Cross-overs affect govt.-UNP talks on Con. reforms


by Shamindra Ferdinando

Ongoing talks between President Mahinda Rajapaksa and UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe over proposed constitutional reforms, aimed at doing away with the executive presidency, suffered a major setback yesterday when two UNF MPs switched their allegiance to the President.

Prabha Ganeshan (the Democratic People’s Front) and P. Digambaram (the National Workers’ Front), who contested the August 8 parliamentary election on the UNF ticket from Colombo and Nuwara Eliya, respectively, initiated talks with the government in the immediate aftermath of the election.

With the first crossovers in the seventh parliament, the strength of the ruling SLFP-led coalition increased to 146 in the 225-member Parliament.

Prabha Ganeshan of the Democratic People’s Front and P Digambaram of the National Workers Front announced their decision to extend support to the government at Temple Trees today (August 5). They spoke to the media in the presence of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and said they considered it their duty to support the government at this crucial juncture.



"I have the fullest confidence in President Rajapaksa and I am sure that I could serve the Tamil people who elected me at the last general election by cooperating with the government," Ganeshan said. He added that the United National Party obtained Tamil votes by giving false promises to the people and he had completely lost faith in the UNP.

Digambaram said that he was elected to the Parliament by the estate workers and to safeguard their interests he decided to extend support to the government. "To serve the estate workers it is essential to work in close cooperation with the government," he said.

National Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa, Member of Parliament Namal Rajapaksa and Western Provincial Council member Renuka Perera were also present.

UNP sources told The Island that Kandy District MP Abdul Cader, too, could cross floor of the House at anytime. Sources asserted that the government had advanced the crossover by MPs, Ganeshan and Digambaram to deny the UNP any political advantage by Mangala Samaraweera taking UNP membership today (August 6).  

Responding to a query by The Island, another official said that yesterday’s crossover would compel MP Wickreemsinghe to quit ongoing negotiations with the President. The President would simply go ahead with his plans for a third term as initially envisaged, sources said.

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