A sharply divided House debated the crucial no-faith motion against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe for 12 full hours on Wednesday. As hectic backroom negotiations on the final numbers each side could muster to ensure the failure or success of the motion continued outside the chamber, parliamentarians locked horns and traded barbs in fiery speeches, taking turns to attack the current Government and the former Rajapaksa regime on corruption allegations. The following are out-takes of some of the best speeches of Wednesday’s heated debate in the House, before the JO motion was defeated 122 votes to 76 on the floor, securing Wickremesinghe’s hold on the second highest office of the land.
Will not be party to moves to destabilize unity government – M.A. Sumanthiran (TNA)
None of us want corruption to continue in this country. This Government obtained a mandate to fight corruption and it was the most pronounced issue on which the people voted for the common opposition candidate. All of us worked together and brought about that change.
We see this No Confidence motion as the first step in the assault on the Government of National Unity. Perhaps, the second will be aimed at the Speaker’s chair, and the third, at impeaching the President himself. That design goes against the mandate that people of all communities granted to mainly the two main parties in this country.
In the motion that is under debate today there is a certain reference about incidents that occurred in the Kandy District. The reference says the Prime Minister as Minister of Law and Order had failed to take immediate measures to provide protection to Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim people. I wonder why Sinhalese and Tamils are mentioned in that motion. The whole country knows, even those who have signed this motion concede that this was violence against the Muslim people. This shows the mind of those who have signed this motion. They are so reluctant to admit that the Muslim people were not protected. So they have to include the Sinhalese and the Tamils in it. They are loathe to concede that a minority section of this country, were the target of that violence.
So one can see the racist outlook of those who have signed this motion. I make mention of this because MP. Bimal Ratnayake referred to the fact that there is a rumour floating that says the UNP should not win this NCM vote with the vote of the Tamil National Alliance, because that will be detrimental to them.
It is the same racist thinking that says that puts that thought forward and I heard it a a moment ago from the opposition bench, the last speaker, mentioning the TNA by name. It is a message to the majority community of this country, it is to arouse communal racist feelings within the majority community that these thoughts are being put forward. I’m asking, what is wrong with the TNA voting in this motion before this House? Don’t the Tamil people have a democratic right to participate in this process? Isn’t what is being said – I don’t know who said it, I don’t know if the President said it – I am putting the question to the President – I hope he did not say it, I hope it is only a rumour.
In fact, the rumour says that a particular Minister asked the President, after all it was good enough for you to win with the votes of the TNA. But that thinking is prevalent and that is a matter that I want to raise. This is an issue of fundamental importance. So long as people think on those lines, there is no redemption for this country.
So long as people think that only the Sinhalese or only the Buddhists matter in this country, there is no redemption for this country.
I heard MP. Wimal Weerawansa say that the Prime Minister has agreed with the TNA that a new constitution would be adopted in three months’ time. So what is wrong with that? He has given us no such guarantee, but he should!
We will not be party to further those other objectives of others who have moved this as a first step towards destabilizing the national unity government and turning the direction back again to a destructive path.
There is yet time for President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to fulfil their mandate. We are disappointed with the progress made by this Government but we want that done in the next two years. Therefore, we will act in this House today with a view to giving the Government that space to complete that mandate.
2015 mandate betrayed – Bimal Ratnayake (JVP)
Whatever the motive to move the NCM, the Prime Minister has acted against his mandate of 2015. The Premier assumed office at a time when the people suffered a lot under the Rajapaksa regime. Unlike in 1977, this is not a Government formed with the support of UNPers alone. President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa have all betrayed the people who voted for them.
Today, even the intellectuals have condemned the ‘good governance’ as a total failure. The Premier deliberately defended some corrupt elements in the Rajapaksa family and the law was not enforced against them.
In such circumstances, the NCM is quite justifiable against the Prime Minister. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and most of the JO members didn’t seemingly entertain any interest in winning the NCM and only a few JO MPs of the ‘Gotabaya kalliya’ and some of those with President Maithripala Sirisena are behind the NCM. The JO has made no real effort to win the motion.
MP Ratnayake said, the JO had put more efforts in securing power in local councils than sponsoring the NCM. Former President Rajapaksa had not even signed the NCM. JO MPs say, this Government has no love for the country and as such it will destroy the nation.
If the Government is so dangerous why didn’t the JO members put genuine efforts to win the NCM? On the other hand, the Prime Minister has betrayed the trust of those who voted for him in 2015.
He was elected to power to punish those who had committed wrongdoings. Even President Maithripala Sirisena who received a mandate to punish the culprits betrayed his mandate by protecting around 50 corrupt MPs.
This NCM is a product of the President. After the election, he asked the Prime Minister to quit and then attempted to form a Government. This NCM was brought after all those attempts failed.
This Central Bank Bond scam took place three years ago. An NCM should have been brought in when this scandal was proved by the investigations conducted by the COPE.
The idea of an NCM first came from the Maithri camp. ‘ Gotabaya kalliya’ wants to topple this Government as early as possible to cover up their court cases. It is the President who has betrayed the biggest mandate given to him by the people. He defended a large number of people who had committed various frauds during the former Rajapaksa regime. It was the President who received the mandate against fraud and corruption.
The JVP’s mandate is different from that of others. It is against both ‘blue and green ‘corruption. ‘Green crooks’ think, the JVP would attack ‘blue crooks’ in the same manner. Therefore, an NCM should be brought against all these crooks.
