The Daily mirror sat with Science, Technology and Research Minister Susil Premajayantha, to discuss the No-Confidence Motion and current politics in the country. Excerpts:
Q Are you confident that the Joint Opposition could win the No Confidence Motion (NCM) against Prime Minister Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe on Wednesday?
This No Confidence Motion has been signed by the Joint Opposition members and a few other members of the Unity Government. Therefore, it is the duty of the SLFP members in the Unity Government to support the No Confidence Motion because 13 out of 14 allegations contained in the No Confidence Motion are based on the Central Bank bond scam and the other one is the failure of Prime Minister Mr Wickremesinghe to take prompt action as the then Minister of Law and Order to quell racial violence in Kandy in February.
Don’t forget that all these allegations on the bond scam were first raised by the nine-member SLFP Parliamentary Committee led by Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala De Silva appointed by President Maithripala Sirisena in November 2016. In that context do you think any SLFP member whether he or she is in the Government or in the Opposition could oppose the NCM? I think No. And as such, I have no doubt whatsoever that we would win the NCM comfortably.
Q But in simple arithmetic, the JO could garner only the support of 55 members before submitting it to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya. Therefore, the JO will have to get the support of another 68 members to reach the simple majority of 113, while the UNF needs only the support of eight members to the target, except Speaker Karu Jayasuriya. Don’t you think this is an uphill task for the JO?
If you analyze the results of the last General Election (August 2015) you would see the party strength of each party has dramatically been changed by now. The limited mandate given in 2015 to the UNF does not exist after the February 10 LG polls.
In 2015, the UNF returned 106 members with the support of its constituent partners. Only 82 members were from the UNP while the UPFA won 95 seats with 82 from the SLFP. The TNA won 16 seats, JVP – 6 seats, SLMC – 1 and EPDP 1.
Up to date, the TNA has not declared its position on the NCM but the JVP and EPDP have said they would support it. Under this scenario, I am confident that we can win the NCM.
Q What would be the position of SLFP Ministers in the ‘Yahapalana Government’ or in the Cabinet if the JO could not win the No Confidence Motion against Prime Minister with their support?
That is the end of the Unity Government at 9.00 p.m. tomorrow which was formed in August 2015. The Government will lose over 35 members and there will be a new Government with a Cabinet reduced to 30 ministers.
Please note that we have nothing against Mr Wickremesinghe personally but his policies and the style of his governance. What we are trying to do is to save the Unity Government by removing Mr Wickremesinghe from the Premiership.
Q Your struggle is to remove Mr Wickremesinghe from the Premiership. In the event of JO winning the No Confidence Motion, do you agree if Mr Wickremesinghe accepts a Cabinet portfolio under a different PM?
This struggle is not for victory for the JO but for the victory of the people who expressed their intentions very clearly at the February 10 Local Government polls. In that case, my opinion is that Prime Minister Mr Wickremesinghe should resign before the debate on the NCM is taken up tomorrow morning in Parliament.
Q Even the Ministry of Finance?
Mr Wickremesinghe taking up the Finance Ministry under a new PM is not possible amidst the prevailing situation. Taking most of the functions of the Finance Ministry including the Central Bank under his purview is the main contributory factor that led to the bond scam. I presume that if Mr Wickremesinghe did not take the Central Bank under him in 2015, the bond scam would not have come about. Besides, President Maithripala Sirisena in a remedial measure has taken away most of the responsibilities connected with the MoF from Mr Wickremesinghe including the CB. In appointing a new Cabinet, I don’t think President Sirisena would agree to give the MoF to Mr Wickremesinghe.
Q Minister Vajira Abeywardana says that under the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, a No Confidence Motion was not possible against the Prime Minister? As a lawyer and seasoned politician, what is your opinion on this remark?
Minister Vajira Abeywardana has not understood the relevant articles of the Constitution at all properly. Why did the Speaker accept the NCM and decide on a date for the debate after all?
