The statement put out by SLPP (Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna) General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam, critical of Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila over the latest fuel price hike, laid bare once again factions and frictions in the government .
It is commonsense that the fuel price hikes cannot be enforced without sanction of the Finance Ministry. The subject ministry can make recommendations, but it is finally the collective decision of the government under usual circumstances. The recent spike of fuel prices to reflect increases in the world market is no exception to the rule. It, however, added to the woes of people who are already battered by the pandemic-related restrictions in pursuit of their livelihood activities. A public outcry is naturally expected against the fuel price revision, a move having ripple effects in various sectors of the economy.
"The Prime Minister is the leader of the SLPP. In reality, its political activities are operated by its National Organizer Basil Rajapaksa. Therefore, the story in the rumour mills is that Mr. Kariyawasam worked out this statement at the behest of Basil Rajapaksa"
The SLPP is the governing party. Therefore, it would have been privy to circumstances that led to the upward revision of fuel prices. Still, Sagara Kariyawasam released this statement trying to blame the price revision solely on Minister Gammanpila. The government came under severe criticism by the general public after the price hike which will result in the rise of cost of living at the end. Already, the prices of bakery products have gone up, and, so will be passenger transport fares. Mr. Kariyawasam, would have attempted to palm off the responsibility on one minister, absolving the government of it. The SLPP General Secretary, in his statement issued under the party’s letterhead said Minister Gammanpila’s approach only led to the government increasing the prices.
Nevertheless, facts are facts. It is the collective decision taken by the government through the cost of living committee chaired by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. As such, the Minister had the valid points to counter Mr. Kariyawasam’s statement. He did it with vigour at a press conference the very next day. Besides, he got a shot in the arm when the President’s Office also defended the fuel price revision. The President’s Media Division (PMD) issued a press statement justifying the decision. The PMD said a spike was warranted by the present local and global
No matter what, the blame game amply displays internecine warfare within the government. The SLPP has been at loggerheads with its minor allies such as Minister Gammanpila’s Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) and Industry Minister Wimal Weerawansa’s party for some time. It turned out to be obvious particularly when the 20th Amendment to the Constitution was enacted last year. In some instances, the leaders like Minister Weerawansa became of the subject of vilification and slander by the SLPP legislators, particularly the newcomers, both in and outside Parliament. The latest incident on the fuel price is just an amplification of strife between the SLPP and its allies.
"Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), the main opposition, has responded to the situation by opting to move a no confidence motion against Minister Gammanpila. For the SJB, as a force opposed to the ruling side, have reasons for such a step"
The alliance partners have now formed into a group to muster collective strength to respond to the SLPP. Eight such parties came out with a statement condemning Mr. Kariyawasam’s statement. The Prime Minister is the leader of the SLPP. In reality, its political activities are operated by its National Organizer Basil Rajapaksa. Therefore, the story in the rumour mills is that Mr. Kariyawasam worked out this statement at the behest of Basil Rajapaksa. Senior SLPPers such as Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage gave rise to such speculation. No one has yet denied such involvement of Mr. Basil Rajapaksa who is currently in the United States. Finally, the SLPP had to eat humble pie when it became established that Mr. Kariyawasam’s statement was unacceptable.
At a press conference on Tuesday, State Minister Arundika Fernando extended an apology to Minister Gammanpila. It looks like that Mr. Kariyawasam is isolated with no one for his defence in the case.
Now, Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), the main opposition, has responded to the situation by opting to move a no confidence motion against Minister Gammanpila. For the SJB, as a force opposed to the ruling side, have reasons for such a step. First, it can take the government to task both on the fuel price region during the debate on the no confidence motion once it is placed before Parliament. Likewise, the debate will afford the main opposition and others to mock at the government over its
"The SLPP is the governing party. Therefore, it would have been privy to circumstances that led to the upward revision of fuel prices. Still, Sagara Kariyawasam released this statement trying to blame the price revision solely on Minister Gammanpila"
But, it is difficult to win the motion unseating the Minister from office since it is nowhere near the required majority. The opposition will raise tricky questions which the government will find it difficult to answer convincingly. The SJB legislators will sneer at the government benchers during the course of the debate, for sure.
However, despite differences among its own ranks, the government is not placed to allow the no confidence motion against one of its own ministers being adopted by Parliament. As such, the government will forget all differences and act for the defeat of the motion if it is put to a vote in the House. In that sense, it will be a factor that unifies the otherwise different of voices of the government.