No “Executive Prime Minister” Post for Ranil; Maithripala will Remain President Without Dictatorial Powers – UNP


Shamindra Ferdinando


The UNP yesterday declared that the joint Opposition would retain the executive presidency sans what it called dictatorial powers currently exercised by incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Maithripala Sirisena would remain the President, it said.

The announcement was made by top UNP spokesman Mangala Samaraweera, MP, at a media briefing held at UNP headquarters, Sirikotha. The UNPer emphasised that the process of transferring power to the Cabinet of Ministers would be done in accordance with the Constitution.

The former minister dismissed the notion that Sirisena’s victory would pave the way for UNP National Leader to receive the post of executive Prime Minister. “There is no such thing. The Prime Minister is the head of Cabinet of Ministers.”

The former JHU constituent, the JHU strongly pushed for far reaching constitutional reforms to dilute presidential powers. The SLFP rejected the JHU bid.

Accusing an influential section of the media of pursuing the government agenda, Matara District MP said that an attempt was being made to deceive the electorate. One-time media minister said that the Opposition campaign was on track in spite of government interference. Samaraweera accused the government of trying to deprive the Opposition of a decent venue to sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

The former Foreign Minister said that the Opposition would sign the MoU on Monday (Dec 1). “We’ll step up our campaign after having signed it on Monday. In case, we are unable to secure a suitable venue, signing of the agreement will take place on the streets of Colombo.”

Commenting on a 100-day post-poll project, MP Samaraweera said that Sirisena would keep some ministerial portfolios. The MP said that the new government would be formed in accordance with the existing Constitution. Responding to the query, MP Samaraweera said that UNP National Leader Wickremesinghe would receive the premiership as the main Opposition party on the basis of the UNP’s contribution.

MP Samaraweera assured the media that the Opposition would shortly announce a road map as regards the post-election project. The MP revealed that the main objectives could be even achieved within 65 days unless the Supreme Court determined that constitutional changes should be subjected to a referendum.

Samaraweera stressed that the Opposition had the wherewithal to achieve its major objectives with Sirisena as President and Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister in accordance with a power sharing agreement.

At the conclusion of the 100-day period, thought would have to be given to conducting parliamentary polls though the current parliament could continue till April next year, Samaraweera said, adding that Wickremesinghe, Sirisena and twice-President Kumaratunga felt that power sharing arrangement should continue for at least two years. Responding to a query by The Island, MP Samaraweera said that this arrangement could continue until the next parliamentary election.

Asked what would be the fate of incumbent Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne, a smiling Samaraweera said that Jayaratne could join the new government.

Responding to recent media reports on simmering dispute over the UNP having to give up its party symbol to pave the way for the new arrangement, Samaraweera insisted that the name, colour and symbol of political parties shouldn’t be allowed to impede the project.

Samaraweera declined to comment on the number of government of MP s expected to switch their allegiance to the Opposition or reveal a time frame for the operation. However, the UNP strategist indicated that the new government to be elected wouldn’t dissolve Parliament because it didn’t want to deprive MPs of their pensions.

Commenting on possible attempts by the government to interfere with the electoral process, particularly the counting of votes, Samaraweera said that they were taking additional measures to prevent irregularities.

Courtesy: The Island