If there is a written request from the New Democratic Front (NDF) for a one-on-one debate on TV with its presidential candidate Sajith Premadasa and SLPP contender Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the latter will consider it, Galle District SLFP MP Ramesh Pathirana said.
In response to Daily Mirror at today’s joint SLFP-SLPP news briefing at Rajagiriya, he said the SLPP was not ready to accept challenges thrown at it from street corners or political rallies.
When asked as to why the SLPP was dodging the challenge by Mr. Premadasa for a face-to-face debate with Mr. Rajapaksa, he said the challenge must come in writing and with a debate format. “We will consider it positively for sure,” he said. “Mr. Premadasa has not given an interview to the electronic or print media for the last five years. Therefore, the challenge for a one-to-one debate is not a big deal for the SLPP.”
However, he maintained that the proposed debate between Mr. Premadasa and Mr. Rajapaksa was coming from backers of the former and that it was not his idea.
Commenting on the policy statement of Mr. Rajapaksa, he said politicians would be barred from importing luxury vehicles using concessionary vehicle permits or so-called ‘duty-free’ vehicle permits for three years as all ministries had sufficient new luxury vehicles for the use of politicians for the next three years.
“Further improving the ‘closest school is the best school’ concept, the current number of 353 national schools will be increased to 1,000 islandwide, giving three national schools to each and every divisional secretariat division. Under the Rajapaksa regime, Sri Lanka was promoted to the rank of ‘lower-middle-income country’ with a per capita income of USD 3.890 but between 2015 to 2019, the per capita income has soared only by a mere USD 200.
“The internal tug-of-war within the UNP to elect its presidential candidate until the last moment may have contributed to delay the NDF manifesto. Mr. Rajapaksa has already addressed 156 propaganda rallies while SLPP and Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa addressed 128, but Mr. Premadasa had addressed only 50 propaganda rallies,” he said.
Former northwestern SLFP Fisheries Minister Sumal Tissera also addressed the gathering. (Sandun A. Jayasekera)
Pic by Waruna Wanniarachchi