President urged not be swayed by South Korea polls, reconvene parliament

Harsha De Silva

Former non-cabinet minister Dr. Harsha de Silva said yesterday (17) that the wisest thing to do was to pave the way for parliament to meet again by rescinding gazette, bearing no. 2165/8, dated March 02, that dissolved the House.

Dr. de Silva, who is in the fray from the Colombo electoral district, at the 2020 parliamentary election, on the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) ticket warned of dire consequences in case the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) sought to exploit what he called the COVID-19 environment for political advantage.

The economist pointed out that parliament could continue till late August 2020 as President Gotabaya Rajapaksa dissolved parliament, six months ahead of completion of its term, in accordance with the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

The former lawmaker said so when The Island sought his views on the ongoing debate on whether parliamentary election could be held, though the country was yet to bring the COVID-19 threat under full control.

The Election Commission (EC), consisting of Mahinda Deshapriya, President’s Counsel Nalin Abeysekera and Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole, on March 19, having accepted nominations, indefinitely put off the election, pending normalization of the situation.

Dr. de Silva pointed out that COVID-19 was a pandemic of bizarre proportions. In spite of severe shortcomings, health authorities, the armed forces, and the law enforcement authorities, were doing a tremendous job. “We do not need to mess it by attempting to have the parliamentary elections ahead of time,” the former lawmaker said, adding that parliament should be allowed to run its full term.

The former Colombo District MP said; “Let the parliament run its five year-term and go for an election when things are under control.”

Asked whether those in the Opposition agreed with his stand, the former MP emphasized even the SLPP couldn’t disagree with him. Dr. de Silva said that all political parties could very easily reach a consensus on the postponement of parliamentary elections as the current situation was not conducive for parliamentary elections, followed by a proper campaign.

Dr. de Silva was of the opinion that the country was still struggling to cope up with COVID-19, with the Health Ministry reporting more positive cases almost on a daily basis.

The former MP said: “I don’t know why anyone would want to disagree with me, SLPP or otherwise. There comes a moment when one has to look beyond party politics. And, that moment has arrived, unexpectedly, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic gripping the whole world.”

Responding to another query, the former non-cabinet minister said that the government seemed in undue haste to prove that the unprecedented health emergency could be tackled soon to enable parliamentary polls. The SJB contestant scoffed at suggestion that Sri Lanka could hold parliamentary elections the way the South Koreans did, amidst health emergency caused by COVID-19.

The Colombo District candidate emphasized that the South Korean situation couldn’t be compared with that of Sri Lanka. If would be a grave mistake on the decision makers’ part to justify parliamentary elections here on the basis that there were only seven COVID-19 deaths here, compared to over 200 in South Korea.

“As I said before we want elections. We want to have it as soon as possible but we need to be extra cautious of the danger we may place the public, in case we rush it. The best course of action is to let the parliament run its course till August 2020. Dissolve it then and have elections. Only the President can do that. And that is the right thing to do.”

The former UNP lawmaker said that South Korea never locked down. Instead, the administration there carried out a very aggressive PCR testing and quarantine programme.

De Silva pointed out that South Korea conducted some 540,000 PCR tests in a population of 51 mn people before last Wednesday’s election and was confident of the ground situation. But, Sri Lanka had conducted very much lesser number of PCR tests on 21.5 mn people here and the government was in the dark as regards the actual local situation, he asserted.

Having explained how South Korea took tangible measures to ensure the safety and security of voters, as well as the polling staff, the former MP urged the government to examine the two situations carefully without resorting to a disastrous course of action. South Korea polls shouldn’t be under any circumstances a reason to justify parliamentary polls, in Sri Lanka, amidst the continuing spread of coronavirus.

(Source: The Island – By Shamindra Ferdinando)