No-faith motion against Premier in the balance


By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Joint Opposition (JO) has appealed for President Maithripala Sirisena’s support for the no-confidence motion (NCM) to be moved against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Top JO spokesman and Chairman of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Prof. G. L. Peiris and UPFA Colombo District MP Gamini Lokuge yesterday made the appeal to the President.

They said so addressing the media at former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s office at Nelum Mawatha, Battaramulla.

Prof. Peiris and Lokuge underscored the pivotal importance of the warring SLFP factions reaching a consensus on the move against Premier Wickremesinghe.

Prof. Peiris said the JO/SLPP expected President Sirisena, in his capacity as the Chairman of the SLFP, to direct his 44-member parliamentary group to back the NCM.

The JO consists of 52 MPs including Kurunegala District MP Dayasiri Jayasekera. The UNP group comprises 106 members. In addition to them, one MP elected on the SLMC ticket, too, backs the UNP. But UNP numbers have decreased to 104 as Ven. Atureliye Rathana Thera and former Justice and Buddhasasana Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakse are now sitting as independent MPs.

Prof. Peiris and Lokuge admitted that the SLFP was yet to reach consensus on NCM.

Prof. Peiris said that following a crushing defeat at the local government polls President Sirisena had wanted PM Wickremesinghe to quit. When the UNP leader ignored President Sirisena’s call, the Deputy Speaker Tilanga Sumathipala, on behalf of President Sirisena, assured parliament that the President would consult the Supreme Court as regards his power to replace the PM, Prof. Peiris said.

Pointing out that President Sirisena later conveniently refrained from seeking Supreme Court opinion, Prof. Peiris urged the SLFP leader to throw his weight behind the NCM.

Prof. Peiris said the SLFP parliamentary group could be divided into four groups namely those who still supported the alliance with PM Wickremesinghe, members expecting to quit the government, parliamentarians seeking to launch fresh campaign under Mahinda Rajapaksa and those straddling the fence.

Lokuge admitted that some NCM had been moved against various politicians without success. However, such moves were meant to convey a powerful message to the electorate.

The JO admitted that the realisation of the NCM would depend on a section of the UNP parliamentary group throwing its weight behind the UPFA to ensure a simple majority for their proposal.

Asked by The Island whether those cooperating with the JO on the NCM had reached a consensus as to who Wickremesinghe’s successor should be and the likelihood of an SLFPer being appointed the PM, Prof. Peiris said that it would be the President’s prerogative to choose the premier. He, however, said that it would be done in accordance with the Constitution and the MP who commanded the confidence of the majority of members would be appointed the PM.

At the onset of the briefing, Prof. Peiris pointed out the absurdity in President Sirisena and PM Wickremesinghe undertaking costly official visits to Japan and Singapore, respectively to attract foreing investment at a time the country was in chaos. Contrary to public assurances given by President Sirisena since the run up to Feb. 10 Local Government polls, PM Wickremesinghe was still in charge of economic management, Prof. Peiris said. Both Prof. Peiris and Lokuge alleged that Wickremesinghe always believed privatisation was the panacea for all problems.

Lokuge said that he would soon receive a briefing as regards the status of ongoing talks between SLFP factions. The MP acknowledged that he wasn’t aware of Deputy Minister T. B. Ekanayake signing the NCM. Ekanayake over the weekend announced that his support for the move. The Kurunegala District MP was the first SLFP MP to sign the NCM though the two parties were yet to conclude a specific agreement on the operation to oust Wickremesinghe.

Prof. Peiris said that the NCM would be handed over to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya soon. Declaring that the UNP-led administration was in deep trouble and couldn’t survive in the face of mounting political challenges, Prof. Peiris appealed to President Sirisena to help save the country from Wickremesinghe.

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