Presidential polls before general election favourable to SLPP candidate- Mahindananda
Posted on June 12th, 2019

By Shamindra Ferdinando Courtesy The Island


The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP)/Joint Opposition (JO) yesterday told a media briefing at the Opposition Leader’s Office that political stability could be restored only by electing a strong leader at the forthcoming 2019 presidential election.

Kandy District MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage emphasised that the presidential election would be the solution to the continuing crisis due to the battle between President Maithripala Sirisena and the UNP government over the House probe on Easter attacks. 

Former Sports Minister dismissed the notion that an early general election could save the country from ruination.

Aluthgamage made the assertion when The Island sought an explanation as to why a section of the SLPP/JO pushed for presidential poll while an influential section repeatedly recommended early general election. When The Island pointed out that the SLPP/JO caused uncertainty among the electorate at a crucial time by adopting different positions, MP Aluthgamage said that at a meeting held at the Opposition Leader’s Office on Tuesday evening they had decided the presidential election should take place as scheduled followed by the general election.

Aluthgamage said that among those present at the crucial meeting were SLPP Chairman Prof. G.L. Peiris, Basil Rajapaksa, JO parliamentary group leader in parliament Dinesh Gunawardena, MP, and Susil Premjayanth, MP.

MPs Aluthgamage and Premjayanth agreed that the presidential election would be advantageous to the SLPP/JO.

Responding to another query by The Island, MP Aluthgamage asserted that an early general election would be exploited by extremist elements in the current parliament. Having secured over 41 per cent of the vote at the last Local Government polls held on Feb. 10, 2018, the SLPP/JO preferred Provincial Councils before the presidential, Aluthgamage said.

MP Premjayanth pointed out that Sri Lanka’s priority should be national security. Declaring that nothing could as important as restoring security at the time of current crisis, Premjayanth said that Indian Premier Modi recently underscored the pivotal importance of the same.

Asked by The Island whether the SLPP/JO had made a firm decision on 2019 presidential candidate, Aluthgamage said: “Yes, we have decided on our candidate. We’ll make the announcement at the appropriate time. The person whom you expect to be the candidate is our choice, too”, he said.

Both Aluthgamage and Premjayanth emphasised that the electorate would be divided into two at the 2019 presidential. There was absolutely no opportunity for a third candidate, they said.

At the onset of the briefing, MP Premjayanth explained how President Sirisena’s decision not to convene Cabinet meet scheduled for June 11 had worsened the situation. Pointing out that the UNP and President Sirisena were pulling in opposite directions causing unprecedented chaos, the MP said that for want of cohesive policy at least in respect of Easter Sunday victims, those who survived with injuries were undergoing untold hardships.

The JO heavyweight alleged that the government hadn’t provided sufficient assistance to the affected families.

Following the Easter attacks and subsequent developments, the country had lost track of several other burning issues like economic mismanagement, Treasury bond scams, sale of national assets, foreign interventions, handing over of the Colombo South Harbour’s  East Container Terminal to SLPA-India-Japan joint enterprise, controversial bid to introduce punitive new laws to rein in print, electronic and social media, etc., MP Premjayanth said.

The SLFPer asserted the current political situation would make it extremely difficult for the government to enact relevant laws to curb the media.

The MP also dealt with sharp differences between Premier Wickremesinghe and UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa over the former’s efforts to enact a Counter Terrorism Act (CAT) in place of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). In addition to the simmering battle between Yahapalana leaders, the absence of executable plans badly affected the country, Premajayanth said.

Responding to another query from electronic media, the Colombo District MP said that the vast majority of those who had voted for the SLFP led UPFA at the last Local Government polls on Feb. 10, 2018 were now with the SLPP/JO. Lawmaker Premjayanth said that in terms of the outcome at the LG polls, they were in a commanding position. In addition to 41 per cent of the vote secured by the SLPP/JO at the LG polls, the majority of the 14 per cent, who voted for the SLFP-led UPFA were now with them, MP Premjanth said.

Asked by The Island which national election would advantageous to the UNP, MP Premjayanth said that the ruling party would want to face a presidential election. However, the Easter Sunday carnage had turned the situation upside down and the UNP was facing a difficult situation.

The SLPP warned that the public would continue to experience difficulties from current crisis until the conclusion of the presidential election, when some sanity could be restored.

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