Sirisena’s only strategy is resorting to ad hocism

  • Crisis meetings today in bid to end political turmoil that has engulfed the country
  • President’s move brings unity to the once divided UNP; Sajith again refuses offer to be PM
  • Numbers issue showing signs of friction between Sirisena and Rajapaksa groups

Be it for good or bad, right or wrong, there is perhaps no other political leader in independent Sri Lanka, than President Maithripala Sirisena, who has touched the lives of almost all his compatriots in so short a span of just three weeks.

With the stroke of a proclamation on October 26, he fell his onetime Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and foisted his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa. That galvanised a United National Party (UNP), which has long been in dissension mode within the party. The drubbing the UNP received at the local government polls on February 10, exposed its countrywide rating. That drove fear in them over facing Provincial Council elections and seemingly plausible excuses came one after another. Yet, the UNP supporters, now banded together are crowding the streets of Colombo to protest President Sirisena’s actions. It has given more meaning to the first word of the party’s name – United.

Even the UNP’s bosom political ally, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), is on board. As details in the later paragraphs show, TNA leader Rajavarothayam Sampanthan pleaded with President Sirisena on Thursday night to re-appoint Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister. In its previous avatar as the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), the party demanded devolution of power after the unfortunate 1983 ethnic violence. It won Provincial Councils in the North to manage some of the affairs which were earlier with the central government. More are pending.

The hand in glove relationship between the UNP and the TNA grew over the past more than three years. So much so, the TNA supported the UNP and its allies in the previous regime to introduce new laws to put off PC elections through a mere gazette notification. In effect, that took away a privilege an earlier UNP administration gave Tamils to elect their own representatives in their areas.  Now the Centre decides when they should choose. In south Sri Lanka, this raised questions on whether PCs were now necessary since the Centre could control their affairs as before. The two TNA leaders who now give a face to the alliance, Rajavarothayam Sampanthan and Matihiaparanam Abraham Sumanthiran have been issuing periodic statements in the recent weeks about the dire need to “preserve democracy.” Much the same way they assured those in the North that PC polls would be held even when the government was arming itself with legislation to postpone them through a gazette.

Speaker’s chair under siege: A UPFA MP Masquerades as the Speaker. Pic by Ishanka Sunimal

The TNA’s new role, after Sirisena’s actions, have had an impact on the northern people. “There are largely three different schools of thought. Among those who are becoming increasingly hard line, there are strong apprehensions about TNA’s sycophantic role. Some civilians believe ousted Premier Wickremesinghe could have delivered the Tamil demands. Others say they should forget the past and win over whatever demands possible from Premier Rajapaksa,” said Nadesapillai Vithyatharan, Editor of Kaalai Kathir, a Tamil daily in Jaffna.

The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), another key player has remained a close ally of the then UNP administration. Responsible for maintaining that continued link is a controversial cabinet minister, a close confidante of ousted Premier Wickremesinghe.  Other than some critical remarks over key UNP leaders, again to keep their membership happy, the JVP has studiously refrained from making any references to this minister. The two Muslim parties – the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and the All Ceylon Makkal (People’s) Congress (ACMC) – who collectively overturned calls by President Sirisena to join his ranks re-iterated their support to the UNP. Their MPs carried the message to the electorates that they were with Wickremesinghe.

The biggest beneficiary is Mahinda Rajapaksa, still the de facto leader of the ‘Joint Opposition’ and  the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). Within days of his being sworn-in as Prime Minister, Rajapaksa flew in a Sri Lanka Air Force (SLFP) helicopter to Kataragama. Crowds thronged when he visited Kiri Vehera, one of the sacred places he most venerates. There was a volley of questions from those who greeted him. What are you going to do this time? Don’t make the mistakes you made during your last regime, exhorted a member of the Buddhist clergy. “I have come to the gods to apologise for the wrongs I did and to promise I will not repeat them,” he said laughingly. This event and the crowds that gathered for a Wap Magul (harvest festival) in Wirawila, outside Tissamaharama, (together with President Sirisena) reflected an euphoric mood. Speakers spoke about the return of the “son of the south.” Rajapaksa who turns 73 years today will also be in Kataragama this morning.

