by Shamindra Ferdinando
Former UPFA Deputy Minister and retired Navy Chief of Staff Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera yesterday urged the SLFP parliamentary group in the UNP-led unity government to quit immediately or face the consequences.
Addressing the media at the National Library and Documentation Services Board, Independence Square, Weerasekera said that as long as they remained in the yahapalana administration and participated in the controversial constitution making process Sri Lanka was at the risk of being divided on ethnic lines.
Retired Maj. Gen. Kamal Gunaratne, formerly the General Officer Commanding (GoC) of the 53 Division, too, explained how the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration pursued policies wholly and severely inimical to national interests.
Weerasekera said the proposed new Constitution or enactment of specific amendments with far reaching consequences were a reality as long as Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe enjoyed a two-thirds majority in parliament.
Civil society group ‘Eliya’ organised the media briefing.
At the moment, the government group comprises 151 members with the UNP having 106 plus SLMC MP and 44 in President Sirisena’s group. In addition to 151 members in the government grouping, the Tamil national Alliance (TNA) with 16 members and the JVP with six would never go against overall political objectives of the current administration, the navy veteran said, pointing out that altogether the four parties commanded staggering 173 members.
Former MP Weerasekera said that President Sirisena could deliver a serious blow to UNP led project by quitting the administration. The moment the SLFP left, the government would lose its two-thirds majority and it couldn’t continue to enjoy status of a national government in terms of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.
“Let the UNP secure the backing of the Sampanthan’s TNA to form a new administration with a simple majority,” Weerasekera said, asserting that the unity government would have collapsed in the wake of humiliating drubbing received at Feb. 10 local government polls if not for US and Indian intervention to prop it up from behind the scene.
When The Island pointed out that the Joint Opposition group loyal to former President Rajapaksa continued to participate in the constitutional making process, the Rear Admiral said that they hadn’t been successful in convincing the JO to quit the process. Asked to explain as to why the JO remained in the process in spite of the persistent dangers posed as alleged by nationalists groups, Weerasekera said that the JO always put off the decision on various excuses.
Weerasekera admitted that those opposed to the Geneva-led project to introduce a new Constitution hadn’t been able to reach consensus on a strategy to be followed in parliament to thwart government plans.
Weerasekera described Feb. 10 polls outcome as a vote on the performance and policies of the unity government. The electorate had overwhelmingly rejected the project to introduce a new Constitution, hybrid war crimes court, privatization of national assets as well as trade partnerships inimical to Sri Lanka.
Weerasekera pointed out that the 19th Amendment had weakened executive presidency to such an extent that the incumbent President couldn’t dissolve the cabinet, replace Prime Minister or basically was powerless to act without consulting the PM.
Responding to another query, Weerasekera said that he didn’t vote for the 19th Amendment during President Sirisena’s 100-day administration. However, those who had opposed SLFP joining the UNP-led government had no option but to vote for the 19th Amendment due to President Sirisena’s personal appeal to them.
Commenting on the government recalling Sri Lankan defence attache in the UK Brig. Fernando at the behest of the British, Weerasekera said that the government should take up UK’s failure to prevent LTTE flag carrying British nationals of Sri Lankan origin trampling Sri Lankan national flag outside our mission on the independence day.
“Foreign Ministry should seek an explanation from UK High Commissioner in Colombo Dauris,” Weerasekera said, adding that the government had allowed Western powers to humiliate the military. Those who couldn’t stomach the LTTE’s defeat at the hands of the military were hell-bent on taking revenge and following strategies to appease the electorate.
Weerasekera said the government lacked courage or vision to meet the daunting challenge in defending the country on the diplomatic front.
The Office of Missing Persons (OMP) could pose a quite a threat, Weerasekera said, pointing out the government would soon try to bring in Enforced Protection Bill in accordance with its commitment to Geneva. The naval veteran said the SLFP couldn’t absolve itself of the responsibility for backing the UNP in parliament.