By Shamindra Ferdinando
Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Chairman and top Joint Opposition spokesman Prof. G.L. Peiris on Monday (June 25) strongly opposed any special arrangement between the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government and the Northern Provincial Council Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran to put off elections to the NPC.
Prof. Peiris emphasized there couldn’t be such an exclusive agreement between the government and a particular provincial administration especially against the backdrop of postponement of elections scheduled for Sabaragamuwa, Eastern and North Central Provincial Councils polls last year.
SLPP Chairman said so at a media briefing at Nelum Mawatha, Battaramulla office of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Wigneswaran recently declared that he had no objection to the postponement of the elections to his provincial council provided that his term of office was extended up to the point of the next polls.
Wigneswaran said that he would oppose placing the NPC under the purview of the Governor in the event the elections were postponed.
The retired Supreme Court judge said if the council was placed in the hands of the Governor as in the East, there was no use of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.
The term of the NPC will expire in October.
Former Law Professor said that Wigneswaran couldn’t be unaware that he as the Chief Minister was part of the council, therefore there couldn’t be special status for him. Prof. Peiris, who also held the post of External Affairs portfolio during former President Rajapaksa’s second term emphasized that there was no legal basis for an extended term under any circumstances.
The term of three more councils, namely Central, Wayamba and Northern expire in Oct this year.
The remaining three councils are scheduled to end their terms next year.
Prof. Peiris said the four party Tamil National Alliance (TNA) seemed to be going out of its way to assist the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe to achieve its political goals. Obviously, the TNA realized the government’s reluctance to face PC polls ahead of the Nov/Dec 2019 presidential poll, he said.
Responding to a query, Prof Peiris explained the possibility of the government not holding PC polls on a staggered basis or simultaneously fearing a heavy drubbing ahead of next presidential poll. Prof. Peiris said that Wigneswarn’s move should be examined closely with him and TNA leader R. Sampanthan appearing on one stage in Jaffna over the last weekend.
Joint Opposition heavyweight and Matara District MP Dallas Alahapperuma, too, commented on ongoing government project to avoid PC polls. Having put off Local Government polls for over two years, elections to three PCs were now nine months overdue and in spite of repeated promises there was no consensus on PC polls, the former minister said.
The term of NCP will end in 77 days and Central and Wayamba in 87 days, Alahapperuma said on Sunday (June 24).
Alahapperuma challenged the civil society grouping that campaigned for Maithripala Sirisena at the 2015 presidential and for the UNP at the parliamentary polls, same year, to push yahapalana leaders to hold scheduled elections if they really cared about democracy.
The civil society grouping had conveniently forgotten their responsibilities, Alahapperuma said, alleging those high profile activists seemed to be selective in promoting selected interests.
Responding to a spate of accusations directed at wartime Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Alahapperuma asserted that the public couldn’t be deceived by ‘yahapalana’ propaganda. Recollecting Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s role during the war, Alahapperuma insisted that he played a role second only to the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The former minister said that the foolish government bid to misinterpret recent statement made by Ven. Vendaruwe Upali thera of Asgiriya Chapter in respect of the next presidential election revealed the weakness of this administration.
Both Prof. Peiris and MP Alahapperuma said that the government was struggling to cope up with a plethora of problems with almost every sector in crisis and further deterioration of economic situation due to unprecedented depreciation of the Sri Lankan rupee.
Prof. Peiris said that ‘yahapalana’ leaders seemed to believe in putting off polls as a panacea for all ills.
Meanwhile, a senior spokesman for the National Election Commission (NEC) told The Island that NEC Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya, in a letter to General Secretaries of registered political parties represented in parliament had recommended ways and means to overcome current uncertainty and to ensure PC polls.