Sri Lanka to hold snap elections in April

Published March 3, 2020
The term of Sri Lanka’s eighth legislature ended Monday midnight as parliament was dissolved at the end of the four and half years of its five-year term, following President Gotabaya Rajapaksa (pictured) issuing a Gazette notification. Sri Lanka’s parliamentary election is expected to be held on April 25th.  — AP
The term of Sri Lanka’s eighth legislature ended Monday midnight as parliament was dissolved at the end of the four and half years of its five-year term, following President Gotabaya Rajapaksa (pictured) issuing a Gazette notification. Sri Lanka’s parliamentary election is expected to be held on April 25th. — AP

COLOMBO: The term of Sri Lanka’s eighth legislature ended Monday midnight as parliament was dissolved at the end of the four and half years of its five-year term, following President Gotabaya Rajapaksa issuing a Gazette notification. Sri Lanka’s parliamentary election is expected to be held on April 25th.

Political observers interpreted the decision to hold snap elections as an attempt by the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna to cash in on the wave of popularity among the Sinhala ethnic group sparked by its move to withdraw from a UN resolution investigating alleged war crimes by the country’s armed forces during the campaign against Tamil Tigers in 2009. Rights groups accuse the army of killing 40,000 Tamil civilians in the final months of the conflict, a charge Colombo denies.

Addressing the 43rd session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Sri Lanka’s Foreign Relations Minister Dinesh Gunawardena last week announced that Sri Lanka will withdraw the co-sponsorship of Resolution 30/1 of October 2015 that was co-sponsored with the UN by the previous UNP regime, stating that it was “impractical, unconstitutional and undeliverable”.

However, Gunawardena stated that Sri Lanka “remains committed to engaging with the High Commissioner and her Office in achieving sustainable development, peace and reconciliation, within the national framework overwhelmingly approved by the people of Sri Lanka during the Presidential Election last November, where President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected with an overwhelming majority”.

Separately, shortly after, the Rajapaksa regime announced that it will not sign the $ 480 million Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) agreement, with the United States, stating that it has taken into consideration the recommendations of a four-member Committee that studied it.

The committee had pointed out clauses and conditions in the agreement that would negatively affect national goals, objectives, sovereignty, and national security, and were in­­consistent with the legal framework and Constitution of the country, cabinet spokesperson Minister Bandula Guna­war­dena told the media, stating that owing to these reasons the government has decided not to go ahead with the agreement.

Analysts point out that the recent decision of the government is likely to help them in the parliamentary polls to get the favour of the Sinhala Buddhist majority vote.

Meanwhile, Sajith Premadasa, the current Opposition leader and Deputy leader of the UNP, on Monday launched the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB), the new coalition formed by him, stating that the forming of the alliance is not just for the purpose of fighting elections but to set a new political foundation in the country.

The new alliance was formed on Monday amidst tension between Premadasa and Ranil Wickremesinghe, the leader of the UNP. The SJB was initially formed two weeks ago as the UNP led coalition, to contest the forthcoming Parliamentary election and its constitution was approved by the UNP Working Committee. There is however no agreement yet between the backers of Premadasa and the UNP leader Wickremesinghe over the symbol of the new party.

Premadasa has attracted the support of 12 political parties for his alliance, including the nationalistic Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) and Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) which have officially joined the SJB.

Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2020

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