SLPP warns of last ditch bid to put off prez poll

‘Would it be fair to consult SC on President Sirisena’s term again?’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Chairman Prof. G.L. Peiris, yesterday, warned of last ditch attempt to put off the presidential election expected to be concluded before Dec 09, 2019 in terms of legal requirement.

Addressing the media at the Opposition Leader’s Office, former External Affairs Minister asserted the possibility of President Maithripala Sirisena, in terms of Article 129 (1) of the Constitution requesting the opinion of the Supreme Court regarding his current presidential term.

Pointing out that since of Sept.09, 2019, the Election Commission (EC) was empowered to announce the date for the presidential election in accordance with the law, Prof. Peiris questioned the need to consult the Supreme Court on a matter that had been comprehensively dealt with before the apex court.

Prof. Peiris emphasized that there couldn’t be any issue in that regard following the Supreme Court ruling dated January 14, 2018. Responding to a query, Prof. Peiris explained that the current five-year presidential term when considered in terms of the 19 Amendment (3) Constitution Article (30) and 19 Amendment 41 B began on January 09, 2015.

SLPP Chairman recalled as to how five judge bench comprising the then CJ Priyasath Dep, PC, justice Eva Wanasundera, PC, justice P.B. Aluvihare, justice K. Sisira J. de Abrew and justice K.T. Chitrasiri ruled on January 14, 2018 that President Sirisena elected on January 08, 2015 for a five-year term.

The former Law Professor said that the Article 129 (1) shouldn’t be abused to exert unjustified pressure on the Supreme. Prof. Peiris pointed out that the Supreme Court in addition to its explicit response to President Sirisena’s request for clarification regarding his term rejected the move to hold much delayed Provincial Council polls ahead of presidential poll.

Prof. Peiris appreciated the Supreme Court intervention to have the Elpitiya Pradeshiya Sabha election in the second week of Oct 2019.

The SLPP Chairman said that the move to consult the Supreme Court again should be considered against the backdrop of severe crisis experienced by the SLFP. The Prof. acknowledged that though they hadn’t been able to reach a consensus regarding the SLFP’s support for the SLPP presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa, he was hopeful of a feasible arrangement.

Prof. Peiris vowed to challenge any fresh bid to put off presidential poll by way of a Supreme Court ruling.

Responding to queries, Prof. Peiris asserted that it wouldn’t be fair on the part of the SLFP to request them to give up SLPP symbol pohottuwa (lotus bud). Prof Peiris, while underscoring the sterling SLPP performance at the last Local Government polls in early February 2018, said that the call to give up pohottuwa symbol for another could not be accepted.

Prof. Peiris said that before seeking the opinion of the Supreme Court, President Sirisena should consult the Attorney General regarding exercising of presidential powers in terms of Article 129 (1) of the Constitution.

The SLPP Chairman said that their campaign was on track though the main contender UNP-led coalition seemed to be in deepening turmoil.

Meanwhile, well informed sources told The Island that relevant legal authorities had advised the top political leadership against seeking Supreme Court opinion on presidential term.

Prof. Peiris pointed out that President Sirisena at the onset of his term repeatedly declared that he required only for years though those who backed him at January 2015 presidential insisted that he should serve for a period of five years.

Prof. Peiris said that the SLPP realized difficulties experienced by the SLFP but it couldn’t take decisions for the benefit of the latter at the overall objective of defeating the UNP, at both presidential and parliamentary polls. "We are not in a position to undermine the whole operation. We also have to take into consideration all parties represented in the Joint Opposition/SLPP before reaching electoral agreement with the SLFP."

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