Govt. urged to speak with one voice on C4 claims
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Rebel SLPP MP Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (18) asked President Ranil Wickremesinghe whether the latter intended to postpone the next presidential election indefinitely by claiming the government lacked sufficient funds for conducting elections.
The former External Affairs Minister raised the issue in the wake of UNP MP Vajira Abeywardena’s recent declaration that the government wouldn’t be able to meet the basic requirements of the people if funds were allocated through the 2024 Budget for the presidential election.
Addressing the media at the rebel office in Nawala, Prof. Peiris censured MP Abeywardena, the current Chairman of the UNP, for issuing such a veiled threat at a time Sri Lanka was engaged in talks with the IMF to secure the second tranche of the USD 2.9 bn bailout package finalized in March this year.
In case Wickremesinghe put off the presidential election, the IMF and other international lending agencies wouldn’t be able to deal with Sri Lanka, Prof. Peiris said, reminding the UNP leader the Parliament elected him to complete the remainder of ousted President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s five-year term won at the last election held in Nov. 2019.
Prof. Peiris emphasised Wickremesinghe couldn’t, under any circumstances, extend Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s five-year term.
Following a protracted delay, the IMF Board approved a 48-month extended arrangement in terms of the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) of SDR 2.286 billion (about US$3 billion) in support of Sri Lanka’s economic policies and reforms.
The ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) should explain its stand on MP Abeywardena’s declaration, Prof. Peiris told The Island, asserting that the UNP Chairman most probably announced a decision taken by the leadership. Having put off Local Government polls, regardless of the landmark Supreme Court order issued in early March this year, the government seemed determined to avert presidential election, too, Prof. Peiris said, warning of political instability and unprecedented chaos.
Prof. Peiris accused Wickremesinghe and his acolytes of conveniently forgetting that the UNP leader was elected by Parliament in July 2022. The new President’s job was to complete Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s mandate, Prof. Peiris said, adding that didn’t include postponing Local Government and national elections.
Responding to media queries at the Nawala Office, Prof. Peiris said that the government response to the latest explosive allegations made by Channel 4 as regards the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage, highlighted the deepening crisis in the administration. Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, PC, confidently declared that there was no requirement for a fresh investigation, at any level, whereas President Wickremesinghe, who also holds the Defence portfolio, appointed a committee to inquire into the allegations, Prof. Peiris said.
The former minister was referring to the appointment of retired Supreme Court Justice S.I. Imam to head a committee to investigate the Channel 4 allegations. The other two members of the committee are Retired Air Force Commander A.C.M. Jayalath Weerakkody and Harsha A.J. Soza, PC.
Prof. Peiris pointed out that meanwhile the Ministry of Defence, which was under the direct purview of the President, has categorically denied C 4 allegations. The lawmaker asked how the government could take such contradictory stands on a matter that caused severe embarrassment to the entire defence establishment, and the country as a whole