Yet, there is no gainsaying that both Premier Rajapaksa and his closest advisor and ideologue Basil Rajapaksa had some egg or mud on their face. It was only after he was catapulted to the office of the Premier did he realize that he did not have the numbers to support a government in Parliament. “Mama dena gena hitiye nehe” or I was not aware, he confided in a close friend. Both the Premier and Basil had believed S.B. Dissanayake who had declared many a time during their secret dialogue that “Gaana hari. Ekata baya wenna epa” or the numbers are correct and therefore do not be frightened about it. Those words of Dissanayake had also been re-iterated to the duo by none other than President Sirisena.

The numbers issue is now showing signs of growing friction between Sirisena and the Rajapaksa groups. The President chaired a meeting of the party’s parliamentary group on Friday night. He announced that he would “under no circumstances” re-appoint Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister. He explained the same position to envoys of western missions whom he met separately on Friday. The Parliament, he told MPs, has to adopt “a proper procedure” and take a vote on the No Confidence Motion against the Prime Minister (Mahinda Rajapaksa). What they did on Friday morning was improper, he said.  He was alluding to a vote by name which is likely tomorrow. Thereafter, he would consider a nominee. Sirisena then declared that the ‘Joint Opposition’ has to find the 113 MPs to sustain the government in Parliament. He charged “it is they who undertook to find the numbers” – a claim flatly denied by the Rajapaksa side. Sources close to President claimed the promises for numbers had come particularly from Basil Rajapaksa and Namal Rajapaksa. The finger pointing makes clear neither side was sure. That may trigger another crisis.

In what seemed a response, Rajapaksa declared at a public meeting in Weeraketiya (his ancestral town) removing him by force or through unlawful means would be a difficult task.

Many are unaware that S.B. Dissanayake has been a colossal failure on an earlier occasion too. There again, he was unable to produce numbers and the move for a Vote of No Confidence against ousted Premier Wickremesinghe then ended up in a major flop. It all began on a day when President Sirisena flew to Kandy when violence was raging between groups of Sinhalese and Muslims in March this year. Later Sirisena was at the upper floor of the President’s House in the hill capital with a towel wrapped around his waist. He was told that Dissanayake had arrived. He asked him upstairs and Sirisena lamented that he was finding it very difficult to work with Wickremesinghe. He (Wickremesinghe) was placing one obstacle after another in the work he did, he alleged.

Dissanayake promised “to do something.” That was when the politician from Hanguranketha told Sirisena he would speak to Mahinda Rajapaksa. In humour, Sirisena likened Wickremesinghe to a Naya (Cobra) and Rajapaksa to a Mapilla

(Cat snake). This developed into the No Confidence Motion against Wickremesinghe. Dissanayake could not produce the numbers that he promised and the motion was defeated in Parliament in April this year. Then came the October 26 decision to replace Wickremesinghe and anoint Rajapaksa. Thus, the broker who fooled a President and a Prime Minister, won a Ministerial post but left in its wake a major political crisis. The same broker denied publicly that he facilitated secret talks between Sirisena and Rajapaksa at his Battaramulla residence. There were at least two such meetings which neither Sirisena nor Rajapaksa denied, but Dissanayake kept denying.

Despite the drawbacks and stumbling blocks over a tie up with Sirisena, Rajapaksa, a seasoned politician who was the youngest MP to enter Parliament way back in 1970 maintained his public composure. He was aggressive when he spoke in Parliament on Thursday. Speaker Karu Jayasuriya declared when sittings commenced that he did not recognise either the Premier (Rajapaksa) or his Cabinet of Ministers. In a speech which was ostensibly on the basis of his being MP for Kurunegala, Rajapaksa declared; “the President under the powers vested in him by the Constitution, invited me to accept the Premiership and form a government. I had the choice of either accepting that invitation or declining it. I could have simply said that it was best to allow the UNP government to continue in office for the remaining one year or so.  However, we were the main opposition force in the country. We are the largest political party in the country. When the President hands the country over to us in order to prevent a major catastrophe from taking place, it is our duty to accept that responsibility.”

Rajapaksa, so far, retains the political initiative he gained from Sirisena’s hurry to get rid of Wickremesinghe. If that is not good news for some SLFPers, paradoxical enough, Sirisena has also ended up strengthening Wickremesinghe’s hand by enabling the UNP to rally behind him. On top of that, both Sirisena and Rajapaksa also have another new political detractor – Parliament Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, who has emerged as a hero for the UNP for the stance he has taken in Parliament.

