Come together for country’s sake – President | Sunday Observer

Come together for country’s sake – President

6 August, 2022

President Ranil Wickremesinghe delivering his Policy Statement at the ceremonial opening of the third session of the ninth Parliament on Wednesday invited all political parties to put aside the past and come together for the sake of the country.

He said that he has already initiated discussions with political parties in forming an All-Party Government. President Wickremesinghe said that he would take measures to set up a People’s Assembly to decide which social and political reforms should be implemented.

President Wickremesinghe said that a mechanism to seek the views of all interested parties is being prepared through the People’s Assembly through the consultation of political parties and various organisations.

He said that he is willing to set up a National Assembly consisting of political party leaders. “As the next step, we will be able to arrange a common minimum program with the consent of all, through the National Assembly.”

Measures are being taken to set up the Parliamentary Sectoral Oversight Committees immediately where all the political parties will have the opportunity to work together, he said.

The President reiterated the importance of an All-Party Government to be formed with the support of all the parties. President Wickremesinghe also said that he would implement a national policy to combat bribery and corruption. “New rules and regulations and orders in this regard are being prepared by the Ministry of Justice. A consensus will be reached with the International Monetary Fund regarding combating corruption.”

“The expectation of all the citizens of the country at this juncture is for all their representatives in Parliament to work together to build the country. If we come together, we will be able to invigorate the nation. If we are divided, it will not only harm the people’s representatives but the entire nation.

“Therefore, I once again request all parties representing the people in this Parliament to unite in the formation of an All-Party Government. I respectfully extend the hand of friendship to all of you. I confidently invite you to put aside the past and come together for the sake of the country. I have already initiated discussions with political parties to form an All-Party Government,” he said.

The President said the struggle that started all over Colombo expecting a system change was later centralised in Galle Face. This was expanded to several major cities in the island. This struggle was conducted on a non-violent basis and in a creative manner. These activists did not commit violence. Therefore, families joined the struggle to express their protests. Parents were not afraid to even bring children to the places of protest.

“Protesters once digitally illuminated the walls of the Presidential Secretariat, without any harm. Later this non-violence was suppressed and violence emerged, with certain politicised groups that became stakeholders. By indulging in violence the protests turned towards terrorism.

“I will not allow violence and terrorism. However, I will protect non-violence and democracy,” the President said adding, “Peaceful struggle is a fundamental right. I accept those rights. Some groups are trying to spread a huge propaganda through social media that I am hunting down the protesters. But it is not true. I will not allow any kind of prejudice to peaceful activists. I will set up an office to protect peaceful protesters and support them.”

President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s policy statement, as admirable as it is, how it would be practically implemented is actually what matters, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa told the media following the conclusion of the ceremonial opening of the Third Session of the Ninth Parliament on Wednesday.

Premadasa said that he genuinely hopes that the President’s policy statement would become a reality. Premadasa also said that the Opposition also seeks to support the program of rebuilding the country through an All-Party Government and the setting up of Parliamentary Committees.

He said, “Listening to the entire speech of the President, it was a positive speech and the points of the speech should be practically implemented in the same way.” The Opposition Leader said that he appreciates the clear cut manner the President presented the plan for an All-Party Government that would be based on a National Assembly and a People’s Assembly.

Premadasa said it seems no chance would be given for opportunists in the guise of joining an All-Party Government. The Opposition Leader said that he personally believes that the Parliamentary Oversight Committees should operate through a strong committee system that goes beyond the current powers granted to it.

Discussions

President Wickremesinghe said the public and religious leaders led by the Maha Sangha, civil organisations and youth groups have strong confidence and expectation about an All-Party Government.

He was speaking at Tuesday’s discussions with political parties regarding the formation of an All-Party Government. Several rounds of talks with political parties were held at the President’s Office on Tuesday. Party leaders representing the Government and Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) members of the ruling party attended the first round of discussions.

The second round of talks was held with the Ceylon Workers’ Congress. Its leader Senthil Thondaman and its General Secretary MP Jeevan Thondaman participated in the discussion.

The third discussion was held with the National Congress where its leader A.L.M. Athaullah and a delegation participated. Several discussions were also held on Wednesday between President Wickremesinghe and political parties regarding the formation of an All-Party Government, and many parties including the Samagi Jana Balawega (SJB), Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and others have expressed their agreement for further discussions.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) conducted discussions on the formation of an All-Party Government with President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Wednesday. The discussion was held with participation of TNA MPs M.A. Sumanthiran, Dharmalingam Sithadthan and Selvam Adaikkalanathan at the President’s Office. It was also taken into the discussion of the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution and the interim Budget to be presented to the Parliament soon by the new Government.

The New Lanka Freedom Party led by MP Kumara Welgama and MP Ven. Athuraliya Rathana Thera also met the President for a discussion on Wednesday. The discussions led by the President and held with the political parties began on Tuesday, August 2 and Wednesday’s discussions were held as the second phase which was also attended by Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardane. Meanwhile, TNA Leader R. Sampanthan has said that the TNA is ready to accept the President’s invitation to form an All-Party Government.

The TNA Leader told the media that the President’s efforts to form an All-Party Government will be fully supported by his party. Sampanthan said that the only thing that can be done in the face of the current crisis is the formation of an All-Party Government. He said that he wished other Tamil political parties apart from the TNA too will agree to the President’s proposal.

