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DEW: Near 2/3 majority meaningless; Sabry’s prediction may come true

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‘Success of countrywide protest warning to govt. leaders’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Veteran Communist Party politician DEW Gunasekera says the developing economic-political-social crisis cannot be resolved by exploiting the parliamentary system.

The former Minister warned the ruling SLPP (Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna) government of dire consequences unless it addressed the issues at hand immediately.

The one-time General Secretary of the CP said so referring to what he called a clandestine operation that thwarted a joint Opposition bid on Thursday (05) to elect Ranjith Siyambalapitiya as the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament.

Instead, SLPP Chairman and Foreign Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris declared the SLPP’s support, too, for Siyambalapitiya while the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) fielded Imthiaz Bakeer Markar as their candidate, ex-MP Gunasekera said.

Of course, SLFPer Ranjith Siyambalapitiya won the contest with a huge majority but at the expense of much needed unity among the Opposition, required to pressure both President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the incumbent Cabinet-of-Ministers, including Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gunasekera said.

Responding to another query, Gunasekera said that the SLPP appeared to have ignored severe warning issued by Justice and Finance Minister Ali Sabry, PC, on the previous day, over the status of the national economy. Had the SLPP at least realised the gravity of the situation, the outspoken ex-lawmaker said, the SLPP would not have gone ahead with high the profile operation to have Ranjith Siyambalapitiya re-elected.

Sabry did not mince his words when he declared that unless the country recognized the threat and responded accordingly, Sri Lanka could end up as Lebanon or Venezuela.

MP Siyambalapitiya could have simply withdrawn his letter of resignation handed over to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa about a month ago, the CP veteran said, adding that the whole exercise was meant to compel the divided SLPP to vote for the Kegalle District MP, to counter growing challenge to Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa and thirdly prevent possible threat to the Leader of the Opposition as a result of the emergence of a larger parliamentary opposition.

SJB General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara told a hastily arranged media conference on Thursday the SJB had no option but to field a candidate of its own in the wake of Prof. Peiris declaring the SLPP’s support for the Opposition candidate.

Strongly endorsing Minister Sabry’s reading of the current situation, ex-Minister Gunasekera said that despite the SLPP showing a near two-thirds majority in Parliament, both the government and the country remained vulnerable to a toxic combination of political crisis, economic fallout and rising public anger. Asked whether the rapidly growing public protest campaign could be suppressed by a police crackdown and a show of military force, the former MP said “absolutely not. I am sure, those at the helm of political authority quite clearly realized that the public are not in a mood to give up the high-profile protest campaign.

The CP man said that the ‘Go Gota Home’ campaign completed 28 days on Thursday whereas the ‘Go Mahinda Home’ campaign reached 10th day. Against the backdrop of police tear gas attacks on protesters, mostly members of the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) on Thursday late evening, they have put up another protest site near Polduwa junction, Gunasekera said. They would continue to receive wide public support if the government failed to address the economic issue expeditiously, the ex-MP said, drawing the government attention to the growing public discontent.

Despite assurances given by the Presidential Media Division (PMD) early this week, the government could not prevent countrywide strike with all key public sector services joining the campaign. Unfortunately, the government was still struggling to settle issues within the SLPP and save Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa’s position at any cost much to the disappointment of the vast majority of those who voted for the SLPP at the 2019 presidential and 2020 parliamentary polls.

The outspoken CP veteran reiterated that the incumbent Cabinet including the Prime Minister should quit now to facilitate a consensus among all stakeholders. Noting even Dullas Alahapperuma, MP, quite politely asked for the entire Cabinet-of-Ministers to resign, ex-MP Gunasekera said unless political parties represented in Parliament restored much needed stability the country could not expect the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to proceed with negotiations.

Gunasekera said that long suppressed public anger exploded at President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s private residence at the Pengiriwatte Road, Mirihana, on March 31. That was followed by the countrywide protest on April 03 and then they launched the ‘Go Gota Home’ protest on April 09, the former MP said.

It would be pertinent to ask whether the government had taken tangible measures to address the issues raised by the Opposition as well as the public against the backdrop of the worst ever economic crisis experienced by Sri Lanka, Gunasekera said.

Asked whether he had an opportunity to advise the SLPP seniors, Gunasekera said that they were in no mood to listen or to engage in a dialogue. Instead, they continued to pursue the same old strategies that might not be relevant in the current situation, the former Minister said.

