The political equation will be drastically altered depending on the court ruling which is expected to be given on December 7, 2018.
Everyone talks about the political crisis that is engulfing the country. Little known is the fact there are internal crises brewing even within the two main political forces, probably as an unintended consequence of the decision by President Maithripala Sirisena on October 26 to form a new Government.
The President sacked the Leader of the United National Party (UNP), Ranil Wickremesinghe, from Premiership. On the surface, the UNP looks united in making a frontal attack on the President’s decision to strip it of Governmental power. However, it is riddled with internal squabbles, and the demand for a leadership change has come to the fore once again.
- The President’s action triggered internal issues not only for the UNP, but also for his own United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA)
- If the court rules out dissolution, it would be a different scenario
- Vulnerable MPs have already been induced by either side
This internal feud burst out into the open somewhat when Badulla District MP Harin Fernando lashed out publicly that he was not ready to do politics with the UNP unless it dispensed with its old guard of leaders at the helm of affairs. His criticism drew angry reaction from some members within the party. His sarcastic reference to elderly politicians does not gel with Sri Lanka culture which values respect for age.
Alongside, Kurunegala District MP Asok Abeysinghe has taken up a similar position. He, in fact, had talks, with the leaders of the political parties aligned with the UNP to seek the possibility of getting someone other than Wickremesinghe appointed as the Prime Minister. Still, their struggle is only in isolation. That is because the party, along with its allies, has a bigger battle to fight for- to depose the Government using their numerical strength in Parliament.
Be that as it may, the present gridlock in governance does not show signs of ending because President Sirisena is adamant that he will not reappoint Wickremesinghe. He pronounced it in clear-cut terms at his meeting with the foreign correspondents last Sunday (November 25). May be, the UNP rebels are trying to exploit this situation to pursue their target for a change in leadership. Anyway, this tussle is a secondary affair for the UNP at present. First, it has to topple the Government which was installed after sacking their leader from the post of Prime Minister.
According to sources, the SLPP is insistent that everyone should contest under the Pohottuwa symbol at future elections. Yet, there are those UPFP MPs who do not feel comfortable with it
The President’s action triggered internal issues not only for the UNP, but also for his own United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA). In the immediate aftermath of dissolution of Parliament, over 50 of its MPs obtained the membership of newly formed Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) operating under Pohottuwa or the lotus bud symbol. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa is among the recipients of SLPP membership making it a blow to the UPFA led by President Sirisena. Electorally, it is no doubt that the SLPP holds better sway than the UPFA, as obvious from the outcome of the Local Government Elections which were conducted on February 10, 2018. Now, the two parties are united to form the Government. Also, discussions are in progress to form a common alliance between these two parties.
According to inside political sources, the SLPP is insistent that everyone should contest under the Pohottuwa symbol at the upcoming elections. Yet, there are those UPFP MPs who do not feel comfortable with such an electoral alliance. These members such as Gamini Wijith Wijyamuni Zoysa, Duminda Dissanayake, Mahinda Amaraweera and Lasantha Alagiyawanna were identified more with the UPFA. In the event of a SLPP-dominated political alliance, they fear being pushed to the margin electorally. Their fear is also reasonable. Wijeyamuni Zoysa was defeated in fact at the last parliamentary polls in 2015 over his sarcastic criticism of Rajapaksa.
Later, President Sirisena nominated him on the National List to Parliament. Dissanayake just scraped through at the election. Under a SLPP-led alliance, they are likely to be in a disadvantageous position, particularly in obtaining preferential votes.
Some of these MPs may try to carve a niche working with the SLPP while forging ahead. Likewise, there may be some others who will even switch allegiance even to the UNP to contest elections since they are unable to make their mark in the SLPP. In this manner, the change of Government has affected both the parties in a major way.
Parties await SC ruling
Both the UNP and the UPFA now await the ruling by the Supreme Court to evolve future political strategies. If the court rules the dissolution of Parliament by the President, all of us will have to go before the people at a General Election casting aside our internal issues at least for the time being.
If the court rules out dissolution, it would be a different scenario. The UPFA, in such an eventuality, would renew its efforts to win over crossovers from the other side to ensure the parliamentary majority required to run the Government. But, it is now a difficult task as things have solidified with either side in the political sense.
Vulnerable MPs have already been induced by either side. In such a scenario, some UNPers would try to make overtures to the President requesting him to appoint someone as the Prime Minister unless he is willing to give it to Wickremesinghe.
The political equation will be drastically altered in this manner depending on the court ruling which is expected to be given on December 7, 2018.
Some of these MPs may try to carve a niche working with the SLPP while forging ahead. Likewise, there may be some others who will even switch allegiance even to the UNP to contest elections
President’s sarcastic comments
President Sirisena was sarcastic at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting when he took up a paper related to the Tourism Ministry.
Tourism Minister Vasantha Senanayake was absent as he had returned to the UNP once again. So, a smiling President said sarcastically, “The Tourism Minister is missing. He is moving here and there. Nobody knows where he is today,”
Everybody had a laugh over this comment. The Ministers hurried through the Cabinet meeting and rushed to Parliament on Tuesday (November 27). The Government’s parliamentary group also met there.
Chief Government Whip Dinesh Gunawardane, at this meeting proposed to be present inside the Chamber at the commencement of the session, to register their protest over the conduct of Speaker Karu Jayasuriya. He said all should leave the Chamber after that. But, most MPs suggested that Parliament should be boycotted totally.
The MPs made comments back and forth, and the meeting became a bit noisy.
Having listened to all the comments, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa remarked that the majority, by voice, seemed to be in favour of boycotting Parliament. It was a sarcastic reference to the Speaker who declared that the no confidence motion was passed by voice vote. As such, the group roared into laughter over Rajapaksa’s comments.
MP Dalles Alhapperuma suggested that the MPs should not have their meals from the parliamentary canteen for the day as otherwise the UNP would accuse them of having luxurious foods even without attending sessions. Accordingly, they decided to avoid meals from the canteen for the day.