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Opposition puzzled at PM’s invite to former MPs after “callous” rejection by President

Crowds throng the opening of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya office in Kotte

ECONOMYNEXT – The Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) is saying the Opposition alliance is “puzzled and confused” by the double-standards of the government.

They say that they cannot understand why Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has invited all members of the recently dissolved Parliament to meet him on Monday while President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has “callously dismissed,” an offer by the Opposition members of Parliament to cooperate with him in the fight against the COVID 19 epidemic.

The PM’s invite “takes place in the backdrop of the President and the government maintaining a steadfast position against the reconvening of Parliament and deploying state media and media supportive of the government to propagate the view that the Parliament is not required and that all 225 members of the Parliament should be dismissed,” the statement added.

In this context, the SJB “sees no meaningful purpose in participating in the meeting convened by the Prime Minister” on Monday, May 4.

The statement released to the Media by the SJB General-Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara says the alliance pointed out that its leaders had repeatedly attended party leaders’ meetings hosted by the Prime Minister to discuss the COVID 19 threat.

“We participated fully and offered our suggestions and proposals,” the statement said.

However, with a Constitutional crisis, looming leaders of most opposition political parties in the recently dissolved legislature wrote to the President asking him to reconvene Parliament so that the actions being taken by the government in this situation can be legitimized.

“The content of the letter included proposals for dealing with the issue of not being able to expend public finances after 30 April 2020 and the cooperation of the parties in opposition to deal with this issue as well as cooperation to enact necessary regulations and laws to deal effectively and legally with COVID-19 containment and eradication,” it said.

“It must also be pointed out that unlike a “traditional” opposition, we conducted ourselves responsibly at all times, being fully conscious of the value of human life and the dangers posed by COVID-19, and offered full cooperation to the government to fight the pandemic,” Madduma Bandara said.

All the parties, he said, “gave a signed pledge to the President that we will not try to topple the government at this time of need.”

“The letter was addressed with sincerity of purpose with no hidden agendas and no unfair or unreasonable requests.”

Therefore the statement said it is regrettable, that the response from the office of the President to this “sincere offer by the parties in opposition was extremely discourteous.”

The SJB pointed out that the response to the letter, signed personally by the leaders of several leading political parties in the country, was made by an officer in the President’s office.

The SJB called this response indicative of the President’s “callous disregard  for the substantive issues addressed in that letter that have a bearing on the lives and livelihoods of the people of this country and Sri Lanka’s international standing at a time of national crisis that has serious economic implications for the future.” (Colombo, May 3, 2020)