ne week after the results of the February 10 Local Council elections were announced, tension and uncertainty still prevail amidst much speculation, while President Maithripala Sirisena reflects on the two choices he faces.
The first is to continue with the Yahapalanaya Government with Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister, Ministers and MPs from the United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).
The other choice is to accept a proposal, known to be promoted largely by Minister Susil Premajayantha, for the SLFP to form its own Government with conditional support from former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is the de facto leader of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) which secured the majority of seats at the LG polls.
According to our sister paper the Sunday Times, the weekend’s political events—though they are changing from day to day—indicate the likelihood of the President calling upon Mr Wickremesinghe to continue as Prime Minister.
There is also likely to be a major Cabinet reshuffle.
Among the positive points for this move is the report that some top SLFP MPs are not in favour of Mr.Premajayantha’s move. They include SLFP General Secretary Duminda Dissanayake, Mahinda Amaraweera, Sarath Amunugama and Mahinda Samarasinghe.
So, if the President opts for the second choice it may create more problems than solutions because even the SLFP group supporting him may split.
Media speculation has been widespread. Most of it based on information provided or the statements made by politicians, who have their own agendas. But essentially it appears that this whole national crisis arose because President Sirisena apparently went into a panic mode after he heard the results on February 11. So did the UNP.
That very night he is reported to have met the Prime Minister and asked him to quit but Mr Wickremesinghe insisted he had the Constitutional right to stay on as the Prime Minister as his party had the majority of seats in Parliament, though not an overall majority of 113 in the 225-member national assembly.
But the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has expressed its support for the continuation of Yahapalanaya Government and with its 15 seats, there is an overall majority for the current administration to continue.
After the President met the Prime Minister on Sunday, February 11, there was speculation the UNP might form its own Government with some party Ministers and MPs commenting about this and some media groups giving it various twists and turns.
There were also reports of pressure within the UNP for a change in leadership with one TV channel quoting State Ministers Harsha de Silva and Vasantha Senanayake as saying that though they did not want to hurt Mr.Wickremesinghe, they believed there should be a change in the party leadership.
During the week UNP Cabinet Ministers met the President to express their confidence in the Prime Minister and call for the continuation of the Yahapalanaya coalition between the UNP and the SLFP.
It was pointed out that while the Local Council election results gave a clear warning to the Yahapalanaya Government for not fulfilling most of the pledges it made in 2015, the local polls constitutionally had no effect on the Central Government and there was little or no reason to panic.
But senior SLFP and UNP Ministers insisted the National Unity Government must go into full gear, taking immediate and effective action in the battle against corruption, to stabilise the economy, to bring down the cost of living, and to provide other relief to the people.
Amid all the turmoil and tension, which also deepen the country’s economic crisis, the official announcement came from Premier Wickremesinghe last Friday evening when he called a news conference at Temple Trees.
Calmly and confidently he announced he would continue as Premier and that there would be no change in the Central Government. But Mr Wickremesinghe also admitted there was a need for structural changes in the party and more effective action by the Government to move faster towards its vision 2025 goals of building a peaceful, just and all-inclusive society.
When Parliament meets today, the country is likely to see who commands the majority and who is with whom.
We hope the eventual outcome will be for the common good of all the people of the country and bring about religious and racial amity, unity in diversity as stressed in a message from the Mahanayake Thera of the Malwatte Chapter.