Colombo, May 1 (PTI) Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has declined a request from the opposition parties to reconvene the dissolved Parliament, saying they are trying to make a political gain at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the country.
Rajapaksa on March 2 dissolved the Parliament, six months ahead of schedule, and called a snap election on April 25 to elect a new 225-member house.
However, the election commission in mid-April postponed the parliamentary elections by nearly two months to June 20 due to the coronavirus outbreak, which has infected 665 people and claimed seven lives in the island nation.
The new date clashed with the constitutional imperative that the new Parliament has to meet within three months since its dissolution.
On April 27, seven opposition parties urged President Rajapaksa to summon the dissolved Parliament while pledging cooperation to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We urge the president to respond positively to this offer of responsible cooperation by us at this critical time and revoke the proclamation dated 2 March 2020 dissolving parliament so that all of us can jointly fight to eradicate this virus," said a joint statement issued by the opposition parties.
Rajapaksa rejected the opposition call to reconvene the House, according to a press statement released by the President's office on Thursday.
The president claimed the opposition is trying to make a political gain at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the country, it said.
The opposition parties argued that Rajapaksa has no power to draw public finances after April 30, the date till which the dismissed Parliament had approved expenditure by the president.
"Getting appropriate and new legislation passed in order to meet the public health crisis and obtaining parliamentary sanction to the utilization of monies from the consolidated fund are some such important and urgent functions of parliament," the opposition had claimed in the joint statement.
In a letter sent to opposition leaders on Thursday night, Rajapaksa maintained that he still has the power to draw money from the consolidated fund.
The joint statement was signed by United National Party (UNP) leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader R Sampanthan, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress leader Rauff Hakeem, Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA) leader Mano Ganesan, All Ceylon Makkal Congress leader Rishard Bathuideen, Jathika Hela Urumaya's (JHU) Patali Champika Ranawaka and former Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa. PTI CORR SCY