Dissident SLPP faction issues warning over Geneva, IMF and GSP+

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GL: Govt. is using PTA, having promised not to extend Emergency

By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP Chairman Prof. G. L. Peiris, MP, has issued a dire warning to President Ranil Wickremesinghe and the SLPP administration over the continuing crackdown on anti-government protesters.Addressing the media, in Kandy, after paying homage to senior Kandy-based Buddhist monks, on Saturday (20), the former Foreign Affairs Minister censured the government over the detention of Wasantha Mudalige, the convener of the Inter-University Students’ Federation (IUSF) in terms of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

The former minister was flanked by former ministers, Dullas Alahapperuma and Prof. Channa Jayasumana. The rebel group’s visit to Kandy coincided with President Wickremeisnghe’s visit, meant to receive the blessings of the Maha Sangha.

In addition to Mudalige, law enforcement authorities, on August 18, detained Ven. Galwewa Siridhamma Thera and Bhashantha Jeewantha Gunathilake, under detention orders.The IUSF, affiliated to the breakaway JVP faction, the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) played a significant role in the protest campaign that forced the then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign on July 14.

The SLPP National List member alleged that the ruling SLPP’s response to the public protest campaign was contrary to their original policy.  Declaring that his group represented the real SLPP, Prof. Peiris emphasized they voted against the imposition of Emergency regulations as the group was opposed to the continuing crackdown. President Wickremesinghe dropped Prof. Peiris from the Cabinet, at the behest of the SLPP. Former Justice Minister Prof. Ali Sabry, PC, who served as the Finance Minister, for a brief period, was recently sworn in as the Foreign Minister.

Referring to President Wickremesinghe recent declaration that Emergency wouldn’t be re-imposed, lawmaker Prof. Peiris questioned the arrest of the IUSF activist, on terrorism charges.The MP strongly defended the protesters right to campaign against the government. Prof. Peiris, who led Sri Lanka’s delegation at the last session of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), said that the ongoing crackdown could place the country in an extremely difficult situation at the forthcoming 51st session.

The lawmaker said the government strategy, vis a vis the protest movement, could jeopardize ongoing talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as well as the GSP-plus facility provided by the European Union.Recollecting the recommendations presented to Parliament, in respect of the PTA by him, on behalf of the government, about three months ago, Prof. Peiris said that there was consensus that the dreaded law shouldn’t be utilized, pending total review of the PTA.

The former minister declared that there couldn’t be any justification in detaining the IUSF activists as they exercised the constitutional right to protest.Prof. Peiris told The Island that in spite of the temporary relief received due to improvement in the supplies, the overall situation remained dicey. The failure on the part of the government to secure the support of all political parties, and factions, to form the proposed all-party-government highlighted the crisis the ruling party experienced, Prof. Peiris said.

The former minister said that President Wickremesinghe was recently informed of their position as regards cooperation that could be extended to the government. Responding to another query, the academic challenged the government should respond to severe criticism that the 22nd Amendment would pave the way for a jumbo Cabinet at the expense of the hapless public, struggling to make ends meet.

Prof. Peiris said that the genuine Opposition would cooperate on a campaign to resist the government. The MP expressed confidence that the Opposition could thwart the government plans to suppress the ongoing protest campaign. The former Foreign Minister said that the international community was closely watching the situation and those who believed all could be hoodwinked would soon leant a lesson.

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