Mahinda Rajapaksa told the Sunday Times “I will continue as Prime Minister and offer as much relief as possible to the people.” He was speaking on the telephone from Tangalle. He said upon his return to Colombo, he would meet his party MPs and planned later to have a discussion with President Sirisena.  Ideologue and strategist Basil Rajapaksa appeared somewhat guarded or even cautious in a brief Q & A he gave the Sunday TimesSee box story on this page.

Concerns heightened in Colombo’s diplomatic community, not only among western nations but also many others, over Sirisena’s actions and decisions. To most, the first major worry was what would happen to investments made by companies in their countries in Sri Lanka. Would they be safe, they wondered. Another concern was both the constitutionality and legality of President Sirisena’s actions. This clearly laid bare a huge drawback. Neither the Presidential Secretariat nor any of the agencies of the new government were able to cohesively explain the reasons or the rationale behind most of Sirisena’s moves. This caused confusion not only in Sri Lanka but overseas too.  Perhaps most in the government are still unaware that this caused enormous damage to President Sirisena and Sri Lanka. On the other hand, the UNP’s effective publicity campaign, unmatched by any other, won it the eyes and ears of not only Sri Lankans but also the outside world. That has turned Sirisena into a villain without a defence.

It was no different on the economic front. The rupee continued to plunge vis-à-vis the US dollar. It was Rs 178.10 a dollar yesterday. The peak tourist season beginning this month saw cancellations of bookings from many countries. This is at a time when earnings of hoteliers are the highest during the current season. This is notwithstanding a multi-million rupee “So Sri Lanka” tourism development project in London. The new Tourism and Wild Life Minister, Wasantha Senanayake took his oaths and flew to London for the colourful event. He returned to Sri Lanka and crossed over, back again to the United National Party (UNP).

Like toads jumping from pond to pond in a rainforest, there were three others too when Parliament met last (Wednesday), November 14. They were Vadivel Suresh, Piyasena Gamage and A.H.M. Fowzie. Duminda Dissanayake, former SLFP General Secretary, who was also sworn in as Minister, took ill suddenly and admitted himself to a hospital. The four MPs said in unison that they did so to “save democracy.” It is creditable that both sides had other MPs who stood loyal to their parties and principles despite cash offers. One or two did yield. The four no doubt will go into Sri Lanka’s political history books as worthies who deserve no respect of the people who voted them.

Now, these developments – all the result of President Sirisena’s actions and decisions – raise a very critical question. Was he not aware of the consequences that would arise? True, there has been constant friction between President Sirisena and then Premier Wickremesinghe. The latter, as is well known, has to bear a very large slice of responsibility for it as has been periodically revealed in these columns. Sirisena has explained publicly that he ignored it at one time for the UNP had helped him to come to power. This is an admission that there has not been checks and balances which a leader should ensure. Many important issues were forgotten, simply glossed over or completely ignored.

An example is how the former Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government vowed, ahead of both presidential and parliamentary elections, that they would try those under the previous Rajapaksa administration over allegations of bribery and corruption. For three years, little was done. It came to light that a minister close to the then Premier has even passed down information about investigations. He was calling for periodic reports from the Police which allegedly ended up in the hands of the target’s lawyers.

Wickremesinghe was blamed for the situation which was exacerbated by his former ministers resorting to alleged bribery and corruption. Though not public, it is also alleged that President Sirisena has intervened on behalf of some important targets and their cases had gone to the backburner. One such case is only referred to now as “Operation Eagle Eye.” It is with elections round the corner that special courts have been set up and some cases are being “expedited.”  The idea – the accused will be in jail when there are polls which would end in a walk over.

However, it has become increasingly clear in the past three weeks that Sirisena’s only strategy is to resort to ad hocism. If such instances are with the guidance of advisors, it has become alarming. Reported in these columns last week was a claim to him by an advisor that a provision in the 19th Amendment relating to debarring the President from dissolving Parliament was “smuggled in” at the Committee stage. To the contrary, it was confirmed this week that it was very much in the draft Bill that went before the Supreme Court in March 2015. Of course, there remains a debate on how it got into the Constitution without a referendum. More so with an interpretation then President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga had received from the Supreme Court saying that the President’s powers cannot be changed without a two thirds vote and a referendum.