I don’t want to talk much about the comments made by Minister Abeywardana. I invite him to have a look at our Constitution. For his convenience I would like to quote from Paragraph 42, 43,44 and 45 of the Sri Lanka Constitution as follows:
Chapter 46 clearly outlines how the Prime Minister can be removed and a new PM appointed.
Chapter 45 says, there shall be a Cabinet of Ministers charged with the direction and control of the Government of the Republic. (2) The Cabinet of Ministers shall be collectively responsible and answerable to Parliament. (3) The President shall be a member of the Cabinet of Ministers and shall be the Head of the Cabinet of Ministers. (4) The President shall appoint as Prime Minister the Member of Parliament, who, in the President’s opinion, is most likely to command the confidence of Parliament. 43. (1) President shall, in consultation with the Prime Minister, where he considers such consultation to be necessary, determine the number of Ministers
of the Cabinet of Ministers and the Ministries and the assignment of subjects and functions to such Ministers. (2) The President shall, on the advice of the Prime Minister, appoint from among Members of Parliament, Ministers, to be in the charge of the Ministries so determined. (3) The President may at any time change the assignment of subjects and functions and the composition of the Cabinet of Ministers. Such changes shall not affect the continuity of the Cabinet of Ministers and the continuity of its responsibility to Parliament. 44. (1) The President may, on the advice of the Prime Minister, appoint from among Members of Parliament, Ministers who shall not be members of the Cabinet of Ministers. (2) The President may, in consultation with the Prime Minister where he considers such consultation to be necessary, determine the assignment of subjects and functions to Ministers appointed under paragraph (1) of this Article and the Ministries, if any, which are to be in the charge of, such Ministers.
The President may at any time change any assignment made under paragraph (2). 31 - Chapter VIII was substituted by the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution Sec. 9 Prime Minister and the Cabinet of Ministers and their subjects and functions Ministers who are not members of the Cabinet of Ministers The Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka 41 (4) Every Minister appointed under paragraph (1) shall be responsible to the Cabinet of Ministers and to Parliament.
45. (1)The President may, on the advice of the Prime Minister, appoint from among Members of Parliament, Deputy Ministers to assist Ministers of the Cabinet of Ministers in the performance of their duties.
Q He also says that the No Confidence Motion was also against President Maithripala Sirisena. Your comments?
The NCM is against the Prime Minister and the Government. Not against the President. Parliament means legislature and President means the Executive elected by the people at a Presidential poll.
Q You had a war of words recently with SLFP General Secretary, Agriculture Minister Duminda Dissanayaka. Have both of you got settled the issue?
General Secretary of the SLFP, Minister Duminda Dissanayaka has to learn more politics and more governance because he has little experience. However, I have nothing personal against young Minister Duminda at all.
Q The allegations against Mr Wickremesinghe in the No Confidence Motion are based mainly on the Central Bank bond scam. As far as you know, what is the correct amount of financial loss from this alleged fraud? I asked this question because several figures ranging from Rs. 10 billion to two or three trillion rupees have been mentioned as the total damage.
According to the Auditor General, the loss is Rs. 11.5 billion but the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) that probed the bond scandal has recommended a forensic auditing which would give us a clear picture of the actual damage done to the economy in the long run. The long-term negative effects to the economy have never been calculated and my gut feeling is that it will be colossal and much more than Rs. 11.5 billion.
QHow is the preparation of the SLFP under President Maithripala Sirisena for the upcoming PC polls for Eastern, North - Central and Sabaragamuwa Provinces?
We are awaiting the Parliamentary debate on the delimitation on PCs to arrive at a final decision on how we face PC polls.
Pix Damith Wickramasinghe
Don Juwan Wednesday, 4 April 2018 10:53
Yes, I am the man who knows everything. I am the only lawyer who understands the government constitution. Above all, I know how to cut throats and take fire through the water.
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