COLOMBO: As the month-long campaign for the August 17 Sri Lankan parliamentary elections closed this weekend, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe warned of a constitutional logjam if Mahinda Rajapaksa becomes Prime Minister.
“No Prime Minister can take the country forward while being at loggerheads with the President,” Wickremesinghe said, alluding to the on-going public spat between his rival, former President Rajapaksa, and the incumbent President Maithripala Sirisena.
While Wickremesinghe has good relations with Sirisena, having fought the January 8 Presidential election as allies, Rajapaksa and Sirisena have been at daggers drawn since Sirisena quit his party to fight Rajapaksa as the Joint Opposition Candidate in the Presidential election.
They are fighting over the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA) and also the Premiership. While Rajapaksa is desperate to become PM, Sirisena has told him that he will not appoint him PM under any circumstance. To weaken Rajapaksa’s hold over UPFA and SLFP, Sirisena has sacked their General Secretaries.
Rebutting Rajapaksa’s charge that he will yield to the demand of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) for a “federal constitution” and eventually “an independent Tamil Eelam”, Wickremesinghe has said that he is only for a “unitary” constitution.
On Rajapaksa’s charge that he has stopped all developmental work started in his time; stopped Chinese-funded projects; and had fallen prey to Western machinations, Wickremesinghe’s has said that all projects, except one, have been reassessed; renegotiated for favorable terms; and restarted. All new highway building contracts have been given to Chinese companies.
As if to rebut the charge that that he will favor India, Wickremesinghe has ordered an inquiry into the US$ 881 million Indian railway project in North Lanka.
On Rajapaksa’s scare that he will be sent to the electric chair abroad for alleged “war crimes”, Wickremesinghe assured that no Lankan will be handed over to foreigners and no international body will be allowed to inquire into war crimes charges.