The political tragi-comedy that has pushed Sri Lanka into a worst political turmoil began this week with issues reaching the Supreme Court. Seventeen different petitioners challenged in the Supreme Court the legality of President Sirisena dissolving Parliament. There were also six intervenient petitioners.  A three judge Supreme Court bench chaired by Chief Justice Nalin Perera and comprising Justices Priyantha Jayawardena and Prasanna Jayawardene issued a stay order on the National Elections Commission not to proceed with arrangements for the elections set for January 5 next year. This is until December 7 by which time the SC would have finally made its order after hearing remaining petitioners on December 4, 5 and 6.

The ruling on Tuesday (November 13) sparked a new political crisis. With the dissolution of Parliament being made ineffective, the UNP went into action the same night. Their leaders spoke with the JVP and later to the TNA and other partners as well. Speaker Jayasuriya summoned a meeting of Parliament the next day, Wednesday (November 14) – the date set originally by the President for the ceremonial opening of Parliament.

That same evening, President Sirisena summoned a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC). It came in the wake of reports from the State Intelligence Service (SIS) of possible attempts at violence. In an unusual move, photographs of the NSC meeting was released to the media to convey a message to the public – the Armed Forces and the Police were firmly behind their Commander-in-Chief, President Sirisena. That exercise in itself underscored an element of unease and insecurity prompting a show of strength to those who opposed him.

President Sirisena and Premier Rajapaksa, backed by their respective parliamentarians, also had a crisis meeting at the Presidential Secretariat. Wimal Weerawansa, Mahindananda Aluthgamage and Dilan Perera urged that the Parliament be prorogued once more. “Nehe, api muhuna demu,” or, No, let us face it, declared Premier Rajapaksa.  After the meeting ended, Basil Rajapaksa and Dullas Allahapperuma had joined the President and the Premier. It is there that Sirisena declared that he would not prorogue Parliament and face what comes. Basil Rajapaksa noted that their new found relationship has achieved four different things and Sirisena “had done his duty by the country.” The first was the removal of then Premier Wickremesinghe, the second swearing-in Mahinda Rajapaksa, third the prorogation of Parliament and fourth the dissolution of Parliament, he said. Hence, he said, both the President and the Premier should move forward together.

By then Sirisena had also rejected a letter sent to him by Speaker Jayasuriya conveying the adoption of the No Confidence vote on Premier Rajapaksa being passed in Parliament through a voice vote. He said that was wrong.  Pointing out that “at a time when a case is pending before a court of law regarding Parliament, your actions on the matter may be prejudicial to the essence of that case,” Sirisena charged that the Speaker has sent him a “list of signatures that have not been properly ratified by Parliament as evidence to claim that the said No Confidence Motion was passed.”

Speaker Jayasuriya replied that “it is with a patriotic gesture that I emphasize the fact that, I firmly believe that this dilemma can be unravelled through negotiations, for the sake of the august good governance objectives for which we all appear for and as a state which possess a legacy of matured democracy throughout seven decades.” He added “It is with great respect that I urge you on behalf of all the citizens of the country and the future generations to come, that expeditious measures be taken to save the nation from this catastrophe by lending your ears to the majority view of Parliament without further delay.”

Jayasuriya pointed out that “all 122 Members of Parliament who voted for the motion were present at the House yesterday. Amongst them were some Ministers and Members of Parliament of the government. Though I made a respectful request thrice appealing for their support to duly take the vote, I was not given any opportunity for taking such a vote and accordingly, in terms of the Standing Order 47(1) I had to take the vote by voices and declare that it had been passed by the majority.”

Among the many meetings that Sirisena chaired was one with those from the United National Front (UNF) on Thursday night. He was heeding Speaker Jayasuriya’s request for a dialogue to resolve issues. Besides him, those present were Kabir Hashim (UNP Chairman), Sajith Premadasa, Eran Wickremeratne, Talatha Athkorale, Lakshman Kiriella, Gayantha Karunatilleke, Ranjith Madduma Bandara, Patali Champika Ranawaka, Mano Ganesan, Palani Digambaram, Rajavarothayam Sampanthan (TNA leader), Rauff Hakeem (SLMC leader) and Rishad Bathiuddin (ACMC leader).

President Sirisena opined at the meeting that the Vote of No Confidence adopted at the Parliament sessions on Wednesday was not “correctly done” and he could “not accept it.” He pointed out that “you have the right to adopt a motion but the way it had been drafted is illegal.” He was alluding to the preamble in the motion which read “the extraordinary gazette issued by HE the President on October 26, 2018 under the numbers 2094/43, 2094 43 A and 2094/44 are against the Constitution.”  He pointed out that those gazette notifications were proclamations issued as head of the executive and could not be challenged by the legislature. They related to the removal of Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister, the appointment of Mahinda Rajapaksa as his successor and the prorogation of Parliament.

