ECONOMYNEXT – President Maithripala Sirisena launched his most ferocious attack against the Prime Minister Wednesday and challenged his senior coalition partner to debate failures of their three-and-a-half-year-old administration.
An emotional Sirisena lambasted Ranil Wickremesinghe accusing him of making concessions to former president Mahinda Rajapaksa and delaying prosecutions of corrupt members of the former regime.
He was speaking at ceremony at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute to commemorate venerable Maaduluwawe Sobitha, an architect of the movement that propelled Sirisena to power in January 2015. Sirisena said he had not been invited for the event, but he was gatecrashing.
He discounted allegations that troubles in the administration started when he attempted to take the leadership of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) after quitting it in late 2014 to contest the 2015 presidential election as a common opposition candidate.
Several United National Party (UNP) stalwarts have said that Sirisena’s bid to seize the SLFP leadership triggered tensions within the fragile coalition and caused fissures which have now come out into the open.
“There are people who are trying to make out that it is I who obstruct the prosecution of corrupt members of the former regime. If you want to know the truth, ask the relatives of Wasim Thajudeen and their lawyers,” Sirisena said.
Through innuendo he suggested that Wickremesinghe had cut deals with the Rajapaksas and were protecting the corrupt.
He said he had telephoned the air force chief on Wednesday morning to ask who ordered the release of helicopters for former president Rajapaksa to travel to Tangalle soon after his defeat in January 2015.
“I was told that the then Air Force commander had been told that I wanted helicopters given, but they didn’t even inform me about such a thing,” he said suggesting that it was done by Wickremesinghe.
Sirisena said he was also unaware of the 100-day program unveiled by the UNP-led government soon after his election.
“What they should have done was ask for parliamentary elections the day after my victory,” Sirisena said. “They did not do that.”
He threw an open challenge to any UNP leader to publicly debate with him about the failures of the current administration.
He said when the late Sobitha thera organised a civil society movement to end the corrupt rule of the Rajapaksas, he did not ask the new government to “break the central bank.” The President hinted that the UNP was responsible for looting the central bank.
He said the UNP government had also attempted to sell of state banks and it was he who stopped it. There was no immediate comment from the UNP. (COLOMBO, May 30, 2018)