By W. K. Prasad Manju
Matara District, Member of Parliament of the Joint Opposition Dullas Alahapperuma says that the motion against the Prime Minister will not be the final no-confidence motion. “Due to this no-confidence motion, the two-thirds majority the government had boasted of, has been lost. That in itself is a big victory. Finally, the government could only muster 122 votes, after getting the main opposition to join as well. This is a government that spoke with pride about two months ago that they have a two-thirds majority in Parliament”.
The no-confidence motion submitted in Parliament against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was defeated by a majority of 46 votes. The Joint Opposition was just asking for that, weren’t they?
A: Definitely not! Through this we were able to highlight a number of importantly needed political reforms within the country as well as in Parliament. The Joint Opposition was able to make 16 parliamentarians of the present government to use their vote against the Prime Minister of that government. It was possible to get rid of the two-thirds majority the present government used up to now for political purposes.
But, with this defeat of the no-confidence motion, hasn’t the bolstering the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna received through the victory at the Local Government elections on 10 February been weakened at least to a certain extent?
A: Certainly not! With this incident the people of the country have come closer to us. The opinions within Diyawannawa and without are two separate things. On 10 February what was represented was the opinion outside Diyawannawa. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion inside Parliament.
However, it is people’s representatives who are inside Parliament too, are they not?
A: That people’s mandate is from the Parliamentary election held on 17 August 2015. The mandate I am talking about is what was declared on 10 February 2018. There is a big difference in the people’s mandate from three years ago and the one obtained one month ago. This mandate was also created three years ago in an artificial manner.
So, was this an opportune time that you submitted this no-confidence motion?
A: Clearly yes! This will not be the final no-confidence motion either. Due to this no-confidence motion, the two-thirds majority the government had has diminished. That in itself is a big victory for us isn’t it? Finally, the government could only muster 122 votes, after getting the main opposition to join as well. This is a government that spoke with pride about two months ago that they have a two-thirds majority in Parliament.
Why were you defeated in this no-confidence motion? Where did you go wrong?
A: The Leadership of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party engaged in a huge betrayal. That is very clear. Instructions were given by the SLFP and a group of leaders did what was required for this no-confidence motion. Finally, the leadership of the SLFP betrayed its senior leaders, the country, and the mandate of the people.
Whom are you accusing by that?
A: The Chairman of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party Honourable President Maithripala Sirisena; he said he cannot continue to rule with this Prime Minister. He said he cannot take a country forward in this manner. He said the economy of the country was destroyed during the past three years. He said he will make severe decisions. He said he will take a sword and cut and chop. He said if all 95 members of the United People’s Freedom Alliance stand together as one within the SLFP, he will establish a single SLFP Government. What did he not say? If he was going to do what he had said, this was the best opportunity to win this no-confidence motion. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the rest of us did our part. However, President Maithripala Sirisena did not fulfil his responsibility to the party properly.
It is unfair to accuse only President Maithripala Sirisena. The representatives of the UNP who said that they too will vote for the no-confidence motion, ultimately changed their stance?
A: There is a reason for that. When A.H.M. Fowzie declared to the media that the SLFP will abstain from voting a number betwixt 20-25 from the UNP who were prepared to vote in favour of the no-confidence motion took a step back and followed a more protective process. That is correct. The reason for all this was the SLFP changing its stance.
How would this affect the future of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party?
A: This betrayal the SLFP engaged in will be written in the history of the party only below Somarama’s name. History will make a note that all of these people are at fault and engaged in the biggest betrayal.
However, at the meeting of the Parliamentarians of the SLFP which was held under the patronage of the President, didn’t they decide unanimously to vote in favour of the No-confidence motion?
A: Yes, such a decision was made and Media Spokesman of the SLFP Dilan Perera issued a statement too. Therefore, the question for us, is why did this happen. If President Maithripala Sirisena remained firm regarding one decision, this would not have happened. We said earlier that we would win this no-confidence motion only if we received the support of the SLFP. Based on the promise given to us by the SLFP we kept these 95 votes stable and made the calculations.
Nevertheless 16 members of the SLFP did vote in favour of this no-confidence motion?
A: All the people in the country as well as we commend those 16 of the SLFP who voted in favour of this no-confidence motion. Whatever challenges they faced, if they did not make this decision in fear, today, the SLFP would have become like a dog tied up by chains at Sirikotha UNP, Party Headquarters. The respect of the members of the SLFP who did not vote should also go to these, 16 persons who did vote in favour of the no-confidence motion.
You said the present government does not have a two-thirds majority. Then do they have a simple majority of 113 then? How is that created?
A: Yes, the simple majority of this government is together with the Tamil National Alliance.
However, the post of Opposition Leader has been granted to the TNA. As you mention how could they be a part of the government?
A: The TNA has already become a part of this government. If they voted in favour of the budget, Sri Lanka must be the only country in the world which has an Opposition Leader who supports the Prime Minister in a no-confidence motion. The TNA has supported every Act or Bill that was presented by the government.
However, the TNA does not represent the Cabinet of the present government, do they?
A: That is not required. How many are there in the government who do not represent the Cabinet?
As you say if the Opposition Leader is also a part of this government, why don’t you work towards getting the post of Opposition Leader for the Joint Opposition?
A: Not merely based on the current situation of this Parliament, but even before, the post of Opposition Leader should have been granted to the Joint Opposition. Therefore, in Parliament the present post of Opposition Leader should definitely be granted to the JO. The Leader of the Joint Opposition Dinesh Gunawardena will make a request from the Speaker to give us the post of Opposition Leader.
This no-confidence motion was submitted by the Joint Opposition saying that you cannot wait until 2020 and to prevent harmful things from being done to the country, it is necessary to change the government. So, now it seems as if the JO will have to wait until 2020 isn’t it?
A: You cannot say that. Even if the no-confidence motion is defeated many things could happen before 2020. To push the government into the election map that will be there until 2020. Within these three months only, three Provincial Council Elections have to be conducted. Even though there is a change of heads in Parliament based on the power of money and by granting various privileges, the people’s opinions cannot be changed like that. As of now there is a powerful opinion against the government which is being built up among the people. An opinion far worse than the one that was there prior to the Local Government Elections, is being built up now.
Although you say this, what the UNP is saying is that this no-confidence motion was a blessing in disguise for them. Is it not a challenge for you that they are saying, that with this victory, they are going to commence a forward journey with new stamina?
A: No, definitely not! I can tell you the fate of the no-confidence motion in one sentence. I can define the no-confidence motion as one that brought about a number of victories.
I will remind you of the way in which the UNP who said they have become stable after defeating the no-confidence motion, acted. How did the UNP which let’s say achieved stability in whatever way, behave? Within the first 10 minutes after the results were announced, an attempt is said to have been made to assault Deputy Speaker Thilanga Sumathipala by a UNP Cabinet Member within the high security zone itself. The Deputy Speaker had made a complaint to the Speaker on the spot. Within one hour after the results were announced, the Sirasa media network which is a main media network in the country was attacked in a very dirty manner. An army of thugs went and threatened them and attacked them for several hours. Even pregnant employees working at that media institution had fallen on the floor. They had even attacked the Buddha Statue at the Sirasa Media network premises. All of this was done by an army of thugs of the UNP. Is this Lichchavi administration? Therefore the day when this government which is against the people will be sent home is not too far away.