President tells Cabinet no election till IMF programme is over

With serious doubts and concerns raised on whether an election will be held this year and if so, whether a General Election or Presidential Election should be held first, President Ranil Wickremesinghe told his Cabinet of Ministers when they met earlier in the week that the Government is not in a position to jeopardise the ongoing IMF programme by holding an election before the programme concludes. His announcement comes after a lengthy discussion held with the Shadow Cabinet that met a few hours before the Cabinet meeting.

When the Shadow Cabinet met, some MPs raised concerns about the deliberations by various parties on holding the Parliamentary Election before the Presidential Polls.

“We can’t risk the IMF programme by holding elections. According to our projection, it will only conclude by the end of July. Therefore, I am not in a position to hold any election before August,” he said.

President Wickremesinghe also informed the same to the Cabinet. He also said that by law the Elections Commission is empowered to declare a Presidential Election any time after July. “Therefore, the Presidential Election will be held first and all other elections can follow,” he added.

Sections of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) have called for a General Election to be held first. Meanwhile, a young SLPP MP with a powerful surname has supposedly expressed confidence in garnering a two-thirds majority in passing a resolution in Parliament calling the President to dissolve Parliament and go for a General Election.

Basil replaced

The ruling SLPP, on Wednesday (27), replaced its National Organiser Basil Rajapaksa with Hambantota District MP Namal Rajapaksa.

This decision was made at an executive committee meeting of the SLPP at former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s official residence at Wijerama Mawatha in Colombo.

Meanwhile, political sources claimed the majority of the SLPP MPs and Ministers were quite surprised by the move.

“Both Basil and Chamal Rajapaksa thought that the National Organiser post should be given to a party senior who is not part of the Rajapaksa family. Two names were proposed and those were Minister Prasanna Ranatunga and MP Rohitha Abeygunawardena. But, Ranatunga refused it as he needed to work with other parties as the Chief Government Whip. Therefore, Rohitha would have been appointed,” a party senior said.

The division in the party on fielding a separate presidential candidate instead of backing the incumbent President’s candidacy is expected to deepen with the latest developments.

Minister Prasanna Ranatunga, speaking to journalists at the SLPP office at Nelum Mawatha, said holding the Presidential Election would be more beneficial than a Parliamentary Poll, stressing the need for a stable Government to steer Sri Lanka out of its current challenges.

He also expressed uncertainty about the availability of suitable candidates for the presidential candidacy within the SLPP at this time.

“My stance is that we need to go for a Presidential Election first and Ranil Wickremesinghe, who can take up the challenges and who revived the economy, should win. We need to make decisions for the sake of the country. The country is first. The party is second. If we think of the country, we need to go for a Presidential Election and allow the person who wins to form a government without going for a Parliamentary Election and forming an unstable government. The SLPP must work for Ranil Wickremesinghe and if he wins the election, he should be allowed to form a government. If anyone else wins, he should be allowed to form a government. Then the country will not run into anarchy,” he said.

Ranatunga expressed his preference for SLPP founder Basil Rajapaksa to serve as the National Organiser within the party, citing his experience and track record in managing difficult situations, whilst congratulating Namal Rajapaksa on the appointment as the National Organiser stating that he should be allowed to prove his capabilities in the new role.

Ranatunga said Namal Rajapaksa can contest for the Presidency only in another five to ten years.

Sirisena in a soup

Former President Maithripala Sirisena provided a near six-hour statement to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on Monday (25), over his recent remark that he is aware of the ‘real perpetrators’ of the 2019 Easter Sunday terror attacks.

Sirisena arrived at the CID Headquarters at 10:30 a.m.

Public Security Minister Tiran Alles had directed the IGP to promptly investigate statements made by the former President in Kandy, where he claimed knowledge of individuals linked to the Easter Sunday carnage.

Sirisena, on Friday (22), claimed to know the “true mastermind” behind the attacks and expressed willingness to disclose this information to the Judiciary if prompted. However, these assertions have been met with scepticism and condemnation from various parties.

However, on Saturday (23), Sirisena issued a clarification and claimed that his statement on 22 March was based on information he received three weeks ago regarding the Easter Attacks. The former President once again said he is prepared to testify confidentially if ordered by a Court, emphasising his intention to provide a confidential statement, citing concerns for his safety and that of his family if he were to testify in open Court. “This is not merely a matter of political implications. I am making a very sincere statement,” he said.

Members of the Opposition, including Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MPs Mano Ganesan and Kavinda Jayawardene, called for Sirisena’s prompt arrest and interrogation. National People’s Power (NPP) MP Vijitha Herath also criticised Sirisena’s statement, urging the Government to launch an immediate and comprehensive probe.

Police Spokesman, DIG Nihal Thalduwa said investigations have been initiated by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) following the controversial statement, made by former President Maithripala Sirisena, on the 2019 Easter Sunday terror attacks.

Speaking to the media, Thalduwa said investigations have commenced, based on the details provided by Sirisena during his interrogation, regarding his revelation to the media that he possesses knowledge about the perpetrators of the Easter Attacks.

He affirmed that as the investigations progress, the guidance of the Attorney General will be sought and further action will be taken accordingly, adhering to legal counsel.

Further, DIG Thalduwa emphasised that disclosing the specifics of Sirisena’s statement to the media cannot be done at present and a report is to be submitted to Court regarding this matter.

Meanwhile, Maligakanda Magistrate Lochana Abeywickrama ordered former President Sirisena to provide a statement to the Court regarding his recent statements on the 2019 Easter Sunday terror attacks.

Dinesh in China

Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, presently on a State visit to China, met Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday (27).

The discussion, held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, underscored the commitment of both leaders to uphold principles of friendship, peace, mutual respect and non-interference in internal affairs, as outlined in the fivefold principle governing international relations.

Both leaders emphasised the importance of bilateral relations grounded in mutual respect and productivity, believing that adherence to such principles would serve as a positive example for both nations.

President Xi reiterated China’s unwavering support for

Sri Lanka’s political and socioeconomic progress, reaffirming China’s commitment to safeguarding the independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of Sri Lanka.

Expressing gratitude for the historical support from Prime Minister Gunawardena’s family lineage, President Xi acknowledged the desire of Sri Lankan political parties, including the Prime Minister’s, to enhance cooperation with the Chinese Communist Party.

In response, Prime Minister Gunawardena expressed appreciation for China’s assistance during Sri Lanka’s recent economic challenges and for providing debt restructuring facilities. He also provided updates on the progress made in implementing decisions made during President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s previous visit to China.

Additionally, the Prime Minister extended gratitude to President Xi for China’s support across various sectors including education, agriculture, health, technology, culture and religion.