A set back to the Mahinda Rajapaksa camp
Parliament yesterday reinforced the confidence on Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe defeating the Joint Opposition (JO) sponsored No-Confidence Motion against him with a comfortable majority. At the end of a 12-hour marathon debate, the Premier clinched the vote by a majority of 46 votes with 122 MPs voting against the No-Confidence motion and 76 voting for it at a division taken by name. The division was called by Leader of the House and Minister Lakshman Kiriella.
The Government members vigorously thumped their desks to express their pleasure as Speaker Karu Jayasuriya announced the final results at around 10 PM with 16 SLFP MPs voting in favour, while 25 SLFP members were absent at the time of the voting
Contrary to the entrenched position taken by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party that the SLFP/UPFA MPs would vote in support of the motion as a single body many members were absent for the debate and during the voting time indicating a clear divide in the SLFP ranks.
Altogether 26 Parliamentarians were absent during the time of the vote including UNF member Ven.Athuraliye Rathana Thera. Sixteen SLFP MPs in the government voted in favour of the motion
The entirety of the United National Front MPs voted against the motion with the sole exception of the Ven Athuraliye Rathana Thera who was absent. During a press briefing earlier in the day Ven.Rathana Thera said he had decided to abstain.
UNP member, former Minister of Justice Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe who was stripped of his ministerial portfolio recently also voted against the motion.
The Joint Opposition which was banking on 27 UNP MPs to turn renegade was in for a huge disappointment with all of them throwing in their lot with the Premier.
State Minister Palitha Range Bandara and Wasantha Senanayake addressing a press briefing earlier in the day stated that they would throw their weight behind the Prime Minister though they were poised to support the Joint Opposition sponsored No Confidence Motion against the Prime Minister, owing to differences
The JO move to oust Premier Wickremesinghe was dealt a further blow when state minister A.H.M.Fowzie announced just ahead of the debate in Parliament kicking off, that President Maithripala Sirisena’s party would abstain during the crucial night time vote. However his position was contradicted by State minister Laksman Yapa Abeywardene
Early in the debate the main opposition Tamil National Alliance, with its 15 seat bloc also announced it would not lend its support to the Joint Opposition motion of no faith against the Premier, pointing to the racist outlook of its signatories and their statements in the House regarding the TNA’s participation in the legislative battle.
JO frontliner Udaya Gammanpila virtually acknowledged defeat during the first half of the day, claiming in an interview inside the Parliamentary premises that President Sirisena and the SLFP had ‘let us down’.
The minority parties led by Ministers Rauf Hakeem (SLMC), Rishad Bathiudeen (ACMC), Mano Ganesan and P Digambaram (TPA), who are part of the UNF, buttressed their support to the PM by voting against.
The six members of the JVP voted in favour of the motion along with the Joint Opposition MPs.
Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa turned up as the quorum bell rang and voted for the motion. However, he neither took part in the debate nor entered the main chamber during the entire debate. He left the chamber before the final results were announced.
UPFA MPs Douglas Devananda (EPDP) and Manusha Nanayakkara also voted against. Independent MP Ven. Athuraliye Rathna thera was absent.
The group of the SLFP which voted in favour of the motion included Parliamentarians Susil Premajayantha, Dayasiri Jayasekara, Dilan Perera, John Seneviratne, Lakshman Wasantha Perera, Dr Sudarshani Fernandopulle, Tharanath Basnayake, Susantha Punchinilame, Anura Yapa, S B Dissanayake, Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena, Chandima Weerakkody, Anuradha Jayaratne, Sumedha Jayasena, T B Ekanayake and Deputy Speaker Thilanga Sumathipala.
Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva did not turn up during the vote but the SLFP group who supported the motion said he was also on the same page with them. However, none of them crossed over to the Opposition benches in Parliament yesterday despite voting in favour of the motion. The UNP members during the course of the debate vowed that they would not allow any SLFP MP who voted in favour of the motion to remain in the Government any longer.Later addressing a media conference several SLFP ministers disputed this position stating that only the President could remove them.
A total of 26 MPs were absent. Among them were Parliamentarians Mahinda Amaraweera, Dr Sarath Amunugama, Nimal Siripala, Duminda Dissanayake, Faiszer Musthapha, Mahinda Samarasinghe, Ranjith Siyambalapitiya, Vijith Vijithamuni Soysa, Piyasena Gamage, Mohan Lal Grero, Shriyani Wijewickrema, Lakshman Seneviratne, AHM Hisbulla, AHM Fowzie, Lasantha Alagiyawanna, Sarathi Dushmantha, Manusha Nanayakkara, Malith Jayathilake, Arumugam Thondaman, Weerakumara Dissanayake, Angajan Ramanathan and notably Kader Masthan who signed the NCM.
The NCM was submitted to the Speaker by the Joint Opposition on March 21 carrying the signatures of 55MPs including four SLFP members in the Government ranks. The defeat of the motion ended 14 days of number game in Parliament during which both the sides of divide clashed head on to secure the simple majority of 113 votes.
This was the 47th NCM in the Sri Lankan Parliament’s history and the third against a Prime Minister. Previously, two NCMs had been submitted and taken for vote against former Prime Ministers late S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike in 1957 and late Sirimavo Bandaranaike in 1975.
Political analysts were quick to describethis as a set back to the Mahinda Rajapaksa camp who strived hard to win the No Confidence Motion against the Prime Minister to mark their presence in the Lankan political arena and thereby creating political history.
This is the third No Confidence Motion against a sitting Prime Minister,the first two being against former Prime Ministers S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and Mrs Sirma Bandaranaike. Both those motions were defeated by a comfortable margin. Analysts also point out that such an exercise was necessitated by the Joint Opposition leadership to keep the raucous rank and file in the Joint Opposition intact, fearing that it would go astray owing to the problems facedd by them in selecting office bearers for the newly formed local councils.
The Joint Opposition will now have to re-energise its political strategy after the United National Front emerged unscathed in what is called a political plot to overturn the People’s mandate of January 8, 2015.