The Samagi Jana Balawegaya led by former Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa has declined Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa's invitation to attend a meeting for all former
parliamentarians scheduled to be held at the Temple Trees on Monday (04).
 
"The Samagi Jana Balawegaya sees no meaningful purpose in participating in the meeting convened by the Prime Minister on 04 May 2020. It must be reiterated that the practical, prudent, and responsible approach to the problems that face the country and the government at this time is to reconvene Parliament under the patronage of the Speaker," a statement issued by the General Secretary of the SJB said.
 
The Prime Minister’s initiative to invite all former Parliamentarians takes place in the backdrop of the President and the government maintaining a steadfast position against the reconvening of Parliament and deploying state media and media supportive of the government to propagate the view that the Parliament is not required and that all 225 members of the Parliament should be dismissed.
 
"While we are pleased that the Prime Minister, nevertheless, has decided to invite the 225 members of Parliament for a meeting, we are naturally puzzled and confused by the double standards of the government," the statement said.
 
The statement further added;
 
We acted responsibly and offered full cooperation to fight the pandemic

"As a responsible opposition in Parliament, we raised concerns regarding the possible dangers of COVID-19 from as early as January this year. We raised this issue in Parliament on 24 January and then again on 25 February. However, the government at that point reacted to these warnings irresponsibly.
 
It must also be pointed out that unlike a “traditional” opposition, we conducted ourselves responsibly at all times, being fully conscious of the value of human life and the dangers posed by COVID-19, and offered full cooperation to the government to fight the pandemic.
 
When the Prime Minister called the leaders of the opposition parties for meetings on two occasions once the COVID-19 pandemic had started to spread in Sri Lanka, to seek views on how to face this challenge effectively, we ensured our presence and participation and shared our views. 
 
The proposals that we shared on these two occasions included suggestions for  - effective and efficient distribution of relief to the affected public, using the civil administration system in the country effectively for this purpose, ensuring that the service and relief delivery mechanisms are not politicised, utilising PCR testing effectively to contain the spread of the virus, and making Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) widely available to personnel on the frontlines. Sadly, none of the suggestions that were made at these meetings were heeded by the government.
 
Yet, despite many visible and obvious shortcomings and concerns about how the government was handling the COVID-19 containment and eradication process, we continued to support the government.
 

sajith 1                  Medical Equipment worth millions of rupees were donated

Although there were questions regarding the legality of the curfew imposed by the government and the continuation of extensions of curfew for over 06 weeks, we chose to refrain from challenging this matter out of concern for the most important priority of the time which is containment and eradication of COVID-19."
 
Questions regarding the legality of the curfew
 
However, the government authorities misused the provision of curfew, using it to arrest social media activists, grant curfew passes to traders who are known to them, and politicise service and relief delivery and distribution.
 
For six weeks, the people of this country bore immense hardship with the hope that the government will succeed in containing and eradicating COVID-19. However, even after six weeks have now passed, the question of whether the government has won the battle against COVID-19 lingers.
 
Has the govt. been successful even after six weeks of curfew?
 
After six weeks of curfew, the curve of COVID-19 infections should have flattened. Yet, what has happened is the opposite. There is an increase in the number of COVID-19 positive cases being reported. Although some countries succeeded in bringing down the number of infected persons by imposing lockdowns without imposing a curfew, in Sri Lanka, even with the imposition of curfew the number of infected persons continues to rise. This is a situation that deserves serious consideration and attention.  
 
Although in many countries that have been affected badly by COVID-19 and health systems have become overwhelmed with patients, health authorities have been infected with the virus. 
 
However, in Sri Lanka, it is the military personnel who have been most affected, despite the low number of civilian patients compared to more seriously affected countries. What becomes apparent in this case is that military personnel have been used extensively for dealing with COVID-19 infections while they have not been provided with adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), the proper training required for dealing with a medical emergency, or access to testing. 
 
Neither have proper isolation of workers (military personnel) on the frontlines been observed and by using military personnel to lead in an effort that should be led by health authorities with military personnel playing a supportive role, the second line of trained and guided defence to fall back on, in case the health situation worsens and national security complications arise, has been compromised.
 
 
 Army corona 04
       The government has endangered the lives of our brave soldiers.
 
A discourteous response from the President
 
Despite all these serious concerns, placing the well-being of the country, the people, and the economy at heart, the parties in opposition addressed a Joint Letter to the President pledging responsible cooperation with the government at a time of national crisis.

The letter was addressed with sincerity of purpose with no hidden agendas and no unfair or unreasonable requests.
 
The content of the letter included proposals for dealing with the issue of not being able to expend public finances after 30 April 2020 and the cooperation of the parties in opposition to deal with this issue as well as cooperation to enact necessary regulations and laws to deal effectively and legally with COVID-19 containment and eradication. 
 
The letter also contained a written pledge by the parties in opposition to responsible cooperation with the government in line with the laws of the land instead of taking steps to defeat the government at this time of national crisis. The letter contained no conditions, and included instead, a pledge to cooperate with the government to restore the livelihoods of the public and provide them relief.
 
It is regrettable, therefore, that the response from the office of the President to this sincere offer by the parties in opposition was extremely discourteous. 
 
Moreover, what is perhaps demonstrated by the response from an officer in the office of the President to a letter containing an important pledge signed personally by the leaders of the parties in opposition is the President’s callous disregard for the substantive issues addressed in that letter that have a bearing on the lives and livelihoods of the people of this country and Sri Lanka’s international standing at a time of national crisis that has serious economic implications for the future.
 
At a time when the President has so callously dismissed the content of the letter that the leaders of the parties in opposition addressed to him, united by the sincerity of purpose to cooperate responsibly with the government and work together at a time of national crisis, leaving aside party politics, the Prime Minister has invited the 225 members of the Parliament to a meeting on Monday 04 May 2020.
 
The double standards of the Government! 
The Prime Minister’s initiative takes place in the backdrop of the President and the government maintaining a steadfast position against the reconvening of Parliament and deploying state media and media supportive of the government to propagate the view that the Parliament is not required and that all 225 members of the Parliament should be dismissed. 
 
While we are pleased that the Prime Minister, nevertheless, has decided to invite the 225 members of Parliament for a meeting, we are naturally puzzled and confused by the double standards of the government.
 
In this context, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya sees no meaningful purpose in participating in the meeting convened by the Prime Minister on 04 May 2020. It must be reiterated that the practical, prudent, and responsible approach to the problems that face the country and the government at this time is to reconvene Parliament under the patronage of the Speaker. 
 
The reason for this is that the Parliament is the sole authority in the country that is vested with the legal authority by the Constitution to deal with public finances and the making of laws."