Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) Leader Udaya Gammanpila in an interview with the Daily Mirror spoke about the no confidence motion and the plans to win it.
- We believe TNA will abstain from vote of no confidence
- It’s up to President to decide on next PM
- We’re confident of getting the required majority to win the motion
- Anyone is better than the present PM
- We have 95 of the UPFA members
Q How confident are you of mustering enough numbers to win the no confidence motion against the Prime Minister?
Of course, yes. As you know, three Prime Ministers tendered their resignations in the world for different reasons. On February 15, 2018, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn tendered his resignation due to his failure in curbing the anti-government protests that were escalating. On March 15, 2018, Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar resigned over a defeat at a referendum. On the very same day, the Prime Minister of Slovakia Robert Fico resigned because an investigative journalist and his girlfriend were killed. The Government failed to trace the murderer. On February 14, South African President Jacob Zuma resigned following a mere handing over of a no confidence motion against him. In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister David Cameron tendered his resignation on June 24 (2016) because 52 percent of the voters held a view opposite to his with regard to BREXIT.
In the case of Sri Lankan Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe, he has miserably failed in economic management and maintaining law and order. He is facing the biggest corruption allegation over the alleged Bond Scam. In the case of David Cameron, he resigned because 52 percent of the people voted against his position. At the last elections, the UNP was able to obtain only 29 percent of the votes. It means 71 percent of the people have rejected the Premier. Yet, he didn’t respect the time-honoured tradition of resigning at this juncture. Therefore, we were reluctantly compelled to bring the no confidence motion. There are major allegations against him in the motion. First, there is the alleged Bond Scam. It covers 11 allegations. Then there is the allegation regarding the failure to prevent the economic collapse. Thirdly, his failure to maintain law and order in Kandy during the unrest is there. Fourthly, he has violated nine Acts of Parliament.
The TNA saw its vote base drop by 50 percent at the recent Local Government Elections
Q How do you muster enough numbers to win this?
We have 95 of the UPFA members.
Q Are you certain that all of them will vote in favour of the motion?
Out of the 95, five SLFPers have expressed their reluctance. However, the SLFP seniors are confident that four out of five could be convinced. We do admit that there is one individual standing strongly against the motion.
Q Can you name him?
I don’t want to. I am trying to win him over. I don’t want to sabotage that process by naming him. We have 94 without him. Then, we have EPDP Leader MP Douglas Devananda. It means 95 for us. We have a logical, fact-based assessment. Our assessment is that the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) will abstain from supporting the motion. They have a genuine problem. For the Southerners, the UNP means the Government. For the northerners, the TNA means the Government. The TNA has unconditionally supported and protected this Government during the past three years. The TNA saw its vote base drop by 50 percent at the recent Local Government Elections. As a result, the TNA doesn’t want to identify itself with the Government anymore.
JVP has been critical of the Government regarding these charges in recent times. Then, we have 101. We need only four more members from the UNP to secure the victory.
Q Have you communicated with the TNA before coming to such a conclusion?
As I told you, I don’t want a single word of mine to sabotage the process. I am not going to explain in detail why I say so. We expect the TNA to abstain. They have openly criticized the Central Bank issue. They have been critical of the downside of the economy. They are critical of the Government over the attacks in Kandy. If 16 MPs of the TNA abstain, the number will come down to 209. The majority is 105 then. We have 95. The JVP will have to vote in favour. The JVP has been critical of the Government regarding these charges in recent times. Then, we have 101. We need only four more members from the UNP to secure the victory. There are 20 members to support instead of four.
Q Are you planning to obtain the support of Muslim members over the allegation regarding the Kandy incidents?
They have openly criticized the Government’s failure in Kandy. In fact, one Muslim MP said there are 21 Muslim parliamentarians in the Government. He said it was a shame for them to be with the Government.
Whatever is the outcome after the vote, we will emerge as the winners eventually.
Q Why do you say so?
As you know, if we win, the curse of the Prime Minister will be no more. If we fail, we can expose the SLFPers who criticized the Prime Minister in the run-up to the Local Government Elections. The SLFP, not us, was critical of the UNP at the elections. If any of the SLFPers does not vote for the motion, he will be exposed as not being genuine.
We have carefully drafted the motion without any malice, so that everybody can be accommodated.
If the JVP isn’t going to support the motion, they will be exposed. People will genuinely believe that there is a deal between the Prime Minister and JVP Leader Anura Kumara. Thirdly, the UNPers have been fed-up with the Prime Minister during the past 24 years. They yearn for a new UNP Leader.
Q If you don’t succeed at this motion, what is the next alternative?
We have a genuine problem after the Local Government Elections. The Prime Minister was planning to become the next Presidential Candidate of the UNP in the hope that he would win for sure. He had such confidence because he managed to defeat Mahinda Rajapaksa at the last Parliamentary Elections. However, after the local polls, the Prime Minister has been able to foresee the results of the upcoming presidential elections19 months in advance. Now, he has given up on contesting the Presidential Elections. When he was planning to contest the Presidential Elections, he feared the public opinion which was building up against him. Therefore, he delayed the agreements such as the ETCA. That is why he soft-pedalled on the Federal constitution. He took a slow approach in the alienation of national assets to foreigners. Now, he has given up on his plan to be the presidential candidate. So, he is insensitive to public opinion. That is why the Office of Missing Persons is in operation. He took steps to enact the Enforced Disappearances Bill.
Now, he wants to avenge the people for electorally rejecting him. His premiership has been a disaster for the country. Any nationalist, irrespective of his party line, should join hands with us.
After getting rid of him, anybody will be better than Wickremesinghe.
Out of the 95, five SLFPers have expressed their reluctance. However, the SLFP seniors are confident that four out of five could be convinced. We do admit that there is one individual standing strongly against the motion
Q Who should be the next Prime Minister in your view?
It is none of our business. That is vested with the President. Whoever he thinks fit enough for this position can be appointed. The President can only assess who commands confidence in Parliament.
Q There is talk that someone from the UNP would be picked for the post again. Also, it is said that somebody from the SLFP would become the Premier. What is your view?
I have my personal preferences. It is not material at all. What is material is the President’s confidence and preferences. Let him do his job!
Q What is the position of the Joint Opposition in this regard?
As we have repeatedly said, we sought a mandate at the last parliamentary and Local Government Elections to make Mahinda Rajapaksa the Prime Minister. We have no mandate to accept portfolios from the next Government without making him the Prime Minister. We cannot make this proposal to the President and make him comfortable.
If the JVP isn’t going to support the motion, they will be exposed. People will genuinely believe that there is a deal between the Prime Minister and JVP Leader Anura Kumara
Q You said anyone other than the present Prime Minister is better. Does it mean that you support even another UNPer to be the Prime Minister?
I am going to see the pros and cons of each person because I have no authority to name the next Prime Minister.
Q Do you see any understanding between the former President and the present President?
There are no permanent friends or enemies in politics. Four years ago, they were thick pals. But, the political circumstances pushed them apart. And, the political circumstances bring them closer. I am not a soothsayer to predict the future. But, anything is possible.
Many people think that the Joint Opposition want to get rid of the Prime Minister. It is the President who wanted it. He urged the Prime Minister to step down for another UNPer to succeed. We’re trying to meet the aspirations of the President. It is the foundation for cordial relations between the President and the former President.
Q Would this unity take place?
It is a crucial juncture. We are at a crossroads. After the motion, we can clearly see the way forward for Sri Lanka. Let’s wait patiently!