Co-conveners of Purawesi Balaya, Gamini Viyangoda, K.W. Janaranjana and Saman Ratnapriya yesterday claimed that the outfit had received firm assurances from President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Monday (Feb. 12) that they wouldn’t quit yahapalana alliance over the disappointing outcome of Feb. 10 local government polls.
Addressing a hastily called press conference at the Center for Society and Religion (CSR), Maradana, Purawesi Balaya spokespersons, explained their efforts to settle a simmering dispute between the President and Prime Minister. They acknowledged that the dispute could derail their pre 2015 presidential poll pact with yahapalana leaders.
Purawesi Balaya delegation that had held separate meetings with President Sirisena and PM Wickremesinghe comprised Ven. Dambara Amila, Janaranjana, Viyangoda and Ratnapriya. Having had met President Sirisena at the Presidential Secretariat in the afternoon, the delegation made representations to Premier Wickremesinghe.
President Sirisena had been alone at the 90 minute meeting, while Premier Wickremesinghe was assisted by UNP Chairman Malik Samarawickrema.
Viyangoda quoted yahapalana leaders as having reiterated their commitment to 2015 agenda and readiness to continue till 2020.
Purawesi Balaya intervened in the wake of Wickremesinghe coming under intense pressure from a section of his parliamentary group to quit.
At the onset of the briefing Viyangoda said that the electorate had exercised their franchise against the coalition partners as they failed to keep major promises. Asserting that the voting public had shown both President Sirisena and PM Wickremesinghe a red light, Viyangoda emphasized the two leaders should share responsibility for the crisis. Whatever the reasons, they had attributed to the current predicament, such excuses couldn’t be accepted, Viyangoda said.
The civil society activist alleged that the failure to bring in a new Constitution with the abolition of executive presidency had caused irreparable damage to Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration. Calling the failure to enact the new Constitution their primary failure, Viyangoda faulted the administration for not taking tangible measures against those responsible for killings and corruption.
Appreciating efforts made in parliament to pursue constitutional reforms, Viyangoda alleged that sufficient attention wasn’t paid to despicable campaign against political reforms. Those hell-bent on disrupting post-war reconciliation process brazenly exploited the weakness on the part of the government to undermine the new constitution making process, Viyangoda said.
Viyangoda flayed the government for its failure to bring investigations into the killing of The Sunday Leader editor Lasantha Wickremetunga (Jan.8.2009), disappearance of media personality Prageeth Ekneligoda on the eve of Jan.26, 2010 presidential poll and Wasim Thajudeen killing (May 17, 2012) to a successful conclusion.
Referring to former President Rajapaksa’s call for a fresh parliamentary election in the wake of what he had called political instability, Viyangoda claimed there was absolutely no justification in seeking national election following Feb. 10 local government polls. He said the local government, provincial council, parliamentary and presidential polls were meant for specific purposes. Viyangoda said that president couldn’t be replaced by parliamentary polls. Similarly, government couldn’t be changed on the basis of presidential election outcome.
The Island sought an explanation from Purawesi Balaya as to why UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe was asked to form a government without the necessary parliamentary backing in the wake of Jan 2015 presidential poll. Purawesi Balaya speakers claimed that the parliament had accepted Wickremesinghe’s appointment sans protests. When The Island pointed out that the UNP parliamentary group comprised just 46 members whereas the UPFA consisted of 152, including 126 SLFPers, Viyangoda said that shell-shocked Rajapaksa couldn’t respond. Rajapaksa expected to continue for about 25 years, hence his inability to take the sudden fall, Viyangoda said. Others pointed out that in the run-up to Jan 2015, the electorate had been repeatedly told that Wickremesinghe would be the Prime Minister.
Asked by The Island whether Purawesi Balaya accepted the UNP-SLFP coalition was in crisis today due to bond scams in 2015 and 2016, those in the head table said that they too believed so.
They also admitted grave mistake on the part of the yahapalana government in purposely delaying local government polls, which finally led to countrywide election three years after the last presidential contest. Had local government polls been held as scheduled on a staggered basis, the situation would have been different, they said.
The Island sought their opinion as to the feasibility of having scheduled provincial council polls in Oct this year and, April and Oct next year against the backdrop of the yahapalana government putting off scheduled polls for three councils last year, Purawesi Balaya said that the outfit backed elections on time. Ratnapriya said that it would be better to have PC polls simultaneously for all regions. The Island asked whether he meant putting off PC polls scheduled for this year for the next or vice versa, Ratnapriya said that polls could be advanced to this year.
Purawesi Balaya leaders insisted that they expected President Sirisena and PM Wickremesinghe to reach an agreement on a workable solution for early implementation of their much touted promises.