two districts are given permission to report for duty.

At present, no Covid-19 cases have been reported from other districts. Most of the other countries facing the Covid-19 outbreak reopened their countries before us. It took much time for us to reopen the country as we were really concerned about rescuing the country from this disaster.

On the other hand, we also have to resume the functions of both state and private sector institutions. The employees have to return to their jobs while the country’s production has to be resumed. That is why the country was re-opened following the instructions given by the health authorities.

Q:   Government lawmakers say they are working to gradually ease the Covid-19 counter measures to support the people and are not targeting the election. What are your views on this?

A: Definitely. Whatever the steps taken by the Government, it would fully adhere to the guidelines given by the health authorities. I state with responsibility that the Government by itself would not take any decision without consulting the relevant authorities.  Even the transport services were resumed after consulting the health authorities.

Q:   The Government reiterates that the Election Commission has the complete freedom to decide on the election date. However, several petitions have been submitted to the Supreme Court requesting the cancellation of the Gazette notification issued to conduct elections on June 20. Your comments on this?

A: A genuine Opposition would not be scared to face elections and capture power. However, the present Opposition attempts to postpone the election due to their inability to face it. We are governing the country now, and we have our own President, Prime Minister and a Cabinet of Ministers. Therefore, if we wish we can continue as we have our own Government. However, we have no intention to continue in office in such a manner. Democracy should prevail in the country. To ensure democracy, there should be a Parliament. That is why we have decided to go for an election. It is the responsibility of the Election Commission to fix or change the date of the election.

Q: Ven. Omalpe Sobitha Thera has proposed to form a National Government among the parties in Parliament for the approval of financial regulations adding that holding a General Election at this juncture could be dangerous given the prevailing situation in the country. What are your comments on this statement?

A: I do not have much confidence in National Governments as all such governments which were recently formed ended in failure. It is good to go for a joint program to get the support of all parties in Parliament. That is why several rounds of talks have already been held with political party leaders under the patronage of the Prime Minister. In addition, the Prime Minister invited all 225 parliamentarians of the former Parliament to a meeting, but it was boycotted by the MPs of the UNP, SJB and the JVP. This kind of dialogue is the ideal program which would help overcome this situation. Therefore, that will be done by the Government in the future as well.

Q:   A group of SLPP representatives headed by former State Minister, Mahindananda Aluthgamage, visited the Bribery Commission on May 12 and inquired about the delay in investigating into the complaints made against 19 Ministers of the former Yahapalana Government. What is your comment on this?

A: Whatever complaint is made against anybody, it is the responsibility of the Bribery Commission to investigate into such complaints without delay. Whether the complaints are against the Government or the Opposition members, the Bribery Commission should immediately look into them to bring the culprits to book. The information revealed by a group of SLPP representatives following their visit to the Bribery Commission is a clear indication that the Bribery Commission has not fulfilled its responsibility properly. Some of the former Ministers have not even come to the Bribery Commission to record their statements while obtaining information from some of them have not yet been completed over the past several years.

Q:   How do you look at the criticism made by Government lawmakers about the Election Commission member Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole’s conduct?

A: This is a serious issue and the entire country is talking about it. It is obvious that he is behaving in a manner to cater to the interest of the diaspora. The Election Commission members have no right to express their own views in such a manner, especially, to the media. This raises doubts about the independence of the Election Commission. He has damaged the reputation of the Election Commission with his behaviour. He has made various false statements to undermine the functioning of the State. Attention should be focused on what steps should be taken in this regard. As a Government we have no right to interfere into the independence of the Election Commission. However, at present, there is a wide range of dialogue on this issue.

Q:   The Education Minister has said it would take another month to reopen schools. Will the final decision to reopen schools be taken based on the instructions given by the health authorities?

A: Definitely. The decisions taken by the health authorities would be more vital for this rather than the political decisions.  Thus far, the Government has not taken a final decision to reopen schools. This issue was discussed at Wednesday’s (May 13) Cabinet meeting as well. It was decided to reopen schools stage by stage when the situation in the country returns to normalcy. The Government intends to first reopen small schools at village level.

Q:   As reported by the media, if  Parliament is reconvened, the UNP has decided to inform the Secretary General of Parliament that 80 UNP MPs who have joined the SJB are no more UNP MPs. How do you look at this crisis within the UNP?

A: At present there are so many factions within the UNP, not just two factions. Therefore, the crisis within the UNP would never end. Nobody would be able to prevent the party heading towards disaster. Day by day, the party is collapsing due to their infighting and internal clashes. If this trend continues, there will be more divisions within the UNP. Whether the election is held on June 20 or postponed, it wouldn’t be a challenge at all to the Government. At present, the people have placed their confidence in the President and the program initiated by the Government to rebuild the country.

Q: As the Minister of Power and Energy, have you laid emphasis on the hardships faced by some electricity consumers due to the unaffordable rates quoted in electricity bills?

A: Definitely. A discussion was held in this regard on Wednesday (May 13) as well. There are instances where some errors have been made in the electricity bills which have been issued. Steps will be taken to rectify all those mistakes. We request electricity consumers to pay a similar amount they paid in February for the months of March and April as well. After checking the electricity metres, all mistakes in the bills will be rectified. We would not leave room for any injustice to be caused to electricity consumers.

Q:   At present, the people have faced much inconvenience due to the lack of buses operating on their routes. Have you sorted out the issues faced by the private bus owners?

A: All private buses will operate from next week. We have been able to reach a consensus with private bus owners so that they have agreed to run their buses as usual from next week. According to the instructions given by the health authorities, at present, we have given permission to carry passengers in buses and trains based on their seating capacity.

Q:   In a natural disaster like this, it seems the Opposition is engaged in their petty political campaigns without co-operating with the Government to contain the Covid-19 pandemic in the country. What are your views on this issue?

A: If those who are in the Opposition love their motherland, they should definitely extend their support to the Government’s anti-coronavirus campaign. However, the present Opposition attempts to sabotage the Government’s program by presenting various inaccurate figures to mislead the public. I think the people   would give a good response to the Opposition at the forthcoming General Election.

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