Friday, 16 November 2018 05:26

Let’s go for a General Election

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Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday asked for the support of all Parliamentarians to go for a General Election to let the people decide a Government of their choice to get out of the prevailing political standoff.

Addressing Parliament for the first time since assuming duties as the PM, he reminded that all Parliaments elected in 1947, 1951, 1956 and 1960 were dissolved prematurely to hold elections under similar situations in the past to let the people enjoy their sovereign powers to elect a Government of their choice.

The PM began his speech replying to the UNP MPs, who claimed that he was not the PM but an MP following the No-Confidence Motion.

“Remember that I have held various titles before, including the tile of the President. I have held the Prime Ministerial portfolio and various Ministerial portfolios before. I do not care about titles. This post is no big deal for me. It does not matter for me if I become an MP or PM or just ‘Mahinda Rajapaksa’. Do not think that I am speaking because I want to be the PM,” he replied.

Then he explained the circumstances which made him accept the PM post. “The President had explained the reasons for dissolving the former government and establishing an interim government till the next general elections. As at October 26 People were under tremendous pressure owing to the former government’s economic mismanagement caused by the fuel price increases from a pricing formula and the depreciation of rupee value.

The cost of living was increasing rapidly every single day and there was an unprecedented tax burden on people following the robbing of central bank through the means of Treasury bond scam. Interest rates had been doubled. The airports, harbours and profit making public ventures were up for the sale to foreigners. There were moves to outright selling of lands to foreigners and laws were amended to suit those moves. Actions had been taken to enter into trade agreements giving callous disregard to the opposition, of opinions of experts and local businessmen. Huge bribes had been asked from investors. There had been public displeasure against the former government owing to those reasons among others,” he noted.

“We saw the President dissolving the former National Economic Commission and striving to mitigate the damage on the economic front. We have also heard of arguments during the cabinet meetings between the President and the former Prime minister who were at loggerheads. It is in that context we witnessed the expose with tape records of a conspiracy by a group of UNPers with some police officers to assassinate the President, former Defence Secretary. It is owing to these developments that the President took a decision to remove the UPFA members from the government,” he added.

“With the pulling out of the UPFA members the coalition government that had existed thereto was dissolved. Thereafter, the President with the powers vested in him invited to me accept the Prime Minister post and to form a government. There were two choices before me – one was to accept the invitation or to reject it. I could have responded to the President by telling him to continue with the UNP as he did for nearly four years because there was one more year to go for the completion of that government’s term. But we are the main force in the opposition. We are the biggest political party in the country. We are bound by the duty to come forward to avoid the country being sliding into disaster. We have a responsibility to support the President’s effort to prevent a disaster and to uphold the national interests. Accordingly I accepted the responsibility of saving the nation from further chaos and crisis,” he pointed out.

“I also had a question as to what would happen to our country if it would continue one more year under the former government. From January 2015 the UNP government had obtained foreign loans amounting to 21 billion US dollars. That uncontrolled borrowing was the biggest damage to the country’s economy. What we established is only an interim government till the next elections. That was why only a few Joint Opposition MPs obtained ministerial posts. While the nation was plunging into the depths of disaster, we as the Joint Opposition continued to call for a general election to solve the crisis,” he reminded.

“However, the former government had rolled up the election map. For them it took three years to hold elections for the local government bodies which were dissolved in March 2015. They meddled with the local government election system and delayed elections under the excuse of errors in delimitation. Finally, the government was pushed to hold the elections by the chairman of the Elections Commission. As at today more than one year had passed since the dissolving of councils of Sabaragamuwa, North Central and Eastern provinces. Three more provincial councils including the Northern Provincial Council were dissolved last month. But there are no elections for them,” he observed.

“When the President using the powers vested with him from the Constitution dissolved Parliament and called for an election the JVP and UNP went before the courts for the first time in the history to oppose elections. It is the very same combine who acted shamelessly to muddle the local government electoral system by introducing amendments to the electoral act from backdoor. They deprived the people of their right to franchise,” he added.

“While I was coming to Parliament this morning I saw a poster which was asking whose rights would be deprived from a general election. That is a pertinent question. All Parliaments elected in 1947, 1951, 1956 and 1960 were dissolved prematurely to hold elections to let the people to enjoy their sovereign powers to elect a government of their choice. That was how sovereignty of the people was protected. Similarly, on this occasion too, the President did the right thing as he was convinced that the former government was not able to solve the problems of the country. That was why he invited me to accept this post. As soon as I was sworn in as the Prime Minister there was a reawakening of the country with a hope,” he remarked.

“Our Speaker, in accordance with his party’s and Western embassies’ wish, says that there was a passing of a No-Confidence Motion against me and government through the voice vote. You cannot pass a motion from a voice vote. There is a new trend stating that the former Prime Minister back in office after the so-called No Confidence Motion and some former ministers have their former offices too stating that they are in power now. It is the President who appoints the Prime Minister and governments, not the Speaker of Parliament. Neither Parliament nor the Speaker has been given such powers by the Constitution. The Speaker must be unbiased,” he stressed.

“Now, there is a conflict of opinions between two parties in Parliament. I propose that there is no mean in attempting to solve this problem by 225 members here and to refer it to electors numbering over 15 million in this country. Let them decide the government they need. That is the Parliament tradition. As politicians we all must understand that as per our constitution sovereignty is with people not with Parliament. I am happy to hear that JVP was stating yesterday that they would support if there is a motion to the effect of going for a general election after dissolving Parliament. I would like to ask the UNP what their standpoint over the matter is. I hope they would inform parliament today of their standpoint,” he said.

(Daily News)

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