NCM during Rajapaksa era would have meant brutal punishment – Sarath Fonseka (UNFGG)
There is an ulterior motive behind the NCM. The intention of the JO was to win the NCM and topple the Government. We have reposed confidence in the Prime Minister, who is an educated, veteran politician. We accept his leadership in taking forward the Government in the next two years.
If anyone in the opposition had brought a no-confidence motion during the Rajapaksa era, his head would have been floating in the Nilwala River.
The Government cannot be toppled by removing the Prime Minister, it is only a futile thought on their part. The economy collapsed due to the huge debt obtained by the former ruler. At that time, there was no middle class and eighty percent of the people were poor while the capitalist class was only ten percent. Hence, we had to take over a country of that nature. At present, attempts are being made to take the country in the right direction through the Prime Minister’s policy for a sound economic management.
The Digana incident occurred just two weeks after the Prime Minister assumed the Law and Order portfolio. The responsibility for the Digana incident should descend from the President downwards. Among those arrested in connection with the Digana incident, three are Pohottuwa members. Those involved in the incident should be brought to book. It is only this Government which talked about true national unity and reconciliation. At the end of every election, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa said, he received the Sinhala votes. Today, he goes behind Muslim MPs and talks to them in the Parliament cafeteria.
Minister Fonseka said, Gotabaya Rajapaksa is a US citizen, but he held the Defence Secretary portfolio. He goes under the American flag and swears to safeguard America. Those days P.B. Jayasundara was called the ‘economic hit-man’. When the war was going on, I requested the then Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa to give Rs.100 million to purchase weapons but he turned down my request. When I met Basil Rajapaksa, he also repeated the same. However, the then Finance Ministry Secretary P.B. Jayasundera granted me Rs.100 million. Those days, the ‘unofficial’ Finance Minister was P.B. Jayasundera. He was found guilty by a court ruling. They caused a huge damage to the economy. The loss to the country by former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa from Avant Garde transaction is Rs.1 billion. It was the former Central Bank Governor, Aith Nivad Cabraal who was involved in the alleged Greek Bond issue, but NCMs were not moved against him. MP Namal Rajapaksa’s money is in Dubai accounts. The person who gave orders to distribute Rs.600 million worth ‘silr edhi’ is at liberty while only the officer concerned had to go to jail. The former regime swindled money even from ‘Sil redhi’. In addition, another Rs.200 million public funds had been wasted on almanacs. Those who didn’t utter a single word then are now making a big hue and cry in Parliament. The JO’s Presidential candidate is going to be a person who wasted Rs. 91 Million to construct memorials for his parents. Rs.11 billion was also wasted on the Mig deal.
We are not greedy for portfolios – Susil Premajayantha (UPFA-SLFP)
This NCM will not have any effect on the Executive President. It was the President who secured 6.2 million votes at the Presidential Election. The Treasury Bond scam took place during the first 100 days of the Government and we were not in that Government. We joined the consensual Government in August, 2015. Who appointed a Singaporean citizen as the Central Bank Governor? Even the Cabinet approval had not been given for this. Attorney-at-Law Pitipana who headed the Commission appointed by the Prime Minister to investigate the Treasury Bond scam is a lawyer junior to me as well. The recently concluded LG elections clearly reflected the public mandate. We have not committed wrongdoings. But some people panic when we talk about crooks. We are not greedy for portfolios and we can find our income avenue sources. Actually, it was President Maithripala Sirisena who decided to go for a unity government. “We are MPs truly representing the people, not like those ‘airlifted’. I was elected to Parliament from the Colombo district having obtained 175,000 votes and we are responsible to the people who voted for us.”
Conspirators within the Government – Harin Fernando (UNFGG)
Those ardent protagonists of the NCM were not even in the Chamber when the debate was in progress. This is an absurd NCM. It was only Ranil Wickremesinghe who held the Prime Minister portfolio four times. Then how dare one say ‘Ranil ta be (Ranil can’t). There are masterminds within the Government hatching conspiracies to destabilize the Government. Such people should be sacked from the Government. It is silly that being in the Government, a group of MPs orchestrate a campaign to topple the Government. Those who insulted the President calling him ‘hitan hutan’, finally reconciled to kowtow before him to get ministerial portfolios. The SLFP doesn’t really mean only the 16 members who voted for the NCM, but the remaining 42 MPs. Of them, 29 are with the Government. These 16 SLFP members who supported the NCM cannot further continue in the Government because it is Ranil Wickremesinghe who continues to hold the Prime Ministerial portfolio. Actually, it was not the Bond issue or Digana incident that was the basis for the NCM against the Prime Minister but it had its ulterior motive which everybody knows.
PM insensitive to people’s aspirations – Udaya Gammanpila (UPFA-JO)
There are 14 charges in the NCM. Not a single UNP MP spoke about these charges. The Prime Minister is not sensitive to the aspirations of the people. It courts danger to hand over the country for another one and a half years to a Prime Minister who always has his foreign agenda with him. While one set of people labored to bring in the NCM, others took advantage of pocketing billions of money. Here we are reminiscent of the pithy saying, ‘Uran kekuna thalanakota haban kukulanta raja magullu’. It is of course an act of merit to support this NCM. Can we further repose confidence in the Prime Minister? The UNP obtained only 30 percent of votes at the recently concluded LG polls. If the Prime Minister follows the British parliamentary traditions as he always claims, he should resign from his portfolio. Former British Prime Minister David Cameron resigned from his portfolio respecting the verdict of the majority. Three other leaders such as South Africa’s President, Ethiopian Prime Minister and Slovenian Prime Minister too resigned.