New Parliament, key to revive economy – Former President | Sunday Observer

New Parliament, key to revive economy – Former President

24 May, 2020

The National Election Commission on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that the Parliamentary Election cannot be held on the due date under the current circumstances in the country. Appearing on behalf of the Commission during the hearing of the multiple Fundamental Rights (FR) petitions filed before the Supreme Court challenging the election date, President’s Counsel Saliya Peiris said the Commission was not in a position to proceed with the election until they received a green light from the health authorities. The Commission brought to the attention of the Supreme Court that it would require nine to eleven weeks after the health authorities’ approval to make preparations, explaining that curfew and restrictions on movement resulted in a serious reduction of manpower and workable hours.

Seven parties, including the Center for Policy Alternatives (CPA), journalist Victor Ivan and Samagi Jana Balawegaya have filed FR petitions requesting for two interim injunctions be issued invalidating the gazette issued by the President dissolving Parliament on March 2 and the gazette issued by the Chairman of the Election Commission declaring June 20 as the day of the General Election.

However, some Government lawmakers, such as SLPP candidate Dayasiri Jayasekara told the media that it would take a long time to complete the hearings on the FR petitions filed against the gazette notification issued declaring the election. According to Jayasekara, this is a deliberate attempt to destabilise the country by postponing elections. Jayasekara told the media that the Opposition was attempting to gain political advantage out of the Covid-19 outbreak.

SLFP Chairman and former President Maithripala Sirisena told the media at the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) Head Office on Tuesday that his party would support President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to form a strong Government and added that the SLFP would play a key role in ensuring the victory of the Sri Lanka Nidahas Podujana Sandanaya (SLNPS) coalition. The former President said that the General Election should be held without further delay under the guidelines issued by health authorities. He said the country needed a new Parliament to address challenges arise from the Covid-19 outbreak.

He said that the country needed a new Parliament to address economic challenges and support the policies of President Rajapaksa. He said, “Parliamentary support is vital for the President to fully implement his policies and a new Parliament that supports the President will be important to get the economy back on track.” According to the former President, further delay of the election will create more economic challenges and only through the combination of the Executive and the Legislature, Sri Lanka will be able to address the challenges.

Addressing the ceremony held on Tuesday at the National War Heroes’ Monument in Battaramulla to mark the 11th National War Heroes’ Day, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said if any international body or organisation continuously targets the country and War Heroes, using baseless allegations, he will not hesitate to withdraw Sri Lanka from such bodies or organisations. The President said, “The honour of liberating the country from this catastrophe should be given to all heroic troops who fought for peace in the country for a long time. Pain of the war is not strange to me. Therefore, I will not allow any room to discredit and tarnish the dignity of our War Heroes who made countless sacrifices to bring peace to entire Sri Lanka.”

President Rajapaksa said the prime objective of the humanitarian mission was to bring lasting peace in the country. Today we have an opportunity to live in peace and harmony in a unitary state due to the exceptional sacrifices by our war heroes. 

The President said the motive of the extremists was to divide us. If they were successful in their attempt, our history could have taken a different course. He said Sri Lanka could have become a country where communities hate each other, engage in continuous battles for borders, fear of war is a norm of life and another hapless and divided country.

The President assured that under his administration, they will take every measure to protect the dignity of the country’s heroic forces and added that it is a national responsibility to ensure their rights. The President said, “In a situation where even leaders of powerful countries have emphatically said that they would not allow any action against their war heroes, in a small country like ours where our War Heroes have sacrificed so much, I will not allow anyone to exert undue pressure on them or harass them.”

Former Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera was questioned for nearly five hours by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID for the second day on Tuesday to record a statement over allegations of misuse of state property during the Presidential Election. It is alleged that he had used Sri Lanka Transport Board buses to transport voters from Puttalam to Mannar during the 2019 Presidential election when he was the Minister of Finance. Samaraweera first produced a statement to the CID on May 14 over the investigations into an incident of misusing state property.

After being questioned by the CID, Samaraweera’s controversial remarks to the media on the Maha Sangha that there is a Sangha kalliya (clan of monks) in the country has received a serious criticism by a section of Buddhist monks and politicians. Minister S.M. Chandrasena told the media that it is obvious Mangala Samaraweera behaves like a person who doesn’t have any religion and added that that is why he has once again made such insulting remarks on the Maha Sangha. He said, “We have never seen that a people’s representative resorted to such criticism on the Maha Sangha.

Former Southern Province Chief Minister Shan Wijayalal de Silva said that the voters before they cast their votes at the forthcoming election will have to consider these controversial remarks by Samaraweera. Former UPFA Parliamentarian Jayantha Samaraweera told the media that even amid the Covid-19 pandemic, our people look after others and help them. This great heritage we own thanks to the Buddha Sasana. People like Mangala Samaraweera attempts to attack the Sinhala Buddhist culture to implement the agendas of their masters. This is a contract given to Samaraweera by his masters. Ven. Omalpe Sobitha Thera said the Maha Nayaka Theras, entire Sangha community and Buddhists are vehemently opposed to Mangala Samaraweera’s statements. 

The SLFP Central Committee which met on May 18 under the party Chairman and former President Maithripala Sirisena decided to remove former SLFP Parliamentarian and Vice President Mahinda Samarasinghe from the party membership. SLFP General Secretary Dayasiri Jayasekara told the media that former MP Samarasinghe has also been removed from the post of the SLFP Kalutara District leader.

According to party sources, the decision to expel Samarasinghe from the party was taken based on a report submitted by the party disciplinary committee.

The SLFP party hierarchy has also decided to take disciplinary action against another three members of the party in the future. However, former MP Samarasinghe described the decision taken by the SLFP to remove his party membership as a laughing matter and added that his SLFP membership was automatically cancelled when he joined the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) in March. Samarasinghe said “It is a laughing matter to remove me from the SLFP membership as my SLFP membership was already cancelled in March.”   He said he had not maintained any connection with the SLFP since the day he obtained the SLPP membership. He said, “I even put my signature on the SLPP nomination list hoping to contest the General Election from the Kalutara District.”

Refuting media speculation, the Ministry of Defence urged the public not to be misled by certain posts circulating on social media platforms regarding threats posed in Sri Lanka by extremist elements. Defence Secretary Major General (Retd) Kamal Gunaratne said there is no truth in news being circulated in social media networks, and said the intelligence agencies have not received information related to extremist threats in Sri Lanka. He said that the national security of the country had not been overlooked while deploying Security Forces and Police personnel to contain the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic. The Defence Secretary said all intelligence agencies which were brought under one network under President Rajapaksa’s Government had been fully strengthened to be alert on internal and external security threats. He said that there was a requisite number of military and Police personnel to be deployed to support the Government’s efforts in controlling the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic while maintaining national security.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, during a recent discussion with the top level officials of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC), has said that he doesn’t expect the state entities to engage in politics; what they need to do is to develop themselves; they should generate income; increase efficiency and productivity; minimise wastage. The President said that  state enterprises are run on the hard earned money of the toiling people of the country. Therefore, public sector organisations should not be a burden to the people. The President said that since the sectors, such as health and education are public welfare services, they are not expected to generate income and that other organisations should earn enough income for their maintenance and the well-being of the employees.

He said the economy of Sri Lanka like the rest of the world is faced with a severe decline due to the Covid-19 pandemic and millions have lost employment. Therefore, the Heads of organisations should place the country first. If they fail to do so, the entities might collapse.

The President also highlighted the importance of strengthening state organisations according to a well-designed plan not only to face the prevailing challenges but also to ensure future economic development.