Addressing the first media conference after Wednesday’s no-confidence motion which produced conflicts within conflicts, divisions within divisions and crises within crises, President Maithripala Sirisena said yesterday he did not get directly involved in the motion against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Apparently trying to prevent further splits or friction, the President told editors and other senior journalists he had met leaders or representatives of all parties and told them his only interest was that the United National Front government, the joint opposition and its Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna, needed to show a majority in parliament.
The UNF supported by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) and the Jathika Hela Urumaya clearly showed its majority with 122 members voting against the no-confidence motion and 76 in favour with 26 abstentions. Significantly, though the SLPP motion was signed by 51 of it’s members along with four SLFP members, at voting time 76 members voted for the motion. That means 21 SLFP members including ministers, state and deputy ministers voted for the motion. Equally significant was the fact that among the 26 absentees were about 20 SLFP members including Senior Ministers. Before the vote on the no confidence-motion, the joint opposition comprising SLFP dissidents had 51 MP’s and there were 44 in the pro-Sirisena camp. Now the president’s support base has been split in two again with UNP backbenchers saying they would move a no-confidence motion in parliament against SLFP ministers, state and deputy ministers who voted for the motion against the Prime Minister. Some 22 UNP backbenchers had reportedly signed no confidence motions against six SLFP ministers and deputy Speaker Thilanga Sumathipala who had voted against the Premier and motions were presented to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya yesterday evening. But the government announced last night that the Prime Minister had asked them to withdraw the motions because they had not been approved by the UNP Parliamentary group. This was seen by analysts as a good move towards compromise and an act of magnanimity by the UNP in its hour of victory.
According to reports, the President had met the Prime Minister on Thursday for what hopefully was a friendly dialogue, with Mr. Wickremesinghe suggesting the yahapalana government should revive the mandate received from the people at the historic presidential election on January 8, 2015. At that election Mr. Sirisena, who dramatically pulled out of the SLFP in November 2014 had only three SLFP MPs supporting him, though President Chandrika Banadaranaike Kumaratunga – who negotiated the historic turn of events with Mr. Wickremesinghe -- had promised that about 30 to 40 SLFP MP’s would support the Democratic People’s Alliance under which Mr. Sirisena contested the election. Reports say Mr Wickremesinghe had asked Ms. Kumaratunga one important question, “can you trust him” (Mr Sirisena) she said a clear-cut yes and history was changed.
Most analysts say they hope that the trust – which was broken to a large extent in the weeks and months before the no-confidence motion – would now be restored so that the Yahapalana government would continue with the support of the minority parties and the SLFP frontliners who are loyal to the President. Among the SLFP frontliners who did not vote against the Prime Minister and are likely to remain in the UNP-SLFP cabinet are the party’s general secretary Duminda Dissanayaka, Sarath Amunugama, Faizer Musthapha, Nimal Siripala De Silva, Wijithamuni de Soyza, Piyasena Gamage, A.H.M.Fowze, Lakshman Seneviratne, M.L.A.M. Hisbullah, Mahinda Amaraweera and Mahinda Samarasinghe. Among the ministers who voted against the Prime Minister were S.B. Dissanayaka, Susil Premajayantha, Dayasiri Jayasekara and W.D.J. Senaviratne. The UNP is making a strong appeal for their removal from the Cabinet.
Whatever the Cabinet changes, we hope the ministers and MP’s will also experience a change of attitude. They need to make a resolution or even pass a motion that they will serve the people with honesty and integrity in an unselfish and sincere manner without getting involved in large scale corruption, bribery or other political crimes. If this sincere and selfless service is seen and if the politicians realise they are servants of the people, then during the next two years Sri Lanka could take major steps towards reaching sustainable, eco-friendly development with the vision of building a peaceful, just and all inclusive society.