Sri Lanka opposition MP lambasts govt, opposition; calls for new, inclusive constitution | Sinhala News

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka opposition MP Kumara Welgama chastised both the government and the opposition in parliament on Friday (19) in an innuendo-filled speech that called for, among other things, a new constitution drafted with minority consultation, a revert to agrochemicals, and a culture of unity.

Speaking for over 20 minutes, Welgama said the “curse” of the 2019 Easter bombings has rebounded on the present administration, with people openly questioning the mental faculties of the current leadership.

“The Easter attack has boomeranged. One can escape the law, but they cannot escape God or the universe. That’s the reason this government has gone crazy. If you ask the people, they will say ‘what a lunatic’. They will openly say ‘lunatic’. Did anyone call [former presidents[ J R Jayawardena or Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga or even Mahinda Rajapaksa in his first term a crazy person? Now people say ‘these guys are nuts’ without hesitation,” said Welgama.

The MP, seen by some as a maverick, claimed the Financial Criminal Investigation Division (FCID) established by the previous government was a sham which targeted political opponents.

“The FCID was set up only to suppress those of us who were in the then opposition. Many of us were jailed. [Incumbent minister] Johnston Fernando was transferred to a number of jail cells. So would he not hold a grudge? Of course he would,” he said.

Members of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) have maintained that FCID investigations were nothing but a witch hunt, an allegation hotly denied by the then Yahapalana government whose members now make up the majority of the main opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB). Critics of the present government continue to hurl allegations of financial misappropriation at a number of prominent members who were implicated in corruption charges.

Welgama, who is officially represents the SJB in parliament, was also critical of some of fellow party men he refused to name.

“Police searched my place, too, for two bulletproof cars that they said belonged to [then opposition MP] Mahinda Rajapaksa. I was taken to court, but I never went to [then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe] or [President Maithripala Sirisena]. We paid for our own lawyers and faced the courts with no fear. But today’s ones are afraid. Now they say ‘the police is coming to catch me’ and then get admitted to [a private hospital].

“A few MPs have done this. They talk big and then hide when the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) comes over for a statement. Don’t do that. Face it the way did. Learn from us seniors,” he said.

It was unclear if the MP was referring to firebrand parliamentarian Harin Fernando who has been at the forefront of an SJB campaign against the government over the latter’s handling of the Easter Sunday investigations. Fernando was hospitalised for a “decisive” heart surgery in September, after his colleagues said in April that there were attempts to arrest him over a speech he had made in parliament.

Related: Sri Lanka MP Harin faces imminent arrest: Ranawaka

Welgama said both Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapkasa and his children were brought under severe strain in the Yahapalana years.

“Don’t make this mistake again,” he said.

He then launched a scathing attack on the government, criticising a number of policy blunders including the recent and controversial appointment of Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thero as the head of a presidential task force titled ‘One Country; One Law’.

Related: BBS proposals will make it to ‘one country, one law’ task force: Sri Lanka hardline monk

“A terrorist leader. I apologise for saying this, but I can’t help that he’s wearing a saffron robe. I have to speak the truth. The US has declared him a terrorist. Such a person is being appointed to head a committee. How is that not crazy?

“That’s all I ask. When they were about to hand over nominations that day, I said don’t nominate him. He can’t do this. He hasn’t even served a Pradeshiya Sabha (local government). He doesn’t know how to govern a country,” said Welgama.

The MP claimed that he had urged opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa to nominate a senior politician such as Dinesh Gunawardena, only to be told that “this is a family issue.”

Welgama warned that if the government continued in its current policy trajectory, the people will take to the streets. Even if the smaller parties now backing the government walk out and the leadership thinks that the SLPP still commands enough support in parliament, once the people start to really express their frustration, the government will have no choice but to pack its bags. Some will have to fly back to United States, he added.

“See how many people are cursing this government. ‘We have no fertilizer. Please let us buy one bag of urea’, they tell us,” he said, referring to the government’s blanket ban on agrochemicals. The ban has led to increasingly frantic protests by farmers leading to fears of a food crisis. The government’s overnight shift to organic fertilizer has been criticised by various quarters including agriculture experts who say agrochemicals should’ve instead been phased out over a number of years.

Speaking to Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage, MP Welgama said: “Mahindananda, at least now release the urea. You have a family too. I ask the president, too, give [farmers] their urea at least now. If not, the curse of the Easter attack will be trailing behind you.”

Welgama also called for a “national policy”, an end to the executive presidency and a new constitution that represents the interests of all communities.

“Our time is up.  We don’t need to be presidents or prime ministers, but we have an obligation to pave a good path ahead for our children. We have to come up with a national policy, and formulate a sound constitution with the aid of {opposition MPs Rauf Hakeem] and our Rishad [Bathuideen] and the Tamil National Alliance.

“We are all Sri Lankans, not outsiders. Not Sinhalese, Muslim, or Tamil, but Sri Lankan,” he said.

Welgama also praised Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake’s progress in party politics.

“His is a good party that has grown gradually. There is a big vacuum now, and the JVP has advanced as a result,” he said.

The senior MP called on the House to consider Sri Lanka’s future.

“We have to think about our children. Who knows if we’ll even be around, what with COVID and all that? We just don’t know. Let’s do our duty and come up with a national policy,” he said. ( Colombo/Nov19/2021)

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