Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) heavyweight Basil Rajapaksa, yesterday (13), announced the launch of a large-scale grassroots level political project later this week in preparation for the forthcoming national elections––presidential polls in Dec. 2019 and next year’s parliamentary election.
Addressing the media, at the SLPP Nelum Mawatha Office in Battaramulla, the former SLFP National Organiser said that having comfortably won the Feb. 2018 Local Government polls, the SLPP was confident of winning future polls.
The SLPP bagged 231 LG bodies whereas the UNP, the TNA and the SLFP managed 42, 39 and 10 respectively.
Rajapaksa said that the project under the theme ‘A conversation with the village’ would cover all administrative districts except Jaffna and Batticaloa, where the party was yet to establish itself. “The party mobilisation programme will be held on March 16, 17, March 23 and 24 and March 30 and 31.”
Fielding a query by The Island, Rajapaksa said that the presidential election was likely to take place though long overdue provincial councils should be held first.
“We are making an effort to pressure the government to conduct the PC polls. We have sought legal recourse in this regard though in the absence of an assurance, the SLPP is readying for national election,” Basil Rajapaksa said, adding that the presidential election was most likely to take place as the UNP feared a crushing defeat ahead of the crucial presidential contest.
Asked whether the SLPP and the SLFP had reached a consensus on a presidential candidate, Rajapaksa said that official talks between the two parties were scheduled to commence on Thursday (14). “We’ll be taking part in these negotiations with an open mind,” Basil Rajapaksa said.
The former minister declined to comment on a possible timeframe for the conclusion of talks. The SLPP delegation comprised its Chairman Prof. G.L. Peiris, UPFA MP Dullas Alahapperuma (Joint Opposition) and senior lecturer Jagath Wellawatta. The SLFP team is expected to comprise party General Secretary Dayasiri Jayasekera, his predecessor Rohana Lakshman Piyadasa and Tilanga Sumathipala or Mahinda Amaraweera.
Basil Rajapaksa emphasised that the final decision on the SLPP presidential candidate would be taken by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. When The Island sought an explanation as to how one person could be entrusted with the responsibility for taking such a crucial decision, Basil said that the former President would certainly consult all stakeholders. The Island pointed out that many SLPP/Joint Opposition members had repeatedly declared that the decision would be Mahinda Rajapaksa’s.
Basil Rajapaksa appreciated wartime Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s declaration of his intention to run for President. Basil said that the former Defence Secretary had set an example by coming forward at an early stage.
Asked whether he wasn’t keen to re-enter Parliament, Rajapaksa had how the 19thAmendment enacted in April 2015 had disqualified him on the basis of his dual citizenship. The 19th Amendment also disqualified Gotabaya Rajapaksa on same grounds.
The Island pointed out that those now representing the SLPP’s interests in parliament voted for the 19th Amendment.
Responding to a barrage of questions as regards President Maithripala Sirisena, who is also the leader of the SLFP getting nomination, Basil Rajapaksa said that if former President Rajapaksa agreed to that they didn’t have a problem. However, he emphasized the pivotal importance of reaching a consensus decision through discussion “We have to field a person capable of winning.”
Basil side-stepped a question regarding the SLPP’s chances at the presidential election in case talks with the SLFP failed to produce the desired results.
Basil Rajapaksa dismissed the JVP’s bid to garner support for the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution to abolish the executive presidency as a meaningless exercise.
Commenting on the situation in the Northern region, Basil acknowledged that a lot had to be done to attract the voters there.
Basil Rajapaksa said that contrary to claims, the SLPP and the SLFP were now working together.
Confirming that he had met the US Ambassador in Colombo along with Mahinda Rajapaksa and one-time External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris, Rajapaksa stressed the need to work closely with the international community. They routinely met envoys from various countries, he added.
(Source: The Island – By Shamindra Ferdinando)