The United National Party has changed its mind and has decided not to attend the meeting called by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, of the 225 former members of the 2015 Parliament. The meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 4th.
Releasing a media statement the UNP said that while “this meeting was not accepted as an alternative to the official reconvening of Parliament, the UNP decided to attend the meeting so as to once again re-iterate the party’s official stance that politics must be put aside in the face of the growing national crisis caused by COVID-19.”
But the party had decided to turn down the invite after it “learnt that the invitation to this meeting has been extended to all former MPs and other active political leaders, including those from previous Parliaments, thereby expanding the invitation from the original 225 MPs,” the statement said.
The party said that it “is of the opinion that no meaningful dialogue can be held in this type of meeting. Instead the Rajapaksa regime are focused on playing party politics at a time when the nation needs unity in the leadership.”
The UNP stands ready to assist the government in their efforts to eradicate the COVID-19 menace that has seen our country come to a standstill. However, in order to effectively do so, the government must ensure that all measures taken are those in line with the country’s constitution, the party said
Meanwhile, the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna stated on Saturday, May 2nd, that they too would not be attending the PM’s meeting.
The SJB said they were “puzzled” as to why the PM was issuing the invitation when the President had “callously rejected” an offer of cooperation by the opposition parties to cooperate with him in fighting the spread of COVID -19.
The JVP in its statement also said it does not see a point in gathering in this manner without parliament being recalled.
Party leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake said that there was little to be discussed unless the Parliament was reconvened and an All-party steering group led by the President and Prime Minister was set up.
He pointed out that a constitutional crisis is developing with parliament not being reconvened after the 90-day period of the dissolution.
There are two options for the country to avoid a crisis and they are for the President to recall Parliament under extra-ordinary circumstances or seek the advice of the Supreme Court on the matter.
In late April, several opposition parties and alliances wrote to the President, requesting that parliament be reconvened so all political parties could work together to combat the spread of COVID-19 in the country. The JVP had not signed that letter.
That joint statement pointed out that ‘Getting appropriate and new legislation passed in order to meet the public health crisis and obtaining parliamentary sanction to the utilization of monies from the Consolidated Fund are some such important and urgent functions of Parliament,’.
Meanwhile the Tamil National Alliance which had earlier decided to attend the meeting called by the Prime Minister was expected to make a final decision tonight. (April 3rd)