Image courtesy of Al Jazeera/[Eranga Jayawardena/AP]
Sri Lanka is facing an unprecedented crisis due to the COVID-19 virus. The government has taken firm and decisive actions on an emergency basis. These include the imposition of a 24 hour curfew that is now entering its fourth week in some areas continuously. The National Peace Council expresses its appreciation for those at the front lines of COVID mitigation efforts of the government, especially those in the medical profession, the security forces, the public service and those in essential services including private sector food and medicine logistical services who have been deployed for this task, and to the political leadership that is doing what is difficult in the national interest.
We believe that the time is ripe for the emergency measures undertaken by the government to be regularized so as to operate within the framework of the constitution. There are two issues in particular that are cause for concern. The first is regarding government spending after April 30 when the present budget period ends and there is need for parliamentary sanction for new allocations. The second is the convening of a new parliament within 90 days of the dissolution of the old parliament on March 2 by the president, which falls on June 2. Both of these are constitutional requirements which are beyond the purview of the caretaker government that was appointed to oversee the run-up period to the general election.
We note the joint statement issued by election monitoring organisations who have pointed out to the dangers of prematurely conducting the general elections in the midst of the pandemic. In the context of the health and economic threats posed by the coronavirus the present caretaker government functioning without a parliament is inadequate to address the country’s democratic and constitutional needs. In these circumstances, the most viable option is for parliament to be recalled to serve the balance six months of its term until September 1, 2020. We would expect the opposition parties to support the government to ensure the regularization of the curfew, passage of a budget and of necessary laws to deal with the complex issues of protecting the health and economy of the people.
( statement issued by the National Peace Council)