Prez undermining EC ahead of elections: SLPP rebel group

The rebel SLPP group yesterday (04) accused President Ranil Wickremesinghe of trying to bring the legislature under his control ahead of presidential and parliamentary polls scheduled for 2024 and 2025.

Addressing the weekly media briefing at Nawala, top Opposition spokesperson and former External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris alleged that Wickremesinghe’s recent threat to appoint a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to ascertain the status of the Constitutional Council (CC) was in line with his strategy to keep the legislature under his thumb.

Prof. Peiris said the executive posed a threat to the legislature as well as the judiciary against the backdrop of the moves to introduce a new Act to govern Parliament, undermine CC and clip the wings of Cabinet ministers. He cited the recent sacking of Sports Minister Roshan Ranasinghe (SLPP Polonnaruwa District) as a case in point.

Referring to the proposed parliamentary Act, the former minister pointed out that the President with just one UNP National List MP in the current Parliament, was bent on bringing the whole administrative structure, at every level, under his direct control. Prof. Peiris asserted that the President seemed determined to push ahead with his contentious strategy, regardless of consequences.

The former top law academic said that the way President Wickremesinghe responded to the CC’s refusal to endorse multiple extensions to former IGP C.D. Wickremeratne revealed the UNP leader had absolutely no regard for the 21st Amendment enacted on Oct 21, 2022 with an overwhelming 2/3 majority. The academic acknowledged that the President was pursuing an agenda inimical to parliamentary democracy in spite of clear opposition to such undemocratic behaviour both in and outside Parliament.

The ex-Minister alleged that President Wickremesinghe conveniently failed to fill a longtime existing vacancy in the vital Election Commission (EC). Recalling how the President moved against the previous EC after having failed to force the independent commission to put off Local Government polls on its own, Prof. Peiris expressed fears the delay seemed to be deliberate. The one time internationally recognized law academic accused President Wickremesinghe of planning to sabotage the EC in the run-up to the presidential polls late next year.

“We are quite concerned about Wickremesinghe’s motive in continuing with one vacancy in the five-member EC,” Prof. Peiris said, pointing out that P.S.M. Charles, one-time member of EC, received appointment as Governor of the Northern Province on May 17, 2023. Prof. Peiris said that President Wickremesinghe posed quite a threat to the parliamentary system.

Responding to The Island queries, Prof. Peiris emphasized that the SLPP should be held accountable for the developing crisis. Having invited Wickremesinghe to accept premiership on May 12, 2022 at the height of the public protest campaign, the SLPP accommodated the UNP leader as Finance Minister on May 25, 2022 before electing him the President in late July, of the same year, Prof. Peiris said.

The former law professor added that the President operated on the premise that regardless of the SLPP’s stand, the majority of members, including the entire Cabinet, would abide by his stand on any contentious issue. This was proved when President Wickrememesinghe sacked Sports Minister Ranasinghe who had the guts to stand up to Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC).

The former minister urged the genuine Opposition to sink whatever differences to meet the President’s challenge. The President has repeatedly shown that he didn’t care about the Constitution and intended to consolidate his position in preparation for the next presidential poll.

Prof. Peiris warned that Wickremesinghe would go all out against the media, both print and electronic, as he stepped up pressure on the Opposition.