Leadership crisis, phone scandal et al proved why UNP should be discarded at the general election- Prof. Peiris


by Shamindra Ferdinando

Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Chairman Prof. G.L. Peiris yesterday said that a simmering leadership crisis in the UNP plagued by lawmaker Ranjan Ramanayake’s phone scandal would even discourage those who voted for Sajith Premadasa at the 2019 presidential from doing so at the forthcoming parliamentary poll.

Prof. Peiris said that the UNP crisis proved beyond doubt that the party was in disarray in the absence of consensus on the leadership change.

Asked whether the SLPP could muster sufficient support to secure a two-thirds majority, Prof. Peiris said that they could comfortably win the parliamentary poll. SLPP candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s overwhelming performance in areas outside the Northern and Eastern Provinces at the last presidential poll meant a similar result was likely at the forthcoming parliamentary poll, Prof. Peiris said.

The continuing crisis in the UNP would drive some of those who preferred Sajith Premadasa over Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the 2019 presidential to vote for the ruling party at the parliamentary election likely to be held in late April or early May, Prof. Peiris said.

Responding to another query, Prof. Peiris said that the public could easily compare the new administration’s performance since the Nov 16, 2019 presidential and that of the UNP. Asserting that irreparable damage had been caused to the UNP as a result of the ongoing leadership battle and phone scandal, Prof. Peiris said that the electorate would find it quite easy to help President Gotabaya Rajapaksa gain a two-third majority in parliament.

The former top academic dismissed Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa’s recent declaration that he was ready to work with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa therefore UNP should be voted to power at the parliamentary poll. The electorate couldn’t be deceived by such rhetoric, Prof. Peiris said, appealing to the people to be mindful of implications.

The UNP actions proved it couldn’t be trusted by the people, the SLPP Chairman said, pointing out Treasury bond scams allegedly perpetrated in Feb 2015 and March 2016 and the Geneva betrayal in between, the Easter Sunday carnage and the looming power crisis due to the failure to build a single power plant since UNP assumed power, proved that the previous leadership couldn’t be trusted under any circumstances therefore the public could exercise their franchise in support of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Commenting on the phone scandal, former External Affairs Minister and Law Professor said that though some tried to blame it on Gampaha District MP Ranjan Ramanayake, it would be pertinent to mention such an operation couldn’t have been carried out without the knowledge of the top party leadership. The UNP leadership couldn’t have been unaware of the sordid operations undertaken by the actor turned lawmaker, Prof Peiris said.

The SLPP Chairman acknowledged that the country hadn’t faced a problem of such a magnitude though there were accusations as regards political interference in judicial matters from time to time. Prof. Peiris asserted that lawmaker Ramanayake’s operation had been conducted in an industrial scale though only a fraction of the recordings was in the public domain.

One time Rhodes and Fulbright scholar said that high profile cases involving former ministers Patali Champika Ranawaka and Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, too, were detrimental to the UNP. Referring to the Attorney General challenging Dr. Senaratne, arrested over ‘white van’ media briefing, in the run up to the presidential poll, being granted bail, Prof. Peiris said that the main Opposition was in turmoil.

Prof. Peiris said that the UNP was busy fighting among themselves with the parliamentary group divided over the leadership issue. "We are aware the majority backed Sajith Premadasa though the other side efficiently used the Constitution of the party to thwart the leadership change. We are going ahead with preparations for parliamentary polls followed by Provincial Councils," he said.

Responding to another query, Prof. Peiris expressed confidence that the SLPP group in the parliament would certainly emerge as the largest single grouping in the House at the 2020 general election. He noted that the winning party could secure a simple majority only twice, in 1989 and 2010 though there were seven general elections since the introduction of Proportional Representation (PR) system in 1989.The 1989 poll was undertaken at the height of the JVP inspired insurgency and the 2010 held within a year after the eradication of the LTTE, Prof. Peiris said. The SLPP Chairman said that their forthcoming victory would better the 1989 and 2010 performance by the UNP and the UPFA, respectively.

Asked whether the government was concerned about the Ramanayake affair having a bearing on the Geneva sessions, the former External Affairs Minister said that every aspect of the case would be inquired into. The government could absolve itself of the responsibility to conduct a thorough inquiry into the expanding phone scandal, Prof. Peiris said. The possibility of various interested parties exploiting the phone scandal to smear the judiciary in the run-up to Feb-March Geneva sessions couldn’t be ruled out.

The previous government co-sponsored a resolution that accepted foreign judges and other expatriates in judicial mechanisms to try highly questionable war crimes allegations.


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