…warns SLPP rebels against accepting ministerial portfolios
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Dr Wasantha Bandara says the appointment of UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe will hamper the formation of a multi-party interim administration or national unity government.
Speaking on behalf of the National Patriotic Movement (PNM), Dr Bandara said yesterday (15) that the intended administration could only be described as the Gota-Ranil government.
Dr. Bandara, who supported Goabaya Rajapaksa’s candidacy for the 2019 presidential election, said so following the President’s swearing in of four ministers, namely Prof. GL Peiris (Foreign Affairs), Dinesh Gunawardena (Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils and Local Government), Prasanna Ranatunga (Urban Development and Housing) and Kanchanna Wijesekera (Power and Energy) pending finalization of other nominations. All are elected or appointed on the SLPP list or on the national list.
The Gota-Ranil arrangement could be compared to the Chandrika-Ranil (2002-2003) and Maithri-Ranil (2015-2019) governments. The PNM spokesperson warned dissidents from the SLPP, aka the 11-party grouping, of catastrophic consequences if they accepted portfolios in the new administration.
Responding to questions from the media, Dr Bandara claimed that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa may have offered the post of Prime Minister to the UNP leader due to international pressure. Dr Bandara claimed the UNP leader would try to implement his program which was halted in 2003.
Dr Bandara said those who exercised their right to vote for Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the SLPP in the 2019 presidential and 2020 parliamentary elections respectively would never endorse Wickremesinghe as prime minister.
The SLPP rebels have repeatedly assured that they will not accept ministerial portfolios under any circumstances. The main rebel spokesmen, Wimal Weerawansa and Udaya Gammanpila, claimed that Wickremesinghe would go ahead with the projects undertaken by ousted finance minister Basil Rajapaksa.
Dr Bandara said the PNM had no confidence in Wickremesinghe, who always pursued an anti-Sri Lanka agenda regardless of the consequences.
The PNM leader recalled how Wickremesinghe signed the Norwegian-arranged Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) with the LTTE in February 2003 and co-sponsored a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) based in Geneva in October 2015.
The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) has proposed what its president Saliya Pieris has called an interim national unity government made up of 15 ministers. The BASL, in a statement issued on Saturday (14), stressed the need to be careful when making crucial appointments.
The BASL said the appointment of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet of Ministers were important steps in restoring economic and political stability. As such, it would be necessary for these appointments to be made in a way that establishes public trust, the BASL said.
Dr Bandara said it would not be so difficult for people to figure out how Wickremesinghe would proceed and take advantage of the current situation to advance his despicable agenda.
Dr Bandara claimed that offering the premiership to Wickremesinghe was contrary to the proposals made by the Mahanayakes, as well as the BASL. Putting Wickremesinghe at the head of the government parliamentary group in Parliament betrayed the 6.9 million people who exercised their right to vote for Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the presidential election and the SLPP in the legislative election that followed.
Political sources said many SLPP lawmakers were in a dilemma over Wickremesinghe’s appointment. Among them was a section of the 145-member caucus that had said it would sit in opposition. But, the dissident group has assured that it will not undermine the government as long as the new administration does not go against the national interest.