Mujibur slams Prez for ‘false claims’

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demands to know why UNP submitted nominations

By Shamindra Ferdinando

SJB mayoral candidate for the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) Mujibur Rahuman yesterday denied President Ranil Wickremesinghe having asked him not to quit Parliament to contest the forthcoming local government polls. MP Rahuman resigned on 01 Jan.

 The former Colombo District MP said so in response to President Wickremesinghe’s recent claim that he advised MP Rahuman not to resign as the LG polls wouldn’t be held.

 Rahuman first entered Parliament, on the UNP ticket, at the 2015 general election, and was re-elected, in August 2020, on the SJB ticket, having switched allegiance to Sajith Premadasa, in early 2020. Rahuman was among 54 SJB members elected at the last general election.

 The leading SJB candidate, vying to be Colombo Mayor, alleged that President Wickremesinghe, who is also the leader of the UNP, inadvertently exposed his despicable plan to put off LG polls indefinitely.  The President and Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena coordinated ill-advised government efforts to delay polls, Rahuman said, pointing out that their plans went awry because the Election Commission and its Director General didn’t succumb to intense pressure.

 Having been rejected by the masses and the party reduced to just one National List MP in Parliament at the last general election held in August 2020, the UNP realized the extremely difficult situation the party faced at the forthcoming LG polls, the ex-MP said.

 Rahuman recalled how the Prime Minister summoned the EC twice, before the President, too, called the EC, as the government top leadership went flat out to disrupt the LG polls.

 Asked whether he had received calls or messages from the UNP leader in the recent past regarding some other matter, Rahuman said that he was offered an opportunity to join the government soon after the then President swore in Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister on May 12, 2022.

 “I was offered a ministerial portfolio,” Rahuman said, adding that the offer was renewed in the wake of parliament electing Wickremesinghe on July 20 as the eighth executive president. The largest party in parliament the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) overwhelmingly voted for Wickremesinghe at the expense of their own man Dullas Alahapperuma, MP, Rahuman said.

 The parliament elected him to complete the remainder of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s five-year term and take tangible measures to stabilize the national economy, the former MP said. Instead, the President has been working overtime to consolidate his position, Rahuman alleged, explaining that otherwise, Wickremesinghe wouldn’t have sought to sabotage the LG polls that had been already delayed.The last LG polls were held on Feb 10, 2018. The next LG polls should have been conducted in early 2022.

 Responding to another query, Rahuman said now that President Wickremesinghe owed an explanation why the UNP itself handed over nominations for LG polls if he believed the March 09 date was not properly fixed.

 Rahuman said Wickremesinghe’s political strategy was transparent. “The President is exploring the possibility of rolling back the election calendar. If he succeeded in sabotaging the LG polls on the basis of insufficient funds, the next presidential and parliamentary polls too could be put off citing financial woes,” he said.

 The highly articulate Colombo Mayoral candidate asked whether the President consulted the SLPP regarding his proposal to put off the LG polls indefinitely. Perhaps, the President and the SLPP bosses agreed on the LG polls postponement at the onset of their marriage of convenience meant to protect the utterly corrupt SLPP administration, Rahuman alleged.

 The former MP said that the President and the SLPP were in a quandary over the continuing deterioration of the economy. In spite of boasting about international support for the Wickremesinghe-led administration, they hadn’t been able to finalize the deal with the IMF for USD 2.9 bn, Rahuman charged. However, postponement of the LG polls couldn’t be justified on lack of funds against the backdrop of the Parliament approving Rs 10 bn for the EC in the 2023 budget, he said.

 Rahuman said that Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena couldn’t absolve himself of the responsibility for ensuring the implementation of the budget. The Speaker shouldn’t play a role in the President’s strategy, the ex-MP said. “The beleaguered President is trying to cause chaos. But, we are in such a desperate situation, the executive, the legislature and the judiciary will have to respond to the developing situation,” Rahuman said.

 The former MP declined to comment on a retired Army officer moving court against the LG polls. “We cannot find fault with the retired officer for exercising his right. But, the right of millions of voters to exercise their franchise, too, should be taken into consideration.”

courtesy the island

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