ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s main opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and the opposition National People’s Power (NPP) must call off their boycott of parliament so that the House can proceed with economic and political reforms, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said.
Wickremesinghe told parliament on Wednesday June 22 that it was regrettable that the two opposition parties had decided to boycott parliamentary sessions when cabinet approval had been obtained for the long-awaited 21st amendment to the constitution.
Sri Lanka justice minister calls for opposition support for his 21st amendment
The SJB and the NPP walked out of the chamber Tuesday June 21 morning in protest of what they said was the government’s inability to present to parliament a viable plan to bring Sri Lanka out of its deepening economic crisis.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said boycotting parliament at a time of crisis was not befitting a responsible opposition. If the two opposition parties have alternative solutions they wish to propose, they ought to attend parliament and do that so that their proposals can be debated, he said.
“Has the SJB changed its position on reaching out to the International Monetary Fund (IMF)? Are they no longer open to negotiating with the IMF? Is that why they’re boycotting parliament?” he asked.
The SJB has long advocated going to the IMF, since the beginning of the crisis. The NPP – led by the Marxist-Leninist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) – is ideologically opposed to the IMF and its conditionality but has not actively advocated not seeking its assistance.
Wickremesinghe invited both parties to participate in the discussions.
“If you have better proposals, please do bring them up so they can be discussed.
“Does this parliament not need to pass the 21st amendment? Do we not need independent commissions? They must inform us if this is their position.
“Why are they avoiding parliament?”
Noting that there is understandable public resentment of all parliamentarians at the moment, the prime minister said many meaningful reforms have been proposed that have to be enacted through parliament in the interest of the country.
“If one loves the country, the right thing to do is not to engage in traditional party politics but to support those reforms or to highlight any shortcomings if there are any.
“We’re trying to go for a system change here. The opposition is the alternative government. An alternative government must have its own policies in place,” he said.
The prime minister requested the Speaker and the Leader of the House that parliament be called again for another session on Friday June 24. Wednesday is so far the final sitting scheduled for this week as Thursday’s sittings was cancelled in light of Sri Lanka’s ongoing fuel crisis. The opposition boycott, thus, ends on Wednesday.
“Bring your alternatives, so we can debate. The boycott must end today, because tomorrow is a holiday.
“Come and tell us. Should we go to the IMF? What does the NPP think? How do we find fuel? How do we grow food?
“They’re hiding. You can’t hide like this. In power they hide, they hide in opposition too. So how will they run a country?” said Wickremesinghe.
“I’m sad that people I trained don’t know how to gain power. Did I fail in that?” he added, in an apparent jab at the SJB which broke off from the United National Party (UNP) that he leads. (Colombo/Jun22/2022)