Sri Lanka President, PM point fingers over abolition drama
ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena has said a last ditch attempt to abolish the presidency last week was a joke, while Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said the move was prompted by a request from civil society activists.
An emergency cabinet meeting called to approve a 20th amendment to the constitution ended in disarray last week, after meeting opposition from senior United National Party members.
Speaking at a party meeting in Naula, Matale on Saturday President Sirisena said the attempt to abolish the Presidency after elections have been called was a joke.
He said statements attributed to the Prime Minister that the emergency meeting was called as the instigation of President, was not correct.
The meeting was called on a request by the PM, he said.
On Sunday Prime Minister Wickremesinghe told party activists that some civil society representatives had met him and wanted his support to get the cabinet to endorse a 20th amendment.
He had said the agreement required the support of other parties including the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna. Tamil National Alliance member Sumanthiran had also made a statement on this issue, he said.
Prime Minister Wickremesigne said President Sirisena had called him at 8.16 on the morning of the 19th, and asked whether to call a cabinet meeting.
He had then informed him about the request from civil society activists and the stance of Sumanthiran and said that it would be suitable to call a meeting on Thursday or Friday.
Wickremesinghe said cabinet secretary had informed him at 9.00 am about a meeting at 3.00 pm.
A meeting of ministers was called at 2.00 am. Following heated discussion, no support was received for the proposal.
Wickremesinghe said at the start of the cabinet meeting he had said that there was no agreement among ministers on the issue and there was no point in presenting a draft amendment to the constitution.
Opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa was quoted in The Sunday Times newspaper as saying that he would not support a last minute amendment, though he had spoken to Minister Ravi Karunanayake on the matter earlier in the week.
The UNP still has not decided on a candidate, while a statutory deposit was made at the elections commission on behalf of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa last week.
The UNP working committee is due to around Wednesday over the issue.
Chances of Sri Lanka Podujana Party and Sri Lanka Freedom Party joining to contest had also dwindled over the week, political analysts said.
President Sirisena told meeting in Matara, that except for his Sri Lanka Freedom Party, other parties and the opposition were holding meetings in embassies.
UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa was however a surprise guest at the Presidential Export Awards last week. (Colombo/Sept22/2019)