Sajith demands the postponement of polls to save lives from COVID19

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Opposition is saying the government should postpone Parliamentary General Elections due on April 25 and concentrate on the dangers of COVID19 spreading in the island nation.

The former Leader of the Parliamentary opposition Sajith Premadasa told reporters in Colombo Monday that the government is “only interested in winning the election and not in the lives of our people.”

Premadasa repeated his assertion that the Parliament which was dissolved on March 3, should be reconvened so that the full resources of the state can be mobilized to deal with what appears to be growing crisis.

“We (the Opposition) warned the government on February 5 about the looming danger of the coronavirus. We studied the patterns of the virus spreading, produced a trend analysis and urged urgent action to protect lives,” Premadasa who is leading the biggest political formation challenging the governing party of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said.

“However the government wants to go ahead with the elections,” he said.

He pointed out that as Parliament could have gone on until August the President could have waited until the coronavirus situation improved before dissolving Parliament.

“The government could have brought forth a Budget proposal which we would have supported so that all resources could have been mobilized,” he said.  

But the President dissolved parliament at the earliest possible date.

Sri Lanka has now gone into community transmission of the virus as all previous cases have been directly linked to returnees from overseas or visitors.

At this second stage, the country has aggressively taken steps to ban all public gatherings and limit social interactions. Schools and cinemas are closed and Police and Military Intelligence have been ordered to track down people with contacts with infected persons who have escaped being quarantined.

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The country also wants to criminally prosecute those who do not seek government healthcare if they have symptoms.

The opposition says it cannot conduct an election campaign under these circumstances. “We need to hold rallies, pocket meetings and go door-to-door,” Premadasa said.  

The government he said would use state media and other resources it commands to campaign.

This would give the government an unfair advantage but could also put many people’s lives in danger, Premadasa warned. (Colombo, March 16, 2020)

-Arjuna Ranawana

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