Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe met with former President and incumbent MP Mahinda Rajapaksa for a unscheduled discussion this week to discuss Local Government elections, the postponement of which continues.
The political discussion took place on the evening of September 7 at the Parliamentary complex premises with Joint Opposition (JO) MPs Dinesh Gunawardena (Leader of the JO’s Parliamentary group), Udaya Gammanpila, Wimal Weerawansa and Prasanna Ranatunga in attendance.
Rajapaksa’s Private Secretary, Udith Lokubandara said that the group had expressed their displeasure to Wickremesinghe regarding the constant postponement of the said elections and had also raised concerns about field officers being denied the opportunity thanks to an Amendment proposed by the Government to the Local Authorities Elections (Amendment) Act, to contest as candidates at the said elections, to be represented in municipal councils, pradeshiya sabhas and urban councils, which is prohibited by the said Amendment to the Act, which Rajapaksa had further pointed out constituted a violation of the fundamental rights of public servants.
This meeting follows closed door talks at a one-on-one held between Rajapaksa and Leader of the Opposition and the Tamil National Alliance, R. Sampanthan on August 29 in the afternoon at Rajapaksa’s residence in Colombo 7, after Rajapaksa had extended an invitation to Sampanthan for a discussion on current political matters.
At what Lokubandara said was a “personal meeting”, Sampanthan had requested for senior statesman and responsible political leader of stature Rajapaksa’s and the JO’s support to be extended to the process currently underway with regard to making a new constitution which could resolve many longstanding issues in the country. According to Sampanthan, it was hoped that the proposed new Constitution would bring about an arrangement where more power would be shared whilst ensuring the country’s unity within an indivisible Sri Lanka. Sampanthan had pointed out that Rajapaksa thereby had a duty and responsibility to cooperate with the said Constitution making endeavour. He had also reminded that the Constitution making exercise involving the first and second republican Constitutions of 1972 and 1978 respectively, had been lacking in the participation of the Tamils, which was not the case in the present day.
Rajapaksa had responded that the matter would placed before the JO, adding also that the JO had forwarded 14 proposals in relation to the constitutional amendments and that they had yet to be formally made aware of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party’s proposals with regard to the said matter. Rajapaksa had also noted certain problems of a political nature which remained in terms of the Constitution making exercise and that these included ideological reservations regarding certain aspects of the process and the fact that other political allies held differing views on the issue. It is reported that Rajapaksa had also brought to Sampanthan’s notice that he and his family were being harassed by the Government of President Maithripala Sirisena and Wickremesinghe.
The duo had agreed with each other on the requirement for further efforts to address political impediments and to overcome obstacles in this regard to be continued so that a viable Constitution which would be acceptable to all manner of political opinions and all sections of the people could be evolved.
Meanwhile, Member of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna / Sri Lanka People’s Front and former Minister Basil Rajapaksa was quoted elsewhere as having said that “Sampanthan (had) publicly invited Mahinda Rajapaksa to join hands and resolve problems that exist. Sampanthan met with Rajapaksa recently after that. He said only Rajapaksa could bring peace to the country. Likewise, he said only Rajapaksa would be able to unite the communities one day.”
There is a probability that a second meeting could be held during the course of September with the adapting of a tactically satisfactory approach in relation to the question at hand, with the involvement and participation of other political parties and groups.