Parliamentarian Nimal Siripala de Silva today said he would continue to remain the Opposition Leader despite the unique situation emerged in Parliament following the formation of the National Unity Government and added that the government’s 100-day programme may be extend into even 200-days depending on the pace with which, the promised amendments to the Constitution and the electoral reforms would be implemented.
Speaking to the media during a press briefing at the SLFP headquarters in Colombo yesterday, Opposition Sri Lanka Freedom Party Leader Nimal Siripalade Silva said he would continue to remain in the position since he did not believe the SLFP’s stature as the main opposition party had been compromised, although a group of MPs accepted ministerial positions of the National Unity Government.
“The President has given us the complete freedom to criticise any of the government policies and even our own SLFP MPs who have assumed duties as Ministers, if the necessity arises. Therefore, the SLFP continues to be the main opposition party and I will remain the Opposition Leader unless the party calls for a change,” he said.
He compared the present situation in Parliament to when Minister Karu Jayasuriya, who was then in the Opposition, along with a group of 17 UNP MPs extended their support to the UPFA government and assumed duties as Ministers.
“Did anyone question the position of the UNP as the main opposition party at that point? The present situation is very much the same- hence, there is no change in the SLFP position as the main Opposition,” he said.
The Opposition Leader said the decision to form a National Unity Government was made in order to facilitate the effective implementation of the 100-day programme including the Constitutional amendments. He added that few more SLFP MPs would be sworn-in within the next few days.
“These MPs have already decided not to accept the Ministerial salary and will be operating under minimal facilities. Our aim is to facilitate the smooth implementation of the 100-day program and to ensure the SLFP has a stronger voice within the cabinet in pushing for the necessary constitutional amendments and electoral reforms,” he added.
He said that they too were demanding for the swift implementation of the electoral reforms and stressed on the need for the upcoming general elections to be held under the new system.
Speaking of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, he said the draft of the Constitutional Amendment that was Gazetted did not clearly reflect certain changes that were highlighted by the party leaders during the meeting held to discuss 19A.
“Section eight of the Amendment declares the PM as the Leader of the Cabinet. We have already expressed our objection and we want it amended and the President be made the leader of the Cabinet.
“Other than that, we are in agreement with the other sections that have curtailed some of the powers of the Executive president,” he said.
“There are also various contradictions in the content, but it’s only natural. Overall it’s a commendable draft and we have agreed to it principally but minor changes such as the drafting patterns needs fine-tuning,” he said. (Lakna Paranamanna)