JO regrets its failure to vote for emergency, cautions govt over withdrawing military

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Discussions should be held among political leaders, the security forces top brass and intelligence services before emergency was lifted, Joint Opposition (JO) spokesperson Keheliya Rambukwella said yesterday.

Former defence spokesman Rambukwella emphasised that unilateral decisions shouldn’t be made as national security was at stake. The former minister said so when The Island sought JO’s response to recent assertion by President Sirisena, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces that emergency could be allowed to lapse end of this month. President Sirisena was responding to a query raised by Colombo-based Western diplomatic community.

Parliament re-imposed emergency after April 21 Easter Sunday attacks to deploy the military in support of the police.

The Island raised the issue at JO briefing held at the Opposition Leader’s Office.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya is also on record as having said that Emergency wouldn’t be extended again.

Rambukwella said that a hasty decision on Emergency shouldn’t be taken under any circumstances.

The Island sought an explanation as to why the JO, in spite of knowing the pivotal importance of ensuring the continuation of emergency, had failed to vote for it when the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) called for a division, late last month, MP Rambukwella regretted their failure. The former minister assured that remedial action would be taken while ruling out excuses for their lapse.

The Island asked whether the JO could justify its failure to vote for the emergency leaving just 22 (18 UNP and 04 President Sirisena loyalists) to vote while 08 voted against, Rambukwella said that the JO wouldn’t have opposed extension of emergency and was confident the government could ensure its passage.

On the day of voting none of the JO members numbering over 70 were in the chamber to vote for emergency.

Ratnapura District MP Pavitradevi Wanniarachchi flayed PM Wickremesinghe for making a bid to replace the longstanding Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) with hotly disputed Counter Terrorism Act.

The UNP leader was taking advantage of current situation to bring in new legislation which he believed could be used against political opponents.

Wanniarachchi said that the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe ‘puppet administration’ could even pave the way for an invasion of the country. She said that something even far worse than ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) could strike Sri Lanka if the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe duo continued.

Rambukwella said that the military should be prepared to respond swiftly and decisively in case of an emergency.

Responding to Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella’s recent declaration in parliament that of the 90 persons involved in the Easter Sunday attacks, 89 had been either killed or apprehended, the MP said such claims couldn’t be taken seriously. He accused of Kiriella of making irresponsible statements.

"How could Kiriella make such a claim when investigations were ongoing?" MP Rambukwella asked.

Kiriella quoted PM Wickremesinghe as having told a group of lawmakers that only one terror suspect remained unaccounted for.


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