By Shamindra Ferdinando
Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (14) appealed for a common Opposition strategy against President Ranil Wickremesinghe-led government.
The former External Affairs Minister stressed the urgent need for a consensus to pressure the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government on multiple fronts. The one-time top law academic said so addressing the media at the Nawala Office of the rebel SLPP group, comprising 12 lawmakers.
Alleging that the government sought to divide the Opposition, Prof. Peiris warned the delay on their part to work out a common programme could impede Opposition efforts.
Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) is the main Opposition party in Parliament. The SJB secured 54 seats at the last general election in August 2020; though three of them joined the government, three others have distanced themselves from the party.
Prof. Peiris dealt with three major issues which required a common Opposition approach as President Wickremesinghe increasingly resorted to dictatorial policies to consolidate his hold. Prof. Peiris said that a common strategy was needed to challenge the indefinite postponement of Local Government polls, Provincial Council polls, continuing interference in the judiciary, and plans to do away with labour rights.
The top rebel SLPP spokesperson pointed out that a significant section of the government parliamentary group was opposed to the recently implemented ‘Aswasuma’ social security scheme. “We are aware 62 MPs recently wrote to President Wickremesinghe condemning this scheme. They called it a fraud,” Prof. Peiris said, calling for reappraisal of Opposition strategy and formulating a common programme.
At the onset of the briefing, Prof. Peiris said that the Cabinet of Ministers, headed by President Wickremesinghe, owed an explanation regarding the gradual collapse of the country. The pathetic state of the public health service and the recent ruination of paddy cultivation, in some parts of the country, due to failure on the part of the Cabinet of Ministers to release the required water proved the irresponsible nature of the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa grouping.
Referring to a recent declaration by Cabinet spokesperson Bandula Gunawardena that relief could be provided to the hapless public if waste, corruption, irregularities and mismanagement at the Customs, Inland Revenue, Excise, RMV and Railways could be controlled, Prof. Peiris said that the ministers in charge of those and the Cabinet of Ministers as a whole should take the responsibility.
Those who credited President Wickremesinghe for performing a miracle after succeeding Gotabaya Rajapaksa should know the country is yet in chaos. The developing crisis couldn’t be averted by suppressing the people. The government couldn’t interfere with the rights of the public enshrined in the Constitution, Prof. Peiris said, urging the government to face the electorate at any level ahead of the presidential election scheduled for next year. The SLPPer pointed out that the President could call general elections in terms of the Constitution.
Contrary to reports, the UNP leader wouldn’t seek to advance the presidential election, Prof. Peiris said.