Fresh UNP-SLFP ‘deal’ disturbs UPFA

MP Amunugama calls for reviewing relationship


by Shamindra Ferdinando

The UNP and the SLFP thwarted President Maithripala Sirisena’s parliamentary group voting against the second reading of the budget 2019 and a division on the President’s Expenditure Heads on March 12, and 13, respectively.

The UNP-SLFP secret move deprived the UPFA of an opportunity to show its strength in parliament, UPFA Kandy District MP Dilum Amunugama told The Island yesterday.

An irate Amunugama alleged that a section of the SLFP group within the UPFA, obviously at the behest of President Sirisena skipped the March 12 vote.

They certainly owed an explanation to the UPFA as well as the people as to why UPFA decision to vote against the second reading of the budget 2019 was not kept, the SLFPer said.

The second reading of the budget 2019 was passed with a majority of 43 votes with 119 voting for and 76 against. In return, the UNP staged a little drama in parliament on the following day; Amunugama said adding that with Badulla District MP Chaminda Wijesiri calling for a division on President’s Expenditure Heads and Premier Wickremesinghe and Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella disallowing the move was nothing but a show to deceive people and parliament. "They did it well."

Responding to a query, MP Amunugama pointed out that the UPFA quit the UNP-led government on Oct 26, 2018. Subsequently, President Sirisena dissolved parliament on Nov 09, 2018 and called fresh parliamentary polls on January 05, 2019. The UNP-TNA-JVP combine thwarted that move by seeking judicial intervention, MP Amunugama said. "Since then the UPFA operated as one group, with former President and MP Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Leader of the Opposition. Tuesday’s move should prompt us to think of our alliance with those loyal to President Sirisena," MP Amunugama said.

Amunugama said that those SLFPers, who skipped the vote on March 12, 2019, could be compared with the same lot refusing to back No Confidence Motion (NCM) moved by the Joint Opposition in last April against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe over his complicity in the treasury bond scams involving the Perpetual Treasuries Limited (PTL) and ethnic violence at Digana.

The SLFPer acknowledged that the JO was obviously deceived again. The MP alleged that the group was pursuing a strategy beneficial to President Sirisena and them at the expense of the genuine opposition.

Asked whether UNP backbenchers’ much repeated threat to vote against President’s Expenditure Heads could have been a ruse to secure a deal with the President in respect of the vote on the second reading,

Amunugama said: "That strategy seemed to have worked. Or perhaps, in spite of quitting the government on Oct 26, 2018, the SLFP group loyal to President Sirisena remained committed to the UNP project.

The MP said that they were really concerned about the situation. With the country heading for presidential and parliamentary polls in 2019 and 2020, respectively, against the backdrop of long overdue Provincial Councils polls, the UPFA/Joint Opposition couldn’t afford to allow a section of the SLFP to manipulate them.

MP Amunugama said that the SLFP’s action couldn’t be justified under any circumstances.

The JO wouldn’t have any other option but to review its position in case the same lot skipped the final vote on budget 2019 on April 5, Amunugama said.

In addition to the SLFP group, UNP lawmakers, Ven Atureliye Rathana and Wijeyadasa Rajapakse skipped the March 12 vote. EPDP leader Douglas Devananda, too, refrained from voting with the UPFA whereas the CWC voted with the UNP.

Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Chief Basil Rajapaksa refrained from commenting on the UPFA split at Tuesday’s vote. Basil Rajapaksa asserted that media queries in that regard should be directed to those who refrained from voting against the second reading of the budget 2019. However, the former SLFP National Organizer emphasized the importance of them taking a common stand. Basil Rajapaksa said so last Wednesday (March 13) at a media briefing at the Nelum Mawatha, Battaramulla office of the SLPP, when the media asked him whether such conduct on the part of the SLFP could be inimical to ongoing efforts to form a broad alliance against the UNP.

In spite of the latest snub, the SLPP on Thursday (March 14) met the SLFP to explore ways and means of working out a grand strategy in the run up to the next national level election.

SLPP Chairman Prof. G.L. Peiris told The Island that the two parties agreed again on March 21 for further talks.

Basil Rajapaksa is on record as having told the media last Wednesday the SLPP would engage in discussions with an open mind.

MP Amunugama emphasized that they couldn’t further delay seeking a firm commitment from the group loyal to President Sirisena. The MP said that he discussed the situation with several lawmakers, including National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa.

MP Amunugama said that the JO/SLPP should understand that the UNP enjoyed simple majority in parliament with the support of the TNA and the JVP therefore they caused a split again in the UPFA as part of their political strategy.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne said that due to President’s decision to skip the vote at the second reading of the budget, the Joint Opposition faced many problems. Claiming that a bid by a section of the UNP to defeat the President’s Expenditure Heads had been settled through discussion, Dr. Senaratne welcomed what he called President Sirisena’s new stand.

President Sirisena recently refrained from criticizing budget 2019 when the media raised the issue with him at a meeting at the President’s House on March 06.

Dr. Senaratne said that both the TNA and the CWC voted for the budget without making any demands.

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