Hence, Sirisena said they should present the motion again without the preamble and “follow the correct procedure in Parliament to pass it.” Thereafter, if the Speaker writes to him conveying that the motion has been passed following “proper procedures,” he would consider it. Then President Sirisena dropped a bombshell. He said they could bring any name but he would not re-appoint ousted Prime Minister Wickremesinghe. Those remarks raised very serious issues. The reason, he claimed, was because there were “so many allegations against him.” There is no constitutional provision empowering a President to refuse a duly elected citizen as a Premier. The Constitution (Article 43 (3) states “The President shall appoint as Prime Minister the Member of Parliament who in his opinion is most likely to command the confidence of Parliament.” Speaker Jayasuriya has declared that 122 MPs were backing Wickremesinghe in a 225 seat Parliament.

“Please don’t do that, Sir,” pleaded TNA leader Rajavarothayam Sampanthan. SLMC leader and former minister Rauff Hakeem urged “Sir, please give him another chance. So did ousted Justice Minister Talatha Athukorale. Sirisena said he would not compromise on the matter. Sirisena met his new government leaders including Premier Rajapaksa to brief them on the discussions. He also telephoned Basil Rajapaksa and told him what transpired. In a last minute bid since last meeting him, Sirisena also telephoned UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa on a close associate’s mobile phone to repeat his invitation to take over as Premier. Premadasa was not willing. He has already signed an affidavit supporting Wickremesinghe to be the Prime Minister.

There were also other issues playing out early this week. Last Monday evening, a group of senior SLFPers met at the Colombo residence of a minister from the south, now known for his repeated remarks at meetings contradicting one after another. The resignation of Mahinda Rajapaksa, his son Namal Rajapaksa MP and many others from the SLFP had caused them unease and they were displeased. They discussed strategies. One of the speakers argued that President Sirisena should be asked to end his ties with Rajapaksa and re-appoint Wickremesinghe as Premier. This is notwithstanding an accord being reached between the two sides on the name of their common alliance – Sri Lanka Nidhas Podujana Peramuna (SLNPP). It is made up of the first three letters from the SLFP and the last two from the SLPP. A symbol is yet to be agreed upon but it is most likely to be the chair. The two sides have agreed to draft a new constitution for the alliance.

The UNF team went to Temple Trees, the official residence of the Prime Minister for a meeting with ousted Premier Wickremesinghe. There was consensus that a fresh Vote of No Confidence against Premier Rajapaksa, as requested by Sirisena, should be moved when Parliament sits on Friday. But other events were to trigger rowdy behaviour and hooliganism in the well of the House. A forewarning came when Speaker Jayasuriya met party leaders on two different occasions. First was when the new Leader of the House, Dinesh Gunawardena objected to the suspension of Standing Orders to take up the No Confidence Motion, this time without a preamble. Then came a complaint that two UNP parliamentarians, Palitha Thevarapperuma and Ranjan Ramanayake, allegedly carried knives in their hands when there was commotion in the well of the House on Wednesday. They wanted an inquiry into their conduct and their suspension.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa related the story to the Sunday Times. “Leader of the House Dinesh Gunawardena told the Speaker that I am the Prime Minister and that should be accepted. It is only then that the Speaker could accept the No Confidence Motion against me. There cannot be a no faith vote on me as the MP for Kurunegala District. The UNP had been adamant not to do that.

“The other matter raised was how two MPs, Palitha Thevarapperuma and Ranjan Ramanayake were carrying knives in the well of the House. He wanted the Speaker to deal with them. When an MP complained about two MPs wielding knives, the Speaker had replied that the next time they would come with swords,” Premier Rajapaksa said. He said the MPs had surrounded the Speaker’s chair in protest against no action being taken. “How can we go on like this in Parliament when a Speaker takes one side,” he asked.

Speaker Jayasuriya denied he made remarks about a sword. He told the Sunday Times “I was fulfilling a pledge made to President Sirisena to approve a fresh No Confidence Motion against the Prime Minister. I was prevented from taking my Chair. They threw chillie powder in the face of police officers. One was even slapped. As for the two MPs, the Police have launched investigations. A handful of MPs have brought Parliament to complete disrepute. This kind of rowdy behaviour by MPs should be condemned.”

