President’s parely with party leaders ends inconclusively

by Rathindra Kuruvita

Yesterday’s party leaders’ meeting, convened by President Maithripala Sirisena to break the political deadlock, in parliament ended inconclusively.

“We told the President that we could show a majority again but the President didn’t show much interest,” UNP MP Lakshman Kiriella said last night.

MP Ajith P Perera added that the UNP had requested a meeting with the President at 10 am today at the Presidential Secretariat to hand over affidavits from 113 MPs pledging their support for ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. “However he evinced little interest in our request,”Perera said.

Sources said that UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa was scheduled to lead the delegation, however his party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe had, at the eleventh hour, decide to attend the meeting. MP Premadasa, too, was present at the meeting.

The UNP delegation insisted that their second NCM was against the incumbent government and as it had been passed there was no longer a government headed by Prime Minister Rajapaksa.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said that he was ready to step down from the post of Prime Minister anytime if the UNP could pass a no-confidence motion against him and his government in proper manner.

The Prime Minister pointed out that some MPs who had signed a no-faith motion against former Prime Minister Wickremesinghe had withdrawn their signatures at the last minute when the motion was put to debate in parliament. A document containing signatures alone could not be accepted as proof that a particular party had a majority in Parliament.

He asked all parties to help him continue, respecting parliament traditions, sources said.

During the meeting, the President spoke to MP Premadasa and UNP seniors cordially and exchanged views with them but cold-shouldered Wickremesinghe and did not respond to his submissions, according to sources.

SLPP MP and Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said that the President had insisted that UNP and its allies adhere to parliamentary norms and traditions.

Meanwhile, issuing a press release President Maithripala Sirisena stated that he had informed all party leaders that if he was to consider accepting the NCM against the government, it should be adopted with the help of the electronic voting system or through a vote taken by name.

“They are the only ways that I, the general public and the international community can accept as for the NCM. To make a decision on important matters like changing a government a voice vote is not acceptable although it is legal.”

Minister Bandula Gunawardena told the media yesterday that the current chaos in parliament made the UPFA and the JO wonder whether there was any point in attending Parliament. “We are having a Parliamentary Group meeting on Monday at 11 am to decide on a future course of action.”

At the time of going to press the parliamentary groups of the UNP and UPFA were holding separate discussions. The UPFA discussion was being held at the Presidential Secretariat with President presiding while the UNP discussion was at Temple Trees party leader Wickremesinghe presiding.

Meanwhile, JVP boycotted the party leaders’ meeting, convened by President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday evening, while Speaker Jayasuriya excused himself there from it on the grounds that it was meant for party leaders.

Writing to the President, JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake said that the current political crisis had occurred due to the conspiratorial actions of the President. “The current instability is due to your actions. This is the first time that such a crisis has dragged on for so long since Independence.”

Dissanayake has said, in his letter that the current political crisis, was consequent five controversial actions by Sirisena. “These are appointing a PM, who does not command the confidence of Parliament, appointing a Cabinet, state and deputy ministers, proroguing the parliament after realising that Rajapaksa did not have the support of a majority of MPs, attempting to buy off MPs, dissolving parliament and not accepting two no-confidence motions passed by Parliament against illegally appointed Prime Minister and the Cabinet.

“You have created this mess. So it’s up to you to clean it up. As a responsible political party, we have done everything in our power to help solve this and now it up to you to do the right thing.”

Representatives of the United National Front (UNF), United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) and Tamil National Alliance (TNA) attended the meeting.