In preparation for the forthcoming presidential election, the UNP has summoned those in charge of polling booths countrywide to Colombo. They’ll converge at Hyde Park on October 28 afternoon, in accordance with the main Opposition party’s overall strategy meant to be what newly appointed Deputy National Organizer, Harin Fernando called a ‘show of force’.
Pointing out that the Hyde Park meeting would take place less than a week after President Mahinda Rajapaksa presented Budget 2015 on Friday (Oct 24), Opposition Leader of the Uva Provincial Council Fernando said that it was going to be the largest Opposition gathering in Colombo since the conclusion of the war in May 2009.
In a brief interview with The Island,
Fernando said that as ‘polling booth leaders’ were expected to play a crucial role during the campaign and on the day of the election, the party felt the need to brief them. In addition to as many as 12,000 polling booth leaders, members of parliament, provincial councils and local government bodies will join the gathering.
The former Badulla District MP asserted that the SLFP-led ruling coalition was in dire straits with several of its constituents pulling in different directions. In spite of the SLFP leadership putting a brave face, the deepening crisis was taking its toll, Fernando said, emphasizing the pivotal importance of uniting all those who have been campaigning for the abolition of executive presidency under one banner.
Having spearheaded the UNP campaign in the Badulla district at the recently concluded Uva PC polls, Fernando secured membership in Group of 20 tasked with leading the party at the next national level election.
The Uva provincial councillor said that the SLFP couldn’t ignore JHU MP Ven. Athureliye Rathana’s declaration that he would campaign against President Rajapaksa in case the SLFP went ahead with presidential polls before implementing proposed 19th Amendment to the Constitution meant to dilute presidential powers. Although Ven. Rathana proposed the 19th Amendment on behalf of an organization styled as Pivithuru Hetak or ‘A Pure Tomorrow’, the move had the blessings of the JHU, therefore it could cause quite an embarrassing situation.
Commenting on the Socialist Alliance (SA) comprising the Communist Party of Sri Lanka (CPSL), the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) and the Democratic Left Front (DLF) strongly disputing the SLFP’s move, the UNPer said that those opposed to early polls obviously realized that the UNP had clearly taken the upper hand in the wake of its superb performance at the Uva poll. Instead of much anticipated boost, the Uva result had caused uncertainty and fear among coalition members, Fernando said adding that the left parties’ position reflected the actual situation. The SA was also supporting the abolition of the executive presidency, Fernando said. Therefore if the grouping was genuine, it shouldn’t in anyway get involved in the UPFA campaign, he said.
Referring to media reports that the government was calling an early presidential on the basis of astrological advice, Fernando said that if the SLFP felt that the time was conducive for an early presidential, perhaps parliamentary poll, too, could be advanced. Last presidential and parliamentary polls were held in January and April, 2010, respectively.
Fernando said: “Both national elections can be held simultaneously in early January. We dare the SLFP to face us on two fronts, simultaneously. Millions of rupees in taxpayers’ money can be saved if the SLFP accepted our challenge.” Simultaneous presidential and parliamentary polls would allow the country to do away with the executive presidency and elect a Prime Minister accountable to the people, Fernando said.
The former MP pointed out that the SLFP leadership had taken astrological advice so seriously, it was even ready to jeopardize a three-day Papal visit commencing on January 13. Fernando expressed surprise that the government hadn’t taken into consideration how last minute cancellation of papal visit could undermine its own campaign. The government couldn’t be unaware that the Vatican convention prevented the Pope from visiting a country a month before and after a particular national level election, he said.
Asked whether the UNP was preparing to face any eventuality, the Badulla leader said that the party was in the process of working out modalities with special emphasis on the second preference in case any of the two leading candidates couldn’t obtain more than 50 per cent of the vote at the next presidential poll. Fernando asserted that their candidate could count on the vast majority of Tamil speaking voters to exercise their franchise in support of the UNP candidate. The UNPer said that the party was seeking a consensus with all those Opposition political parties, groups as well as disgruntled UPFA members.
Fernando said that the incumbent President faced an uphill task in clearing the 50 per cent hurdle due to split in the vote caused by the JHU as well as the Movement for a Just Society led by Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha thera. Fernando claimed that the government could be in panic mode though it still went ahead with preparations for next presidential poll. In case both leading candidates failed to achieve 50 per cent mark, the second preference received by other candidates would be counted. At the Oct 1982 presidential JRJ obtained 52.91%, Premadasa 50.43% (Dec,1988), CBK 62.28 %(November, 1994), CBK 51.12 %(Dec 1999), Mahinda Rajapaksa 50.29% (Nov 2005) and Mahinda Rajapaksa 57.88 (January 2010).
(Courtesy: The Island)