Rowdy scenes did play out in Parliament as a group of MPs took away the Speaker’s chair and surrounded his sitting area. Speaker Jayasuriya moved in with a posse of policemen to conduct business through portable loud hailer.  He was able to take only a voice vote on the motion from a seat in the House. An MP threw chillie powder in the face of Police officers. Others hurled chairs and bound volumes of Hansard. Another MP stretched his hand and slapped a Police officer whose only fault was doing his duty. Thousands of Sri Lankans who watched this scene on live television saw the professionalism in this officer who stayed still unmindful of what happened. This criminal act, no doubt, angered the Police and will not bode well for the new government. It is in the best interest of both sides of the House to deal with the assailant as well as the thugs in MPs garb who threw chillie powder.

President Sirisena will hold crisis meetings today in a bid to resolve the political imbroglio that has engulfed the country. He has increasingly isolated himself after letting the genie out of the bottle with little or no foresight. Leave alone putting it back, whether he would have the vision to halt a deteriorating situation on many fronts remains a critical question. Sri Lankans, who were offered good governance, wait in anxiety.

Basil Rajapaksa

Basil hits out at Speaker; calls for general elections

He is credited with the formation of the Sri Lanka Podujana (People’s) Party and for their remarkable victory at the local government elections in February this year.

Though he is shying away from official titles, from a two storied office barely a kilometre away from Parliament, he runs the show. Asked what he does, he replies that “I am a member of the party.” That seems an understatement. He is the party’s ideologue. He advises his brother MahindaRajapaksa.

When President MaithripalaSirisena wanted to make peace with his predecessor, MahindaRajapaksa and make him Prime Minister, he insisted that Basil Rajapaksa should be present. At first, the strategist shied away even dodging calls from Sirisena. Then he relented. That was how meetings began at the Battaramulla residence of S.B. Dissanayake, The latter, kapuwa or broker denied the meeting, the fact that the talks led to an alliance is history.

Here is a brief Q & A with Basil Rajapaksa:

The vote of no confidence on the Prime Minister: Both motions have been wrongly done. It is simply due to the conduct of the Speaker who is very partial. The first motion, though he is aware, challenged the executive actions of the President. The Speaker is full well aware there is no provision for this in the Constitution. He was able to obtain only a voice vote then.

The second time, they left out the references to proclamations issued by the President. The Speaker says he does not recognise a Prime Minister of a Cabinet of Ministers. Yet, he allows a no confidence motion against the Prime Minister. Then he gets a voice vote and claims it has been approved by Parliament. Must anything more be said on whose side Speaker KaruJayasuriya is?

On dissolution of Parliament and call for elections: That is the best thing that could happen. Let the people decide. Casting a ballot on whom to elect is the biggest human right. Why should anyone stand in the way? Those who do so are frightened.

On a majority vote in Parliament: Everyone knows that neither the UNP nor we have 113 in Parliament. Premier Rajapaksa commands the highest confidence in the House. We are certain of that. Numbers are not stipulated in the Constitution. This why President Sirisena appointed MahindaRajapaksa as Prime Minister.

On the appointment of a Prime Minister:             From the time of the Soulbury Constitution, the Parliament has never elected a Prime Minister. Under the present Constitution, it is the responsibility of the President. That power has been vested in him. How can the Parliament, like what the Speaker says, should appoint RanilWickremesinghe.

On Parliamentary elections: We felt the shortest way is to join the government and go to the people for a fresh mandate. We were aware that local government elections have been put off for 13 months.

On the Supreme Court stay order: We bow to the SC order. The matter is now sub judice and it would have been better if the Parliament waited till the final order was given.

On joining to form a new government; We could not wait. The country’s assets are being sold- airports, harbours, highways etc. There were tax burdens on the people. An institution worth US $ 220 million was to be given out for $ 150 million. Prices of fuel products were being raised. In one year more nothing would have been left of the country. The UNP government ignored a plot to assassinate President Sirisena.

Relations with the diplomatic community in Colombo: At a dinner at Prof. G.L. Peiris’ residence, President Sirisena explained to them our position. Some asked why we did not wait for a few more months. We explained the reasons. We want to go the people. Let them decide. We also told them that the Speaker has created an unpleasant situation by acting partially

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