Opp. says onus on EC to call prez polls, warns against govt. intervention



Prof. G.L

 By Shamindra Ferdinando

Dissident SLPP MP Prof. G. L Peiris yesterday (25) said the onus was on the Election Commission (EC) to announce the presidential election on July 17, 2024, even if the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government advanced the parliamentary election.

Addressing the media at his Kirula Place residence, the former External Affairs Minister said that the country expected the EC to act in terms of the presidential election law.

Therefore, there couldn’t be any ambiguity regarding the EC having to conduct presidential elections between Sept 19 and Oct 17, 2024, though the media reported contradictory statements, Prof. Peiris said.

As the current Parliament had completed two and half years of its five-year term, President Wickremesinghe could dissolve it, Prof. Peiris said. Otherwise, the Parliament could endorse a motion calling for early general election and submit it to President Wickremesinghe, Prof. Peiris said.

In terms of Article 70 of the Constitution, the relevant motion should have the backing of the majority of MPs at the time a vote was taken on the motion, Prof. Peiris said, adding that it could be adopted even without the consent of a simple majority in Parliament.

Prof. Peiris dealt with the issue at hand in the wake of continuing disagreement between President Wickremesinghe and the SLPP over advancing the general election ahead of the presidential polls.

UNP leader Wickremesinghe has indicated that the presidential polls would be held first.

Prof. Peiris said that the Opposition wasn’t interested in the ongoing dispute at all. “We want the EC to fulfil its constitutional responsibility by making the announcement as stipulated in the presidential election law,” he said. Recently the former switched his allegiance to the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB).

Alleging that President Wickremesinghe and the SLPP feared facing the electorate, Prof. Peiris said that the Opposition expected the current dispensation not to pursue strategies meant to put off presidential polls.

“If parliamentary polls are advanced, President Wickremesinghe will have to take necessary measures to release the required funds from the Consolidated Fund. Rs 10 bn allocated through the 2024 Budget cannot under any circumstances be utilized fully or in part to fund parliamentary polls,” Prof Peiris said.

Referring to the sabotaging of Local Government polls on the false claim of not having required funds, Prof. Peiris urged the government not to seek to put off elections pending electoral reforms. Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, recently proposed that 160 of the 225 MPs in Parliament be elected by the first- past-the-post electorate by electorate system, and the remaining 65 chosen proportionally, either at national or provincial level.

Prof. Peiris said that the Opposition expected the government to conduct elections on time without making silly attempts to put them off through fraudulent means.

Commenting on former President and incumbent SLFP leader Maithripala Sirisena’s recent disclosure that he knew the mastermind of the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage, Prof. Peiris emphasized such claims should be examined, taking into consideration the political environment.

Was he telling the truth or just trying to exploit the heinous crime for some sort of a political advantage, the former Minister asked. The SLPP National List MP questioned the conduct of the former President who was yet to fully pay compensation amounting to Rs 100 mn ordered by the Supreme Court.

Prof. Peiris said that MP Sirisena through his actions brought the Office of the President to disrepute. Responding to a media query, Prof. Peiris said that as a former President, lawmaker Sirisena didn’t enjoy immunity and was now subjected to normal procedures of the law like any other citizen.

Referring to MP Sirisena’s subsequent claim that he received fresh information regarding the mastermind three weeks ago, Prof. Peiris said that the former Defence Minister should have got in touch with the relevant authorities immediately without playing coy about it.