Addressing thousands of supporters who flocked to Colombo from a makeshift platform in the middle of Lipton Circus, the ousted Prime Minister challenged President Maithripala Sirisena to hold both Parliamentary and Presidential elections following proper process.
“If anyone wants, we can discuss with all party leaders and decide which election to hold but it has to be held legally and constitutionally. We are even ready to hold both a Presidential election and general elections,” he said to a cheering crowd.
“We have to protect your sovereign right and the right for a democratic vote.”
Charged with new vigour following the fisticuffs in Parliament earlier on Thursday, the parliamentarians of the United National Front (UNF) came out in full force later in the afternoon to take part in a protest rally titled ‘For Justice’.
Wickremesinghe, who remained resolute against the decision by President Sirisena to remove him from the Prime Minister post, told the crowd that the new Sirisena-Rajapaksa nexus had been cornered in Parliament following the no confidence motion on Wednesday.
“They only have the Executive and the media. We are ready to change the Executive,” he said, calling his supporters to prepare for a presidential election soon.
The battle-hardened leader of the UNP assured the crowd that the fight for democracy which began in 2014 was not yet over.
“People question me, asking can we have faith in democracy now. They tell me that they have been abandoned. I assure you we are still committed to our principles of 2015. Even if the President has distanced himself from these principles, we are still committed, I give you that promise,” Wickremesinghe said.
Referring to the country’s longstanding democratic tradition with a history of 85 years, he vowed to protect both democracy and the Parliament going forward.
“From the Queen’s time governors, prime minister and later presidents and executive presidents have always worked with the Parliament, and through 19th Amendment we have reaffirmed the powers of the Parliament, but unfortunately it is this Parliament that this President has kicked out today,” he claimed, promising to restore the sovereignty of the people’s mandate.
Noting that Speaker Karu Jayasuriya had sent a letter with the results of the no confidence motion, which Wickremesinghe insisted the President must accept, he called for another vote in the House to prove their majority.
Praising the conduct of the Speaker, who stood his ground yesterday amidst threats of physical violence, Wickremesinghe vowed to show a majority once again and establish his government.
UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa echoed his leader’s call for a vote in the House, expressing confidence over their numbers.
Attempting to answer his supporters about a possible baton change in party leadership, Premadasa said that his decision would be the decision of the Working Committee.
UNP strongman Harin Fernando, apologising for bringing President Maithripala Sirisena to power in 2015, vowed to make amends by removing him from power.
“We are the only ones who can change this again. We are the ones who brought democracy to this country in 1948 and we will bring democracy back to the country again,” he promised.