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Privatisation of national assets: SLPP accountable for President’s actions: GL

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Rebel group questions national security review

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Having elected UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as the President, in July last year, the SLPP couldn’t keep silent as the UNP leader took decisions that would have far reaching implications, Prof. G. L. Peiris warned yesterday (21).

Addressing the media at the rebel SLPP group’s Nawala Office, Prof. Peiris asked the ruling SLPP parliamentary group to explain its stand regarding the President’s decision to sell Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation and Sri Lanka Telecom.

The former External Affairs Minister emphasised that the SLPP couldn’t absolve itself of the responsibility for Wickremesinghe’s actions.

The SLPP parliamentary group elected Wickremesinghe after a section of the party threw its weight behind Dullas Alahapperuma who received the backing of the main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya. Wickremesinghe received 134 votes whereas Alahapperuma polled 82 votes.

Accusing President Wickremesinghe of hurriedly implementing his economic strategies rejected by the electorate at successive elections, Prof. Peiris criticised the announcement pertaining to comprehensive national security review against the backdrop of selling of strategically important national assets.

The SLPP National List MP was commenting on President Wickremesinghe’s announcement made at the Advance Naval Training Centre, Boossa on Friday (18). Wickremesinghe, who also holds Finance and Defence portfolios, said that a contemporary security policy would be formulated under the purview of the National Security Council once a team led by retired Maj. Gen. Channa Gunathilake submitted its recommendations.

Prof. Peiris said that if Sri Lanka was to adopt a security policy it should be subject to discussion and approval in Parliament. The former minister later told The Island that the parliamentary Oversight Committee on National Security, chaired by retired Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera, couldn’t be discarded in this process. Prof. Peiris said that the role of the parliamentary committee should be examined against the backdrop of the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government rejection of its recommendations pertaining to the SLT.

The President’s Office roundly rejected the recommendations made by the Oversight Committee no sooner Rear Admiral Weerasekera submitted his report to the Parliament. The former Public Security Minister warned that privatization of SLT posed a threat to national security.

Prof. Peiris said that the SLPP was aware that Wickremesinghe’s rule would end before the end of next year. Therefore, the SLPP couldn’t allow the President to work contrary to its main principles. The SLPP could never justify privatization of SLIC which owned 99 percent of Litro, the national gas supplier, Prof. Peiris said.

At the onset of the briefing, Prof. Peiris castigated President Wickremesinghe for his refusal at least to listen to the professionals, including the academics, regarding alternative proposals meant to overcome the financial crisis, instead of burdening the population with taxes.

Referring to a recent instance of heavy deployment of police around the Presidential Secretariat to block a group of professionals who sought to submit their proposals to the President, Prof. Peiris questioned the rationale in the President calling the police in response to professionals seeking a meeting. The academic warned that the President’s actions further encouraged more professionals to leave the country.

“We are facing an unprecedented catastrophic situation,” the lawmaker said, claiming as many as 5,000 medical professionals could leave the country in the coming months, in addition to various other categories of experts. President Wickremesinghe seemed to be wholly incapable of entering into a dialogue with the people struggling to make ends meet.

Alleging that the incumbent government never bothered with the national interests, when entering into an agreement with the IMF in September last year, and then finalizing it in March this year, Prof. Peiris said that a future government would definitely negotiate the conditions with the IMF again.

Commenting on the President’s vow to implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, Prof. Peiris said that there was no point in discussing the matter as the UNP leader, with just one National List seat in Parliament, couldn’t go ahead without the support of other political parties. The SLPP that elected him as the President has already rejected the President’s proposals, therefore nothing would happen. Prof. Peiris said that the President made the declaration on the 13th Amendment knowing very well the plan was unrealistic.

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