In the aftermath of the sensational results at the February 10 local council elections and the Kandy district ethnic or religious violence which compelled the Government to declare a State of Emergency for 10 days, Sri Lanka has been plagued by political instability with serious consequences including a body blow to vital foreign investments and the tourism industry. Though the Kandy district crisis has been settled to a large extent, attention is now focused on the motion of no-confidence against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
The United National Party (UNP), the main partner in the coalition government with the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), appears to be confident that the no-confidence motion is doomed to failure. So much so that at a party leaders meeting last week with Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, the UNP pushed for an early debate on the motion in Parliament. The debate will take place on Wednesday, April 4 and is scheduled to go on for about 12 hours.
The motion, relating mainly to the Prime Minister’s role in the Central Bank bond scam, was presented to the Speaker on March 21 by a joint opposition delegation comprising members loyal to the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) whose de-facto leader is former president Mahinda Rajapaksa. Mr. Rajapaksa was present at the Speaker’s office when the no-confidence motion was handed over, but reports say he did not sign the motion. On Tuesday, Party leaders decided on a voice-vote on the motion since the electronic system has not worked well.
According to reports, 55 members signed the no-confidence motion -- 51 SLPP loyalists and four SLFP members. The JO with its parliamentary group leader Dinesh Gunawardene asking that the debate be held on a later date but the UNP insisted on April 4 because apparently it wants to defeat this motion and get down to work. In a major breakthrough, the Government announced yesterday that former ambassador Udayanga Weeratunga -- alleged to be involved in a multi-million dollar MiG fighter jet deal -- has been arrested in Dubai.
Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, who negotiated the coalition agreement between the UNP and the SLFP after the August 2015 parliamentary elections, told a recent meeting during the week-end that the two parties should continue the coalition and achieve the main objective of a peaceful, just and all-inclusive society.
While the Rajapaksa-led SLPP’s intentions are uncertain, so is the stance of the SLFP faction loyal to President Maithripala Sirisena. UNP Minister Naveen Dissanayake was among party leaders, who were highly critical of SLFP ministers, State and deputy ministers who are clinging to their portfolios while criticizing the Prime Minister and saying they could not work with him.
President Sirisena himself has not made his stand clear though the Cabinet meets every week. Apparently the President’s relationship with the Prime Minister is strained but the President cannot overlook the fact that it was the UNP which paved the way for him to win the presidential election on January 8, 2015.
Heaping scorn on the April 4 no-confidence motion, the UNP members are also said to sign a motion of confidence in the Prime Minister on April 18. In any event all parties are apparently having their eyes fixed on the presidential election in 2020 and the parliamentary election in 2021.
Till then the government needs to focus attention on the important issues that have to be tackled effectively, especially with the international political situation also uncertain with few world analysts being able to predict what will happen in the power games involving the United States and its unpredictable President Donald Tramp, Vladimir Putin’s Russia which is claiming invincibility in the nuclear race and China, which is trying to emerge as the world’s strongest political and economic player.