We’ll cooperate, reconvene Parliament: Sri Lankan Opposition

Leader of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (United People’s Front) Sajith Premadasa was among those who signed the joint statement   | Photo Credit: AP

Seven Opposition parties in Sri Lanka have urged President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to reconvene Parliament, pledging “responsible cooperation” to his government in fighting the COVID-19.

Assuring citizens that they would not draw salaries, attempt to defeat the government or thwart any of the “legitimate actions of the government”, the party leaders said in a joint statement on Monday: “As members of the dissolved Parliament, we are duty bound to fulfil our obligations to resolve this crisis in a spirit of responsible cooperation extended to the President.”

Political sources said the statement was handed over to Mr. Rajapaksa’s office. He is yet to comment.

President Rajapaksa, who dissolved Parliament on March 2 and called for snap polls on April 25, has maintained that he had no intention to reconvene Parliament and that the fixing of polls dates was the Election Commission’s prerogative. After the COVID-19 hit Sri Lanka — more than 500 cases reported so far — the Election Commission postponed it to June 20, a date it said was subject to review.

Also read: South Asia needs a humanitarian response to the COVID-19 pandemic: Ranil Wickremesinghe

According to the Opposition parties, the political situation is in “a state of uncertainty” due to the dissolution of Parliament and “the absence of conditions conducive to hold parliamentary elections as stipulated”. Several Opposition parties have already voiced concern over holding polls amid a raging pandemic and have instead proposed reconvening Parliament to allow passage of relevant laws to strengthen the novel coronavirus response.

Getting new legislation passed to meet the health crisis and obtaining parliamentary sanction to the utilisation of funds from the Consolidated Fund are “important and urgent” functions of Parliament, the parties said in Monday’s statement.

Former Prime Minister and Leader of the United National Party Ranil Wickremesinghe, former Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (United People’s Front) Sajith Premadasa, Tamil National Alliance Leader R. Sampanthan, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress Leader Rauff Hakeem, All Ceylon Makkal Congress Leader Rishad Bathiudeen, Tamil Progressive Alliance Leader Mano Ganesan and Jathika Hela Urumaya Leader Champika Ranawaka have signed the joint statement.

Spike in cases

Sri Lanka has witnessed a spike in the COVID-19 positive cases in the last week, raising the number to 581 as of Monday afternoon. So far seven persons have succumbed to the infection while 126 have recovered, according to official health bulletins. Districts identified as “high-risk” areas including Colombo have been under curfew since March 20.

Amid calls from health experts to step up testing rapidly, the health authorities said they would increase testing to over 1,000 a day.

“We have failed to use the curfew to reduce the rate of person-to-person spread of the virus to a level where epidemic spread cannot occur,” said Dr. Ravi Rannan-Eliya, Executive Director of the Institute for Health Policy, in a blog published on the Institute’s website on Sunday. “It is hard to avoid the conclusion that at the root of the failure was a mindset unable to rise to the urgency of the hour, to fully understand the challenge we face, and to think outside the box,” he said.

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Printable version | May 16, 2021 11:36:42 AM |

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