Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said today he would continue to function as the Prime Minister under the current Constitutional provisions and that any attempt to form a new government should also be carried out in line with those provisions.
"We conducted the local government elections on a single day and it was easy to organize the elections," he told a news conference. "We accept the results of the elections and it indicates a setback for all political parties within the government. That has to be accepted. The reason for the set back are the adverse situations on the economic front. We managed to stabilize the economy in 2016 and 2017. The Central Bank informed us that it was expecting a 5 to 5.5 per cent GDP growth and the end of 2017. However the floods, drought and the Meetotumulla tragedy created several issues. Prices of essential items went up. We managed to control it to some extent but coconut prices remain the same. The agricultural sector suffered a collapse. There are issues relating to fertilizer. Such issues would no doubt affect the popularity of any government. There were other reasons as well for the government’s set back. We fulfilled a part of the pledges given by us on January 8, 2015 while there were others which were not fulfilled. We accept the warning given by the people."
The Prime Minister said studies were already underway to determine the success of the programmes launched by the government with a view to restricting them within the next two years while rectifying the shortcomings.
"We are carrying out discussions on restructuring the government in accordance with the new programmes and vow to carry the January 8 mandate forward. The UNP also suffered a setback as a political party. The party therefore will undergo a major restructuring programme. At the party’s 70th anniversary I said it is high time that we produced a new leader. There are people who joined the party in 1970 and others who joined in 1994. Some of them can come forward and take over the party. The restructuring of the party will be one which enables a new generation to take over the leadership. The restructuring of the party will be implemented when the Elections Commission completes the formalities to form the new administrations of local bodies. The new leadership can takeover when those formalities are over. The party is currently discussing the modalities of restructuring," he said.
The Prime Minister said the current government would continue to administer the country.
"When I met the President he told me that other parties such as the joint opposition wanted to meet the President and I told him to go ahead with the discussions and get their ideas as well," he said.
The following are the questions asked by the journalists and his responses:
Q: You are taking of reforms in the UNP. What do you mean when you talk of reforms and how do you hope to get about it?
It is to see the emergence of a new leadership group. That means young people. Some of them have been in politics for the past five to ten years. We have to bring them out. I have been in the party for more than 40 years. We want to ensure a smooth transition of the party leadership without disruption. I will discuss it with the members of the party and we will go ahead with it.
Q: You have been the leader of UNP for more than 20 years don’t you think it’s time to hand over the leadership to someone else?
That’s why I said we are going to create a new generation of leaders. It will be implemented when the Elections Commission completes the lists of elected members to local bodies. It won't happen in 24 hours.
Q: Reports say that you are being asked to resign from the post of Prime Minister. They say even the President is making the same request. What is your response.
We will work according to the Constitution.
(By Yohan Perera)
Pix by Pradeep Dilrukshana