Moderate statement

SLFP General Secretary Dayasiri Jayasekara said that the Throne Speech delivered by President Ranil Wickremesinghe was a moderate statement made by a President after a long time. Jayasekara also said that he believes that the contents included in it will not be limited to mere words.

He said, “The President’s speech included the issues faced by the public. I have known President Wickremesinghe over a long period and having been the Prime Minister of this country on several occasions, I believe that his policy statement included many ideas he had in his head for a long time that he would implement in the event he became President. However, it is easier said than done.

“Therefore, we sincerely hope, as the SLFP, that the President will succeed in implementing the ideas that he has presented through his policy statement.” With regard to the formation of an All-Party Government, Jayasekara said that the SLFP believes that it will happen very soon. “This is something that we have been saying over a long time. As a party, our party Leader Maithripala Sirisena and the rest of the party will discuss this matter and we will take a collective decision on whether or not we could join the government,” he said.

Common plan

In a letter to President Ranil Wickremesinghe, National Freedom Front Leader MP Wimal Weerawansa has requested that an All-Party Conference (APC) be convened immediately to find solutions to the crisis.

In the letter the MP requested that an All-Party Conference should be called and a common plan to solve the crisis be presented to the country with a road map for its implementation. It has been pointed out in the letter that it is important to neutralise the undemocratic influence exerted by those engaged in the ‘Aragalaya’ on the political establishment of the country. Weerawansa’s letter addressed to the President states that it is important to win the public’s trust by presenting a common consensus to the country through the All-Party Conference and viable strategies to overcome the economic crisis.

Political stability

Minister Manusha Nanayakkara said that the incumbent Government will continue for the next two and a half years and another election will only be held after that.

He said that the political stability demanded by the world has been provided today through the country’s Parliament.

He said, “This stable Government will continue to operate permanently for the next two and a half years. After two and a half years, elections will be held. Because if the state is not stable, the economy cannot be built. Now the Government is stable so the economy can be built.”

Political tensions

SLPP General Secretary MP Sagara Kariyawasam has said that if former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is willing to engage in politics with the SLPP after his return to Sri Lanka, the SLPP will gladly accept him.

At a recent media briefing in Colombo, Kariyawasam said that Rajapaksa’s return is not something out of the ordinary, adding that the latter, as a Sri Lankan, has the full right to return to the country. He also said that, given that Rajapaksa is a Sri Lankan citizen and a former President, the Government has full responsibility to provide him facilities and security.

When questioned as to whether Rajapaksa will join the SLPP and engage in political activities after returning to Sri Lanka, Kariyawasam said, “It is for him to decide as to whether he would engage in politics or not, after coming back to Sri Lanka. If he wishes to do so, we will be very happy to receive him. He is a former President and the Presidential candidate of our party. So, we have no hesitation in receiving him.”

However, President Ranil Wickremesinghe in an interview with the US-based ‘Wall Street Journal’ had said that it was not the right time for Rajapaksa to return to the country, as it could inflame political tensions. “I don’t believe it’s the time for him to return,” Wickremesinghe said in an interview with the newspaper. “I have no indication of him returning soon.”

Interim Budget

President Ranil Wickremesinghe met the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and a group of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) MPs including Prof. G.L. Peiris and Dullas Alahapperuma on Thursday afternoon at the President’s Office to discuss the setting up of an All-Party Government (APG).

During the discussion, the President has said that he hopes to present an interim budget in the first week of September and through the interim budget he will provide several concessions and relief to the people. President Wickremesinghe said that the aim of an All-Party Government is to turn Parliament into a Government and make decisions for the building of the country. The President has also said that the 22nd Constitution Amendment Bill has been submitted to the Parliament this year, and it is best to discuss it and reach a common agreement.

The President said he expects the support of all the parties in Parliament to form an APG and pass the 22nd Amendment. Leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, former President Maithripala Sirisena had thanked President Wickremesinghe for respecting the proposal presented by the SLFP for an APG and said that his party would give full support for an APG. In the discussion held with the SLPP group including Prof. Peiris and Dullas Alahapperuma, the President has said that in order to formulate an economic plan suitable for 10 years, everyone should lay the foundation for it.

Modi congratulates new PM

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has congratulated newly elected Prime Minister Dinesh Gunewardena. The Indian Prime Minister in a message to his Sri Lankan counterpart said “You have assumed office at an important juncture for Sri Lanka. I hope under your leadership, Sri Lanka will witness quick economic recovery, ensuring the prosperity and well-being of its people.

I would like to assure you that as a dependable friend and close neighbour India shall continue to support the people of Sri Lanka guided by our ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy. I look forward to working with you to further strengthen and expand our exemplary bilateral relations based on millennia-old civilisational ties.”

Demands for justice

Claiming that the Catholic Church’s demands for justice for the Easter Sunday terror attacks of April 21, 2019 have not yet been addressed, Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith said that the persons identified as responsible for the said terror attacks are still engaged in their political activities and hold positions in the Police.

He was speaking at an event in Colombo recently. He said, “On April 21, 2019, 267 people were killed by bomb attacks on Catholic churches and hotels. To date, justice has not been served for that. That is the power of these powerful people. We should be ashamed. There is no law in our country.

There is no room for the law. Instead, there is lawlessness. It is the law of the powerful that is being implemented in the country.”

The Archbishop said that the Catholic Church has requested the relevant authorities on numerous occasions to conduct an independent investigation into the Easter Sunday terror attacks and to prosecute those identified as responsible, but none of those requests have been fulfilled.

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