TNA urges Sirisena to take a swift, considered decision

Sampanthan points to impending court cases

The mounting pressure of an impending Supreme Court verdict on his dissolution of Parliament, and the lack of majority support for his hand-picked Prime Minister might prompt President Maithripala Sirisena to end Sri Lanka’s political crisis this weekend, The Hindu learns.

President Sirisena held two high-level meetings on Friday evening — with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentary group and the leaders of the United National Front (UNF) led by ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) — to explore a possible way out of the crisis, sources present at the discussions said.

The TNA had a “cordial” meeting with the President, according to its leader R. Sampanthan, who pointed out that the legislature and the executive have been in conflict following Mr. Sirisena’s actions since October 26. The party “claiming to be government”, the TNA observed, was not present in the House over the past few days.

A month after being controversially installed as premier, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa is yet to prove majority in the House, making it harder for Mr. Sirisena to continue justifying his appointment in place of Mr. Wickremesinghe.

The TNA also pointed to the two cases in court — one challenging President Sirisena’s dissolution of Parliament and call for snap polls, and another Quo Warranto petition asking on whose authority Mr. Rajapaksa was continuing in office despite losing the trust vote.

UNP’s support in 2015

“There is every possibility that the outcome of the cases might overturn his [President’s] decisions. That would not be desirable, so we advised him to take well-considered decisions at the earliest, rather than hasty, ill-advised decisions,” Mr. Sampanthan said.

When Mr. Sirisena reiterated his reservations on working with Mr. Wickremesinghe, the TNA leader told him that it was important not to disregard the fact that the UNP had backed his presidential candidacy in the 2015 election. “We told him that the party’s choice in nominating its prime ministerial candidate must be respected,” Mr. Sampanthan said.

Further, the TNA raised pending concerns of the Tamil people, including a political solution, the return of military-occupied land to civilians, and the release of political prisoners. The President’s response was “positive”, as he underscored his commitment to a political solution and the release of private land remaining with the military by December 31.

“On the matter of political prisoners, the President will chair a meeting on Monday, with the Attorney General and other relevant officials. The TNA will also participate and a decision is likely,” Mr. Sampanthan said.