New Parliament to meet in Sept

Published : 9:57 am  May 21, 2015 | No comments so far |  | 


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President Maithripala Sirisena said yesterday parliament would be dissolved soon after the Constitutional Council under the 19th Amendment is established and that there would be a new Parliament by September.

The President said this at a breakfast meeting with newspaper editors, proprietors and media organisation heads at the President’s House last morning. He did not specify the date on which the general election would be held.

“It is up to the Elections Commissioner to decide after parliament is dissolved. I don’t consult astrologers on these matters,” he said with a smile.

“This system has led to excessive spending by candidates to build up their personal image and as such very little is said on election platforms about the policies of political parties whether it is the SLFP, UNP or anyone else”

When asked about the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution on a new electoral system, the President said the responsibility now rests with parliament. He said that on his part he had presented a Cabinet paper which was approved and the ball was now with the parliament and the MPs to work it out during the next few days.

When asked whether the next general election would be held under a new system or under the existing system, the President said that matter would also have to be decided by parliament.

However, he was quite emphatic in his criticism of the present preferential voting system and said it was one of the main reasons that had degraded the image of the politicians and the MPs in the eyes of the people.

“This system has led to excessive spending by candidates to build up their personal image and as such very little is said on election platforms about the policies of political parties whether it is the SLFP, UNP or anyone else,” the President said.

He said some local government candidates spent even more than candidates contesting the parliamentary election to boost their image.
“Therefore when elected they plan how to recover what was spent and how to pay back the loans and also how to fund the next campaign,” the President said.

When asked about the allegations of human rights abuses during the war and the UNHRC sessions in September, he said a local probe would start by next month and its report would be out by September in time for the UNHRC sessions.

“When the UN Secretary General’s representative met me soon after I took oaths as President, what we told him was that we are not agreeable to a foreign probe team. We will have a local probe on these allegations and if the local committee finds anyone guilty of the charges they would be tried in our Courts under our legal system,” the President said.

He said the government would work with responsibility to protect those who gave leadership to the “humanitarian operations” while inquiring into the allegations of human rights abuses without compromising the country’s sovereignty in such an exercise.

When asked about the controversy surrounding the clearing of forest land and the re-settlement of displaced people by Minister Rishard Bathiudeen in the Wilapattu forest range, the President said this was a block of land set aside for the purpose by a Task Force headed by Basil Rajapaksa during the previous government and there were many questions about it.

He said when government land is alienated for colonization schemes and settlements, the clearing of trees has to be done by the State Timber Corporation and the Forest Conservation Department but it was not the case in this instance. The President said the state retained the ownership of trees when lands are given out but in this instance the trees had also been given out with the lands.

The President said that though the provision of land for displaced people was a responsibility of the government there were questions on giving out such land to the 2nd or the 3rd generation of those originally displaced people.

“Land should not be given out by destroying forests. We have to protect the forests while providing land for the displaced,” he said.  When asked about reports of people of foreign origin being settled in the area and the prevalence of vehicles without number plates there, the President said he had not received any report about a threat to national security in the area. “The entire matter is under review,” he said.
Responding to reports on the commemoration of LTTE terrorists in the North by defying court orders, the President said earlier too there had been such small commemoration events by people with Eelamist tendencies.

He said if there had been such activities despite court orders; legal action would be taken against the miscreants.

“There is no way that these people will be allowed to misuse the freedom and the democratic environment in the country,” the President said. When asked about a statement made by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa that the Eelam flag had been raised in some places in the North, President Sirisena said he had not received any reports about such incidents. “Maybe the former president sees these incidents through the glasses he is wearing,” he added.

On the controversy surrounding Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran and the questionable sale of CB Bonds, the President said the committee appointed to inquire into this matter had come up with certain conclusions and recommendations and that he would work with the officials on those recommendations.  On the the statements made by the SLFP about the President agreeing to scrap the FCID, he said he only agreed that the last paragraph of the Gazette notification setting up the FCID was improper.

“I told the Prime Minister that the last paragraph of the Gazette should not be there,” he said. (The last paragraph deals with the FCID investigating complaints submitted through a cabinet subcommittee)