Maithripala promises to scrap presidency within 100 days
* Ranil to be PM *‘Many govt. MPs, ministers will join me’
Nominations on Dec 8; election on Jan. 8, 2015
By Dasun Edirisinghe
Health Minister and SLFP General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena yesterday declared that he would be the common candidate of the Opposition at the next presidential election to be held on January 8 next year.
Addressing the media at the New Town Hall, Colombo Minister Sirisena said that he had sacrificed all positions and privileges for the sake of the country and its people. He was flanked by former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, Education Services Minister Duminda Dissanayake, Deputy Minister of Buddasasana M. K. A. D. S. Gunawardena, UPFA National List MP Prof. Rajiva Wijesinghe. UPFA MP who joined the UNP on Thursday Wasantha Senanayake also joined with Minister Sirisena and Democratic National Alliance MP Arjuna Ranatunga.
An emotional Kumaratunga said, wiping tears, that the she had been forced out of the SLFP before she could hand the party to President Rajapaksa properly. She said she would not hold any positions in the alliance being forged to defeat President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Minister Sirisena commenced his speech quoting from the Dhammapada to stress the need for prompt action to avoid regret.
He promised that the executive presidency would be abolished within 100 days of his election as President and UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe appointed Prime Minister of the next government.
The 17th amendment to the Constitution would be reintroduced and the 18th Amendment which enabled the President to seek more than two terms besides having other draconian features abolished, he said.
Minister Sirisena said since 2007 he had been denied freedom to function as a minister. He had even been prevented from implementing some irrigation projects for the benefit of the people of the North Central Province and President Rajapaksa’s style of governance had caused a great deal of mental stress to him. He thanked his wife and children for having stood solidly behind him and urging him to do what he thought was right. “I was not allowed to introduce a national drug policy and have pictorial warnings printed on packs of cigarettes the way I wanted. Some elements resisted my efforts.” He said Parliament had unanimously resolved that 80 percent of the display areas of cigarette packs be covered with pictorial warnings but the Supreme Court had reduced that to 60 percent. He said the public was aware who was behind those moves.
Describing the Rajapaksa government as dictatorial, Sirisena said that the Rajapaksa family was controlling all sectors of the government with no heed for the core principles of the SLFP or democracy.
Sirisena said that more government members including ministers would join him within the next few days. The name of the new alliance and its symbol would be announced in a week or so, he said.
“I have faith in the Elections Commissioner and urge him and the security forces and the police to act independently,” he said, adding that the tri forces commanders and the Inspector General of Police should not harbour any fears as they would be safe under his stewardship as president.
Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga said that she had never wanted to reenter active politics in retirement but she had been compelled to do so due to the situation the country was at present.
Kumaratunga said she would work hard to ensure the victory of Maithripala Sirisena whom she called a great son of a farmer.
Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne said he had given up all perks and privileges despite President Rajapaksa’s brother Basil’s repeated attempts to prevent him from leaving the government. “As my school friend, Basil Rajapaksa asked me to remain with him, but I decided to pull out considering the future of the people and country,” he said.
Dr. Senaratne said that at present he did not have a private house or private vehicle, but he had decided to rise against the government which he said was corrupt and dictatorial.