By Shamindra Ferdinando
After issuing an ultimatum on Saturday (30) in Independence Square to Sri Lanka’s ruling Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) members, including Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, to leave the Cabinet immediately or face the consequences, senior Maha Sangha officials have called on political parties to support their initiative.
The meeting took place at the Sri Lanka Foundation (SLF) at the joint invitation of Bishop Ven. Dr. Omalpe Sobitha Nayaka Thera and Rt. Rev. Dr. Anthony Jayakody, Auxiliary Bishop, Archdiocese of Colombo.
MPs present included Ranjith Madduma Bandara, Main Opposition Secretary General Samagi Jana Balavegaya, Vasudeva Nanayakkara, from the splinter group SLPP, Buddhika Pathitana (SJB), Eran Wickremaratne (SJB), Vijitha Herath (JVP), Rishrad Bathiudeen (ALMC /SJB ), Patali Champika Ranawaka (SJB) and former MP Mrs. Ferial Ashraff.
The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) was represented by its President Saliya Pieris, PC. The main spokesman for the Catholic Church, the Reverend Father Cyril Gamini, was also present.
Lacille de Silva, former Director of Administration, Parliament who is involved in the initiative, said The Island that the Maha Sanga issued an unprecedented ultimatum to the President and the entire Cabinet of Ministers based on letters dated April 04 and 20, addressed to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, by the Mahanayaka Theras.
Stressing that the letter, dated April 20, was also addressed to Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, opposition leader Sajith Premadasa and leaders of all political parties represented in parliament, de Silva stressed the urgent need to reach consensus on a political settlement.
The economic, political and social crisis must be addressed without further delay, de Silva said, adding that the first letter from the Mahanayakes, dated April 4, only received a response from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on April 25, five days later. that the Mahanayakes published their second letter. .
Before Professor Olaganwaththe Chandrasiri laid down the conditions for a political settlement, Ven. Omalpe Sobitha had warned that the ruin of the country could not be allowed for the benefit of the Rajapaksa family. Former Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) MP has said Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa should step down as he has failed in his duties and responsibilities.
After meeting at the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress (ACBC), Baudhaloka Mawatha, the members of the Maha Sanga proceeded to Independence Square for an official meeting, where the ultimatum was issued.
Fri. Omalpe Sobitha warned that they expect the incumbent government to heed their warning and take concrete action to address public grievances, without further delay.
The civil society group Purawasi Handa, working closely with the Catholic Church, supported the Maha Sanga initiative, said they expected President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and political parties, represented in Parliament , reach consensus on a deal by May 15.
Fri. Olaganwaththe Chandrasiri, on behalf of the Mahanayaka Theras and the Maha Sanga, said the following:
(1) dissolve the Cabinet of Ministers
(2) a multi-party interim administration pending general elections
(3) a committee of experts to advise the interim administration
(4) multi-party interim administration to follow a national policy, developed on the basis of a consensus reached in Parliament
(5) inform the public of the agreed proposals and
(6) the president must comply with the decisions taken by the interim administration.
Asked whether, under the proposed plan, the president could stay on during the interim administration, de Silva confirmed that the incumbent would stay on for the time being. Of course, the president, under no circumstances, could exercise executive powers at the expense of the interim administration, he said.
Purawasi Handa Spokesperson, De Silva, stressed that the Maha Sanga appreciates the high-profile protest undertaken by the public, at Galle Face, demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa along with the rest of the ministers. of the Cabinet.
The former senior House official said the Maha Sanga expected the President and all political parties, represented in Parliament, to respect the Mahanayakes’ proposals. Therefore, whatever initiatives are taken by the President and other political parties, especially the SJB, must be removed or modified to pave the way for Maha Sanga’s initiative, de Silva said.
At the start of the meeting in Independence Square, Ven. Professor Agalakada Sirisumana slapped the President and Prime Minister for enacting the 20th Amendment to the Constitution to allow himself to indulge in waste, corruption, irregularities and mismanagement, which he said said, led to the current economic fallout. The President, Prime Minister and their henchmen wanted an administration that was not subject to the state audit process, hence the decision to introduce the 20th Amendment.
The 20th Amendment received overwhelming 2/3 support in Parliament, in October 2020. The controversial amendment removed provisions of the 19th Amendment that ensured transparency and accountability. The Yahapalana administration enacted the 19th Amendment in 2015.
Fri. Sirisumana alleged that the current dispensation gave ministerial portfolios to those who could not be given responsibilities and wreaked havoc by delegating responsibilities to retired military officers; 48% of state enterprises have been placed under the Rajapaksas, Thera added.
The senior monk referred to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, Chamal Rajapaksa, Basil Rajapaksa, Namal Rajapaksa and Shashendra Rajapaksa receiving key ministerial portfolios.
Highlighting the serious economic difficulties faced due to the inability of the current administration to meet the basic needs of the population and to provide essential food products and services at affordable prices, Ven. Sirisumana said the government has paved the way for an era of queues.
He lambasted the government for the ill-conceived ban on all agrochemicals, at the end of April 2021, thus causing huge crop losses. This decision destroyed the farming community, Ven. Sirisumana alleged, while declaring their support for the ongoing campaign to overthrow President Rajapaksa and his government.
For 20 days, protesters had called on the President and Prime Minister to leave, but chose to stay, despite growing public protests, Ven. Sirisumana said, alleging that the president and prime minister failed to feel the growing public anger and extreme hardship they were facing due to the failed government. The Thera reiterated their intention to have an interim administration for a period of one year, under a new prime minister.
Fri. Sirisumana said they called the rally in Independence Square because the government had ignored the letter from the Mahanayakes, dated April 4.
Fri. Omalpe Sobitha has asked Prime Minister Rajapaksa to acknowledge his failure and step down. The monk said that unless the Rajapaksas followed the Maha Sanga’s advice, they would be treated harshly.
Fri. Pahiyangala Ananda Sagara Thera swore that they would not allow the current dispensation to continue. A family or a political party should not be placed at the head of the country, Ven. Ananda Sagara Thera said, stressing the importance of the ongoing Galle Face protest campaign. The senior monk said the vast majority of those calling for the resignation of the president and prime minister were Sinhalese Buddhists. Stating that the public demanded the immediate restoration of normality, he warned all political parties to put aside their differences and work in accordance with the proposals put forward by the Maha Sanga.
Ven Ananda Sagara urged the SJB and opposition leader Sajith Premadasa to cooperate with the plan and help achieve the stated goals or face the consequences. Thera said the Maha Sangha expected all political parties, including those that had declared they would operate independently, to support the Maha Sangha’s proposals.