Gunasekera said that it would be a mistake for the SLPP grandees to think the re-election of Ranjith Siyambalapitiya meant the rebel SLPP group had given up their struggle. That was not so, the former Minister said, urging the government to address the issues at hand or face the consequences.



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Speaker proposes how to steer SL out of crisis

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Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena has handed over a set of proposals to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, spelling out how to resolve country’s economic crisis.The proposals made by the Speaker pertain to a number of important sectors and highlight the importance of providing relief to low income groups.

The Speaker has said Sri Lankans working or doing business overseas or foreign investors depositing USD 100,000 with the Central Bank for a period of two years should be paid a 10% interest per annum in Sri Lankan rupees and allowed to credit the interest to any account preferred by the depositor. He also proposes that the government issue a vehicle import licence worth USD 25,000, six months after an individual makes a fixed deposit while also allowing him to pay a standard tax of USD 10,000 to the government for that vehicle.Speaker Abeywardena has proposed how to reduce energy costs, release adequate stocks of LP gas to the market, boost domestic production food production, stabilise the banking system.

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MR had not decided to resign on 09 May, says Weerasekra

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP MP Rear Admiral (retd.) Sarath Weerasekera says Prime Minster Mahinda Rajapaksa had not decided to resign on 09 May 09 although the SLPP MPs had been asked to bring supporters to Temple Trees for a meeting.Weerasekera said so when The Island asked him why he had skipped the Temple Trees meeting.One-time Public Security Minister said that the then PM Rajapaksa had, during a conversation with him on 08 May had denied reports that the latter was planning to resign the following day. MP Namal Rajapaksa, however, had asked a group of MPs and others to bring supporters to express support for the PM, MP Weerasekera said.

Weerasekera said he had been among those contacted by MP Namal Rajapaksa.The former Navy Chief of Staff said that the failure on the part of law enforcement authorities and the military to respond swiftly and decisively to a threat of breach of law and order had led to a disaster at time global attention was on Sri Lanka due to the deteriorating financial situation.MP Weerasekera questioned why police had refrained from firing at least once into the air when mobs arrived at some MPs’ houses, which were destroyed. For over 48 hours mobs had ruled the country, the MP alleged, demanding an explanation why shoot-on-sight orders had not been issued as soon as mobs started to attack MPs’ houses.MP Weerasekera said that serious accusations made by SLPP members, particularly Wimal Weerawansa, Dr. Ramesh Pathirana and Mahindananda Aluthgamage couldn’t be ignored. They accused some sections of the SLPP of conspiring to unleash violence and the police and the armed forces turning a blind eye to countrywide retaliatory attacks.

Newly-appointed Public Security Minister Tiran Alles said that he would order a thorough probe into the May 09 incidents. Minister Alles said so when The Island asked him what he would do against the backdrop of allegations of the police facilitating attacks on protesting public in the Kollupitiya and Fort police areas.MPs, Weerawansa and Dr. Ramesh Pathirana alleged in Parliament that Maj. Gen. Jagath Alwis, Secretary to the Ministry of Public Administration and C. D. Wickremaratne, Inspector General of Police prevented Deshabandu Tennakoon, Senior DIG, Colombo from mob attacks on the protesting public.

Former Minister Weerasekera said that the government, the SLPP and the police should come clean on this matter. MP Weerasekera said that the government mishandled the challenge posed by those who cleverly exploited the economic crisis. “Perhaps one of the major blunders was allowing the public to block roads. Now, it has become a style. Interested parties also exploit the media and social media. The government seems clueless,” MP Weerasekera said, urging the government to review the developments.MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage, too, told The Island, the top SLPP leadership ignored repeated warnings. The former Agriculture Minister questioned whether those who had advised the Cabinet of Ministers chaired by the President deliberately deceived them.

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Lankan-born Cassandra elected to Australian Parliament

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She beat another candidate of Sri Lankan origin, Ranj Perera

Cassandra Fernando of Sri Lankan descent has been elected to the Australian Parliament.Cassandra, an advocate for essential workers and the Federal Labor Candidate for Holt.She migrated to Australia with her family when she was 11.She began working at Woolies Dandenong Plaza as a teenager. She now represents workers in the retail and fast food industries, fighting to improve their pay and conditions. She has also volunteered to tutor migrants and refugees from non-English speaking backgrounds so they can make the best of every opportunity.

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