Elections now will be betrayal of gains made against COVID-19: Sajith
ECONOMYNEXT – Holding a parliamentary election at this juncture will be a betrayal of the gains made so far by health and security officials in Sri Lanka’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, former opposition leader Sajjith Premadasa said.
Premadasa warned in a YouTube video this afternoon that an election now will mean a rapid spread of the novel coronavirus, stressing that his party was not prepared to “hold elections over dead bodies and take the country to ruin”.
The former United National Party (UNP) parliamentarian’s statement came amid a number of pronouncements from MPs both government and opposition on the question of holding elections at a time when confirmed COVID-19 cases are well past the 200 mark.
Minister Wimal Weerawansa said earlier today that political parties opposed to the idea were afraid to face elections. He added that though elections are unlikely to be held before June 2, the tide appears to have turned in the fight against the virus, as a result which, he said, reopening dates for state schools and universities have already been announced.
Premadasa, however, insisted that his camp in the opposition – the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) – as a party that values parliamentary democracy is not afraid to go to the polls.
“Before parliamentary democracy, should the survival of the people not be prioritised? Is it not a serious detriment to the country to risk an escalation of the present crisis?” he said.
Acknowledging that health, security and other officials in the government have been able to contain the crisis to an extent, Premadasa said: “holding an election will be a betrayal of these victories.”
“It is not right to hold elections at the expense of people’s lives. There can be no social distancing during an election. Both voters and election officials will be put under serious risk,” he added.
Premadasa called for unity in the fight against the virus, setting aside personal agendas.
“Irrespective of ethnic, religious or party differences, we must overcome this challenge, which is to completely defeat and destroy the virus, minimise the damage caused to the country, save lives as well as give the maximum strength to health and security officials carrying out this task,” he said.
“We must not focus our attention elsewhere. Our entire focus should be on defeating the virus,” he added. (Colombo/Apr15/2020)