By Shamindra Ferdinando
Rebel SLPP MP Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (12) questioned the propriety of President Ranil Wickremesinghe recently dismissing the importance of elections at the recent National Law Conference, at the Grand Hotel, Nuwara Eliya.
Addressing the media at the Nawala Office of Nidahasa Janatha Sabhawa, the former External Affairs Minister said that President Wickremesinghe had declared at the BASL (Bar Association of Sri Lanka) event that the people had no faith in elections.
Prof. Peiris pointed out that among the distinguished gathering were judges of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal hearing petitions filed against the indefinite postponement of Local Government polls. The former minister alleged that President Wickremesinghe had ignored the 19th March, 2023, deadline for the holding of LG polls.
Prof. Peiris pointed out that there had never been a previous instance of a President declaring elections weren’t important as the vast majority of the population including the youth had lost faith in elections and the political party system.
President Wickremesinghe’s move at the BASL event should be examined, taking into consideration how the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government had disregarded the specific Supreme Court ruling issued on 03rd March, this year, Prof. Peiris said.
Instead of making available required funds to the Election Commission, as directed by the Supreme Court, the government had sought to haul judges up before parliamentary privileges and ethics committee, Prof. Peiris said, referring to statements made in Parliament by State Finance Minister Shehan Semasinghe and MP Premanath Dolawatte in respect of the 03rd March Supreme Court ruling.
President Wickremesinghe, in his capacity as the Finance Minister, and Secretary to the Treasury Mahinda Siriwardena, owed an explanation as to why the SC directive wasn’t carried out.
Prof. Peiris said that President Wickremesinghe seemed to be going flat out to deprive the electorate an opportunity to exercise their franchise at any level. The recent declaration that the government intended to enact the Broadcasting Regulatory Commission Bill was meant to rein in electronic media, Prof. Peiris said. That would be a crucial part of their overall strategy, Prof. Peiris said, adding that the proposed Counter Terrorism Bill was also intended to suppress what the former minister called democratic Opposition.
Commenting on the Bill, titled ‘Central Bank of Sri Lanka,’ Prof. Peiris said that the government was pursuing a disputable strategy, regardless of the developing crisis that made the country vulnerable for further shocks.
Contrary to speculation that President Wickremesinghe was contemplating advancing the date for the next presidential election, scheduled for October next year, Prof. Peiris said the possibility of the interested parties seeking to put off presidential polls, too, couldn’t be ruled out.
In case President Wickremesinghe wanted to advance the presidential election, the Nidahas Jathika Sabhawa would vote for the required constitutional amendment, Prof. Peiris said. In fact, the genuine Opposition would support the President’s initiative, the former minister said, urging the government to grant the public an opportunity to exercise their franchise.
Responding to media queries, Prof. Peiris said that if President Wickremesinghe genuinely believed the public really appreciated his leadership, the UNP leader shouldn’t hesitate to conduct elections. Pointing out that President’s Wickremesinghe’s distorted assessment on public response to elections indicated his fear of facing the electorate at any level.
Prof. Peiris said that the joint Opposition would work together to pressure the government to conduct the long delayed Provincial Council and Local Government polls