Prudent Move

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New Zealand High Commission in Sri Lanka, in a tweet on Thursday (14 July), coinciding with the day President Gotabaya Rajapaksa (SLPP) sent his resignation letter to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana said, “New Zealand is watching the political transition and economic crisis in Sri Lanka closely.

With international partners, we urge all leaders to work together to select a new President and Prime Minister in line with Constitutional processes and the will of the Sri Lankan people.

“Violence should play no role in the days ahead.”

Three days later, on Sunday, UNP leader and Acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe declared an “indefinite” State of Emergency effective from yesterday, targeting tomorrow’s constitutionally correct vote in Parliament to elect a new President to fill the void created by Rajapaksa’s resignation, whose term otherwise ends in another two years time in 2024.

 The new President elected tomorrow will fill Rajapaksa’s balance term in office, after which the country will seek a fresh mandate from the people to elect a new President in 2024. Rajapaksa was elected to power to serve a five-year term on 16 November 2019.

There are four MPs contesting for the Presidency among the 225 MPs in Parliament, including the Speaker, tomorrow, where, Parliament will vote among themselves (and not the masses) to decide who the President will be, to serve the remainder of Rajapaksa’s term.

 The four contenders are Wickremesinghe, SLPP MP Dulles Alahapperuma, SJB and Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa and JVP and ‘Jathika Jana Balavegaya’ (JJB) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake.

Considering the violence leading up to Rajapaksa’s resignation, led by mass protests, due to record high inflation and cost of living, shortages, rationing, miles long fuel and cooking gas queues running for days, scarred harvests because of the then imported fertiliser ban introduced by Rajapaksa, record daily power cuts running for months because Sri Lanka does not have US dollars to import coal/diesel to run its power plants continuously, a black market, school closures, corruption, nepotism, cronyism and last but certainly not the least several queue deaths, another record, due to the country’s dollars robbed by Rajapaksa and his family coupled with mismanagement is the current order of the day.

SLPP commands the majority in the House. Wickremesinghe, who had served a record five times as Premier before was nominated for the sixth time by Rajapaksa, upon the resignation of elder brother Mahinda and the then SLPP Cabinet due to mass violent protests on 9 May, because of thuggery instigated by Mahinda on the once, peaceful protesters led by the above socioeconomic hardships.  Wickremesinghe declaring ‘Emergency’ leading at least up to tomorrow’s crucial polls in Parliament is prudent.

In a telecast address to the nation yesterday he said that he will reintroduce the Nineteenth Amendment (19A) which curtails the powers of the President. 19A was rescinded by 20A hardly a year after Rajapaksa was elected to power, by the SLPP majority Parliament.

Wickremesinghe also said that he will get Scotland Yard’s (British Police) aid to investigate the Easter Sunday massacre of 21 April 2019. It was Scotland Yard who investigated the killing of former National Security Minister and DUNF leader Lalith Athulathmudali on 23 April 1993. They came to the conclusion that he was killed by a bullet fired by LTTE gunman Ragunathan. Rajapaksa in his election manifesto promised to investigate the Easter Sunday massacre, but nothing came of it.

‘Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty’ as both domestic and external forces, inimical to the country’s interests are trying to usurp democracy and destabilise the country as they feel that their influence is waning.

Elsewhere in the world, a destabilised Lebanon serves the interest of similar forces. Like forces in this part of the world too want to, destabilise Sri Lanka for their interests. But, a stable Sri Lanka will get IMF attention and therewith the much needed dollars to turnaround Sri Lanka’s ruined economy.

External and domestic forces inimical to the island’s interest worked successfully to destablise Sri Lanka when the island was virtually “reaching the stars” after the change of Government on 21 July 1977.  Let not Sri Lanka suffer the same fate this time too.