Former Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara, in an interview with Daily mirror , spells as to how the No Confidence Motion [NCM] got defeated in Parliament. He shared the following:-
Q : The President once said the NCM against PM Ranil Wickremesinghe was mooted by the Joint Opposition [JO], a section of SLFP and a faction of the UNP. He tried to absolve himself of any responsibility. What happened actually?
Actually, the idea to bring such a motion originated primarily from the UNP itself. A UNP team that included members like Minister Palitha Range Bandara vowed to move such a motion. He said there were 27 persons who were supportive of it. It is true that a section of our SLFP insisted on joining hands with the opposition. After the local government polls, I, along with MP Lasantha Alagiyawanna, made a concept paper. We stressed the point that we could no longer run a government with Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister.
Secondly, we said we would agree to appoint anyone from the UNP other than him as the PM. Thirdly, we proposed to appoint Nimal Siripala de Silva as the PM. But, the President’s hands were legally tightened. He could not remove the current Premier as a result. Ranil Wickremesinghe asserted that he wished to remain the PM further amidst all these developments. We, all the 41 members, took the position that Mr. Wickremesinghe should step down. We communicated our stand to the PM. Against this backdrop only, the JO moved this NCM. The JVP also agreed to this motion. The JVP, in fact, asked for the inclusion of certain points. In that sense, there were three parties that backed the motion in its initial stages. Minister Mahinda Amaraweera remained privy to all the negotiations. However, Minister Duminda Dissanayake had a different view right from the beginning.
The SLFP, as a party, wanted the NCM to succeed. I do not agree if anybody says that only a section of the party wanted it. The President remained neutral because he did not want to violate the Constitution by removing the PM in his own.
Q : Your colleague referred to Ministers Mahinda Amaraweera and Duminda Dissanayake as tale bearers who leaked confidential information to the PM. You said Minister Amaraweera was privy to all the talks. Do you also see him as a tale bearer?
I do not accuse him of being a tale-bearer. However, Duminda Dissanayake took a common line with the UNP. Though he is the SLFP General Secretary, he worked in the interests of the UNP. That is why we were unable to revive the SLFP at grassroots level. He did not campaign actively for the local government elections in the Anuradhapura District. Yet, Minister Mahinda Amaraweera stood with us right from the beginning. I am thankful to him. He had a change of mind at the last moment only regarding the no confidence motion.
We, all the 41 members, took the position that Mr. Wickremesinghe should step down. We communicated our stand to the PM. Against this backdrop only, the JO moved this NCM. The JVP also agreed to this motion. The JVP, in fact, asked for the inclusion of certain points. In that sense, there were three parties that backed the motion in its initial stages
Q : Only 16 members, including you, voted for the motion whereas 21 members were absent. Why did the President as the party leader fail to reconcile differences in the party?
The President did not get involved in this directly. He wanted to remove the PM, though. He realized that there were two factions. He wanted the party to take a common stand. There were three factions in fact. There was one group wanting to join the UNP straight away, and another to Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). Let alone, there was the third group wanting to build the SLFP. I always asked the President not to leave the room for the party to be split into three groups in this way.
Right from the beginning, we realized that five or six of our MPs would not vote for the motion. Albeit them, we had the initial support of 18 MPs from the UNP. We had separate talks with all of them. We undertook this mission well realizing that six SLFPers including Duminda Dissanayake would not support us for sure.
Otherwise, all the others including Minister Amaraweera had taken a decision to support the motion. Ministers Mahinda Samarasinghe and Gamini Vijith Wijayamuni Zoysa did not attend the last meeting.
The President was compelled finally to make sure that the SLFP would at least be absent. That is because some of our members planned to vote along with the UNP.
Q : Finally, the SLFP government group is now divided into two. Where will this trend end up?
It will lead to a dozen of the SLFPers in the government teaming up the UNP.
Q : Can you name them?
I do not want to name them individually. But, there is a group definitely wanting to join the UNP. They have been offered the UNP organizer posts. There is another group of SLFPers who will join us at the next stage. We will not become an appendage to the JO, though. We asked the President to offer us the General Secretary post of the SLFP and the Secretary post of the SLFP-led UPFA. Then only, we can revive the party at village level. There is no future for the party as long as it remains as the cat’s paw of the UNP. It became obvious at the local government elections. We got some votes. That has also dwindled at the moment. If these two posts are continuously held by those serving in the government, the party will be ruined forever.
Right from the beginning, we realized that five or six of our MPs would not vote for the motion. Albeit them, we had the initial support of 18 MPs from the UNP. We had separate talks with all of them
Q : What was the President’s response to your request?
The President was clear in his stance that there should be a change. It is important for us to know how he will bring about that change. A majority of the SLFP Central Committee holds the view that the party should leave the unity government. Otherwise, the SLFP will end up as a branch of the UNP. The SLFP Central Committee is meant to protect the party. It is not meant to be a mere appendage of the UNP.
Q : After sitting in the opposition, what is your next plan?
We will collaborate with the JO in the struggles against the government. It does not mean that we will become party to the JO. We maintain our SLFP identity. On common issues, we will cooperate fully and add strength to the JO. We are like brothers. Those serving in the JO are members of the UPFA. No one has taken the membership of the SLPP.
Q : What is your plan for the next Presidential Election?
We have to work for a common candidate acceptable to all the communities. He should be a charismatic leader. He should have a vision for the country. He should be able to win over the minorities. It is difficult to forge ahead without the support of the minorities. He should present a work plan to address the issue confronting the minorities. We have to resurrect the future President from the grip of extremist forces.
Any future leader cannot forge ahead without addressing the problems of the people in the North. We defeated the LTTE militarily. Now the struggle is to defeat it ideologically.
Q : Have you identified that candidate?
There are different names being mooted. We can discuss it later.
Q : Finally, the UNPers who wanted to support the NCM backtracked at the last moment. Why did it happen?
We told them to do so. We asked them not to risk their political future. Initially, we thought only six SLFPers would stand in solidarity with the UNP. Finally, we knew that a lot more would work against the motion. As such, we were in for a failed mission. So, we asked them not to be a part of such a failed political project. These rebel UNP MPs will rise again.
The President was clear in his stance that there should be a change. It is important for us to know how he will bring about that change. A majority of the SLFP Central Committee holds the view that the party should leave the unity government. Otherwise, the SLFP will end up as a branch of the UNP. The SLFP Central Committee is meant to protect the party. It is not meant to be a mere appendage of the UNP
Q : Do you believe whether this NCM was a mistake in strategic terms?
We were on a sound footing as far the vote of the motion was concerned. If not for the betrayal by those who were absent during the voting, the result would have been different. The SLFP lost a golden opportunity due to this betrayal.