JO demands Opp. Leader post, turns down invitation to join delegation to New Delhi

Dinesh Gunawardena

The Joint Opposition has rejected Speaker Karu Jayasuriya’s invitation to join a parliamentary group invited by the Lok Sabha as a protest against Jayasuriya’s decision not to recognise the JO as the legitimate opposition.

JO parliamentary group leader Dinesh Gunawardena yesterday told The Island that the grouping wouldn’t help the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe duo to deceive the Indian parliament.

Asked whether Speaker Jayasuriya had been informed of the JO’s decision, Gunawardena said that the Speaker’s Office was told of their move. Gunawardena alleged that the UNP-led ruling coalition was playing politics with the Opposition Leader’s position.

In spite of the four-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA) having only 16 members in parliament, the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe duo picked its leader R. Sampanthan as the Leader of the Opposition at the expense of the Joint Opposition. We now have almost 70 lawmakers though at the onset the JO comprised over 50 members, Gunawardena said, adding that Speaker Jayasuriya was retaining Sampanthan in accordance with overall UNP-SLFP project meant to bring in new Constitution or introduce constitutional changes inimical to Sri Lanka.

The JO loyal to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa consists of those who contested Aug 2015 parliamentary poll on the UPFA ticket. Of the 95 elected on the UPFA ticket, about 26 remain with President Sirisena.

Gunawardena stressed that the international community couldn’t ignore what was happening in Sri Lanka. The parliament couldn’t be allowed to be manipulated and used as a tool to facilitate UNP-SLFP-TNA project, Gunawardena said, recalling the circumstances under which the TNA threw its weight behind UNP-led ‘operations’ at 2010 and 2015 presidential elections.

Responding to another query, Gunawardena said that the Opposition Leader’s Office couldn’t be offered to the TNA in return for its backing for common candidate Maithripala Siripala at the last presidential poll. Gunawardena said that the TNA owed an explanation to the country and the Tamil community regarding its close relationship with the LTTE since 2001. They worked together until the previous government brought the war to a successful conclusion in May 2009, Gunawardena said, the TNA couldn’t absolve itself of responsibility for recognizing the LTTE as the sole representative of the Tamil speaking people.

Gunawardena said that JO boycott would send a strong message to India and those interested in well being of Sri Lanka.

The JO leader recalled how the European Union in 2004 questioned the legitimacy of the TNA in parliament in the wake of the LTTE backing the grouping at April 2004 parliamentary election. The EU Election Observation mission report discussed the TNA-LTTE nexus, Gunawardena said, adding that veteran TULF chief V. Anandasangaree called for tangible action against the TNA on the basis of the EU report.

Gunawardena asserted that both the UNP and the SLFP were bending backwards to appease the TNA believing Sampanthan’s group could help them in the north at national elections.

Gunawardena said that Speaker should realize he couldn’t help Sirisena-Wickremesinghe duo at the expense of parliamentary traditions. The veteran politician said that the parliament was being used as a tool to implement political projects. The MEP leader said that the government brazenly used parliament to put off Provincial Council polls and was still advancing its agenda regardless of Opposition.

Gunawardena said that the JO was confident Sept 5 protest in Colombo would send a clear message to the ruling coalition. The JO leader said the government simply struggling to ope up with growing public resentment over its ill-fated policies and mismanagement.

(Source: The Island – By Shamindra Ferdinando)