PM sought the special Cabinet meeting-Prez
- Minister Karunanayake called me on Thursday morning and conveyed the interest in summoning a Cabinet meeting hurriedly
- I told him the request should come from the Prime Minister
- The PSC only wanted the meeting to take place in camera, though there were reports that I wanted the media out
Controversy surrounding the hurriedly summoned Cabinet meeting took a dramatic turn when President Maithripala Sirisena said only Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe wanted it to be convened on that day. He made these remarks in his address to his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP)’s Matale district summit.
The President said Power, Energy and Business Development Minister Ravi Karunanayake called him early in the morning of that day and conveyed the Prime Minister’s interest in convening the Cabinet meeting. The President said there was no call from the Prime Minister, and therefore he contacted the latter and inquired about it.
“I saw media reports quoting the Prime Minister that I only called for it. I have to ask the Prime Minister how he could say something like that with his pants on. Minister Karunanayake called me on Thursday morning and conveyed the interest in summoning a Cabinet meeting hurriedly. I told that him the request should come from the Prime Minister, not from Minister Karunanayake. Afterward, I put the phone down. Mr. Karunanayake rang me up after 10-15 minutes and informed me that the Prime Minister was ready. Again I asked the Prime Minister to contact me. There was no response. So, I phoned the Prime Minister. Then, the Prime Minister said that he wanted a Cabinet meeting as conveyed by Mr. Karunanayake,” the President said. Referring to his statement before the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) probing the Easter Sunday carnage, he said the the PSC only wanted the meeting to take place in camera on a request, though there were reports that he wanted the media out. Commenting on the party, he said the SLFP was a strong political collective and what was more important was the value of the principles of a political party. “The Party will embark on a journey to take the country forward and no one will be able to suppress it. As a political party with a long political history, the image of the SLFP has not been tarnished by allegations of corruption, opportunism or nepotism,” the President said.
The President said the Bribery Commission’s former Director General Dilrukshi Dias Wickramasinghe should reveal the names of the politicians who ordered that court cases be filed unjustly. He said this at the Matale District Convention of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) on Saturday, the President’s Media Division (PMD) said.
Commenting on the audiotape of Ms. Wickramasinghe, the President said she vacated her post without his knowledge.
He recalled a request made by the Prime Minister recently to appoint her, while working at the Bribery Commission during office hours and at the Bribery and Corruption Secretariat set up at Temple Trees later to a post of a judge of the Supreme Court. The President said he was consistently of the view that the executive presidency should be abolished but the attempts to abolish it at a time when an election had been declared was a farcical exercise.
Special Cabinet meeting was conducted at the President’s behest-PM
- It was President Maithripala Sirisena who telephoned him at 8.16 a.m. on September 19 and asked him whether he (President) should call a Cabinet meeting
- Mr. Sumanthiran stated that the President had informed him that he was willing to support the 20th Amendment
- Told the President that civil society represantatives had made a request in this regard
By Kelum Bandara
In his counter reply to President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said yesterday that it was President Maithripala Sirisena who telephoned him at 8.16 a.m. on September 19, and asked him whether he (President) should call a Cabinet meeting to discuss the 20th Amendment.
He was responding to the President who said that it was the Prime Minister who insisted on such a Cabinet meeting to be summoned hurriedly.
According to a statement from the Prime Minister’s office, Mr. Wickremesinghe said he informed the President that a group of civil society representatives had made a request in this regard.
The Prime Minister said, “TNA MP M. A. Sumanthiran had also informed me of the President’s stand on the matter. Therefore, I told the President that it is appropriate to call the Cabinet and discuss it. I said that we should call that meeting on Thursday or Friday.
“A group of civil society representatives met with me last week to talk about what our government has done and failed to do. I informed them that our party had passed a resolution pledging to abolish the Executive Presidency in 2014 and that we would continue to agitate for the abolition of the Executive Presidency. They asked for a cabinet decision to support the 20th Amendment. On September 16, they handed over to me a draft bill which was to be referred to the Cabinet.
I pointed out to the civil society representatives that the 20th Amendment could not be passed in Parliament without the support of the other political parties. I asked them to inform me of the views of other parties on this matter. On September 17, MP Sumanthiran told me that they had held discussions with the JVP on the abolition of the Executive system. He further stated that the President had informed him that he was willing to support the 20th Amendment.
I pointed out to Sumanthiran that the support of the United People’s Freedom Alliance would be needed for the resolution to be passed in Parliament. “MP Sumanthiran has made a public statement regarding this. No one has rejected that statement,” he said.
He said the Cabinet Secretary informed his secretary that the Cabinet meeting would be held at 3 p.m. on that date.
“Thereafter, my secretary referred the draft that the civil society had given me to the Cabinet Secretary for use if needed. I called the UNP ministers at 2 p.m. and informed them of this matter. The discussion was very heated. Everyone was open and opinionated. There was no agreement regarding the 20th Amendment.
Before I met the Cabinet, the President was informed that there was no agreement among the Ministers. At the beginning of the meeting, I informed the Cabinet Secretary in front of the President that there was no agreement among the Ministers, and that submitting the Cabinet Bill would be useless. I summed up the views of the ministers at that meeting. The ministers made various comments. We decided that it was appropriate to leave the final decision to each party. If there is a question regarding the statements of the members of the Cabinet, it should be discussed in the Cabinet. Failure to do so would violate cabinet tradition. Therefore, I will only show what happened here. Therefore, I will not insult anyone or make any remarks,” he said.