By Shamindra Ferdinando
UPFA MP Thilanga Sumathipala yesterday said that abolition of the executive presidency shouldn’t be an issue at the Nov 16 presidential poll.
One-time Deputy Speaker Sumathipala emphasized that abolition of the executive presidency posed a grave danger to Sri Lanka’s unitary status.
The Colombo District lawmaker said so at the regular Friday morning briefing at his Ananda Rajakaruma Mawatha residence/office. The National List MP was flanked by attorney-at-law Keerthi Udawatte and Sumith Vijithamuni Zoysa, both former Provincial Council members.
MP Sumathipala said that the SLFP wouldn’t under any circumstances back the proposed abolition of the executive presidency especially against the backdrop of the Illankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK)-led grouping declaring what he called a separatist agenda.
Referring to the controversial 13-point set of proposals meant to be discussed with the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa and New Democratic Front(NDF) contender Sajith Premadasa, lawmaker Sumathipala said that those conditions could not be acceptable to anyone seeking the highest Office in the land.
Alleging that the UNPer Sajith Premadasa was yet to comment specifically on those proposals, lawmaker Sumathipala said that Gotabaya Rajapaksa rejected them. According to MP Sumathipala, the TNA’s backing was crucial for Premadasa in the presidential fray under the swan symbol.
Parliamentarian Sumathipala emphasized that those backing Gotabaya Rajapaksa wouldn’t depend on extremist elements such as Zahran Hashim, the alleged leader of the gang of suicide bombers responsible for the Easter Sunday carnage.
In spite of the eradication of the LTTE over a decade ago, the country faced an uncertain future due to some pursing a separatist agenda, MP Sumathipala said. He explained as to how the abolition of executive presidency could facilitate a Federal structure in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. Sumathipala alleged that the proposed Federal structure would in fact be a separate State therefore decisions on such matters couldn’t be taken in isolation.
The MP said that the latest proposals finalized this week in Jaffna demanded a separate State by rejecting the unitary status.
The Island sought an explanation as to why the SLFP opposed the abolition of the executive presidency having voted for the 19th Amendment in 2015 to dilute President Maithripala Sirisena’s powers. The Island asked when the SLFP realized the abolition of executive powers threatened the country as President Sirisena, in his capacity as the leader of the SLFP compelled the then UPFA members to provide required two-thirds majority to enact the law.
One-time Navy Chief of Staff and UPFA MP Sarath Weerasekera was the only MP to vote against the 19th Amendment.
MP Sumathipala said that they backed the 19th Amendment as it paved the way for Independent Commissions and other positive developments though the grouping never adopted strategies inimical to the national interest.
Lawmaker Sumathipala side-stepped The Island query as to how they criticized the TNA after having received the backing of the then four-party grouping at the January 2015 presidential election. The Island pointed out that the UNP-led grouping including the JVP and the TNA backed General Sarath Fonseka and Maithripala Sirisena at 2010 and 2015 presidential polls, though the SLFP now found fault with the TNA.
Sumathipala asserted that the ITAK led grouping was taking a tough line pertaining to the national issue as part of its overall strategy for the forthcoming parliamentary polls. The MP expressed confidence that the Tamil electorate couldn’t be influenced by the TNA.
Responding to another query from the electronic media as regards the latest proposals, lawmaker Sumathipala said that SLPP presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa should respond to them.
MP Sumathipala said that in case the SLPP and the SLFP couldn’t reach consensus on Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s candidature, the NDF would have definitely won the Nov 16 poll, with the support of the TNA. Had that happened, the division of the country on ethnic lines would have been only a matter of time, the MP said.
Lawmaker Sumathipala flayed Premier Wickremesinghe for treasury bond scams. Asked whether the SLFP accepted the responsibility for the second much bigger treasury bond scam perpetrated in late March 2016 due to President Sirisena saving the UNP by dissolving parliament in June 2015 to thwart tabling COPE report on the first scam, MP Sumathipala claimed that the President was to dissolve the House after completion of his 100-day programme.
The Island pointed out that the then Chairman of COPE Dew Gunasekera had declared that the dissolution saved those responsible for the first bond scam.
MP Sumathipala alleged that the bond scams were the biggest financial frauds committed here.
The Island pointed out that the much touted Presidential Commission wasn’t appointed till January 2017 to investigate the transactions. The parliament never took up the presidential commission report on the bond scams though the House received it in early 2018.