ECONOMYNEXT – Noting that he has no power to convene parliament in the absence of an election after June 2, President Gotabaya Rajapaska said he has no desire to reconvene the previous legislature.
“Under no circumstance do I wish to reconvene the previous parliament,” he told senior advisor Lalith Weeratunga in a televised discussion last evening.
The people of Sri Lanka have the opportunity to recognise those attempting to create a constitutional crisis where there is none, he added, referring to comments made by opposition politicians opposed to the idea of holding elections until the COVID-19 crisis has been fully resolved.
Rajapaksa said the National Election Commission (NEC) has total authority to hold a free and fair election and to decide a date to hold it on.
The NEC announced last evening that Sri Lanka’s next parliamentary elections will be held on June 20. The announcement came amid uncertainty and anxiety over a premature election, against a backdrop of increasing coronavirus cases.
“Mine and the NEC’s responsibility is to respect the people’s rights and ensure sovereign rights of the people. But under the present circumstances, the NEC had to postpone the election. Constitutionally, a new parliament must convene within three months after the previous parliament is dissolved. The date must be decided by the independent EC which changed the previous date,” he said.
“If the NEC wants, they can even take a few days for the election. It has the power. I do not wish to influence an independent election commission over the election date,” he added.
Insisting that he has done everything constitutionally, Rajapaksa said: “The law does not expect me to do the impossible.”
Commenting on the relaxation of the COVID-19 curfew – which has since been reimposed – Rajapaksa said 50% of the country’s economy is centred around the Western Province, adding that economists had warned him if the lockdown were to continue, the country’s economy would take a massive hit.
“I too would like it if we can keep the country in total lockdown for one more month. But imagine the impact,” he said.
Rajapaksa further said the ongoing outbreak is a good opportunity for the country economically.
With the foreign-exchange generating industries now on hold, Rajapaksa said an opportunity has arisen for Sri Lanka to adopt a more home-grown economic plan.
While ensuring food security, he said, the time was right to expand exports as well as develop agriculture.“We always talked about increasing farmer income. This is the best opportunity for that,” he said. (Colombo/Apr21/2020)