‘PM, SLPP Chairman owe an explanation’
By Shamindra Ferdinando
The ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) was frightened to face the electorate, hence the decision to postpone Local Government polls scheduled for late March 2022, top Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) spokesperson Mujibur Rahuman said yesterday (17).
Lawmaker Rahuman said so in response to Provincial Councils and Local Government Minister Roshan Ranasinghe’s statement issued yesterday that the elections to 341 Local Government bodies had been delayed by one year. Pointing out that the State Minister initially declared that the Provincial Council polls would be deferred before correcting it that the government intended to put off Local Government polls fearing the Covid-19 spread, lawmaker Rahuman said that the people were being given the booster.
Government representatives and Health Ministry officials have said that the Covid-19 situation was under control, the former UNP MP said. If the situation was under control and the government felt confident to further relax Covid-19 health guidelines, there couldn’t be any justification in putting off scheduled polls on the basis of the threat posed by the global epidemic.
MP Rahuman emphasised that the parliamentary election was conducted in August 2020 in spite of Covid-19 spreading fast at that time. Having repeatedly declared that the ongoing vaccination programme had achieved the desired results, now State Minister Ranasinghe on the instructions of his political masters announced the postponement.
The government owed an explanation without further delay, lawmaker Rahuman said. “Let Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is the leader of the SLPP and the Chairman of the ruling party Prof. G.L. Peiris explain State Minister’s claim the scheduled Local Government polls cannot be held because of Covid-19, particularly Omicron.”
Rahuman said that the government recently allowed a four-nation football tournament and IPL cricket.
Responding to queries, the SJB spokesperson pointed out that the postponement of Local Government polls in the immediate aftermath of prorogation of Parliament meant the SLPP was in serious trouble. The MP explained the government had been beset by deepening turmoil within the parliamentary group over hotly disputed agreement on the Yugadanavi Power Plant.
MP Rahuman asked whether Foreign Minister Prof. Peiris, who had now taken over the finance portfolio, would take the responsibility for the deal now challenged before the Supreme Court. The MP insisted that the postponement of Local Government polls was nothing but political as the SLPP was struggling to cope up with the rapidly deteriorating situation on the political front.
MP Rahuman questioned the rationale in the Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa leaving the country for the US as the US energy deal now threatened the government. Having vowed that a near 2/3 majority in Parliament secured at the August 2020 parliamentary election, the passage of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution in Oct 2020 and the passage of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill in May, 2021 would pave the way for an accelerated development programme, the government was now on the back foot, lawmaker Rahuman said.
The crisis caused by introduction of carbonic farming without making adequate preparations and spate of accidents resulted in by LPG gas explosions as well as uncertainty over the supply of fuel had a devastating impact on the population, the Colombo District MP said.
The SJB official attributed the current situation to Sri Lanka having to settle as much as over USD 900 mn in January 2022 to foreign lenders. Pointing out that the foreign reserves had been down drastically amidst foolish attempts to strengthen foreign reserves and attract foreign currencies, MP Rahuman claimed that the SLPP appeared to have decided against facing the electorate. The same applied to the much delayed Provincial Council polls, the MP said.
The yahapalana government, too, delayed Local Government polls and refrained from conducting the Provincial Council polls as it feared the public sentiments. MP Rahman represented yahapalana government.
He said that the SLPP’s political project had gone awry and the top leadership now was shy of facing the electorate.