‘Opposition group within govt. not acceptable’
By Shamindra Ferdinando
The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) yesterday (08) declared that the government wouldn’t, under any circumstances, succumb to the rebel group within the ruling coalition.
SLPP Chairman Prof. G.L.Peiris emphasized that there couldn’t be several governments within an administration. Prof. Peiris, who holds the Foreign Affairs portfolio, declared that the SLPP wouldn’t accept an Opposition group within the government. The SLPP Chairman said so at the weekly briefing held at the party office.
The National List MP said that whatever the issues and differences of opinion within a coalition once the government took a stand on a particular matter the entire parliamentary group should abide by it. The SLPP group in the 145-member parliamentary grouping consists of 117.
Of the 30-member Cabinet of ministers, National Freedom Front (NFF) Leader and Industries Minister Wimal Weerawansa, Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) Leader and Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila and Democratic Left Front (DLF) Leader and Water Supply State Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara recently broke ranks with the SLPP leadership over the controversial agreement with New Fortress Energy on the Yugadanavi power deal et al. Although Nimal Siripala and Mahinda Amaraweera who represented the SLFP in the Cabinet refrained from joining the rebel project, on behalf of the party leader Maithripala Sirisena State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera joined the launch of the rebel campaign at the Solis Hall, Pitakotte.
The rebel group declared that they wouldn’t keep quiet for ministerial perks and privileges but take a stand in public interest.
Constituent parties opposed to the New Fortress Energy deal consists of over two dozen lawmakers with the SLFP being the largest among them. The SLPP members in the government parliamentary group comprised 14.
Having dealt with his recent visit to the UK where the focus had been on British investments in Sri Lanka and expansion of trade tries against the backdrop of Brexit and the current status of the ongoing Covid-19 vaccination project, Prof. Peiris said the right to dissent within a political grouping was nothing but a healthy sign of a democratic system. It wouldn’t be realistic to achieve 100 percent consensus on all issues, Prof. Peiris said, while underscoring the importance of a common stand on contentious issues.
Reiterating the SLPP’s call to address whatever the issues at hand, they should be addressed within the parliamentary group, Prof. Peiris advised that their problems shouldn’t be taken to the public nor external issues allowed to interfere with their programme.
Several parties, including nationalist groups led by Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera have moved both the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal against the energy deal. Trade unions representing major political parties are also opposed to the agreement.
Prof. Peiris said that the failure on the part of the constituents of reach consensus on issues of public importance undermined public confidence as well as that of the international community.
The same group spearheaded protests that compelled the current dispensation to rescind a decision taken by the previous government to sell 49 percent shares of the East Container Terminal (ECT) to India and Japan.
Prof. Peiris recalled how they got together in the face of growing international pressure on the country in the wake of the UNP-led administration betraying the war winning armed forces through the co-sponsorship of an accountability resolution at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). Declaring the overwhelming mandates received by the SLPP at 2019 and 2020 presidential and parliamentary elections, respectively, paved the way for the formation of a strong government, Prof. Peiris acknowledged the daunting challenge in maintaining the momentum.
Responding to media queries, SLPP General Secretary Attorney-at-Law Sagara Kariyawasam dismissed SLFP General Secretary Dayasiri Jayasekera recent comment on the conduct of ministers. National List MP Kariyawasam questioned the rationale in Jayasekera taking a critical stand while enjoying all perks and privileges as a State Minister. MP Kariyawasam challenged his colleague Jayasekera to be specific in his accusations. “Name the minister and what the specific issue is,” MP Kariyawasam said.
Commenting on recent social media reports, Foreign Minister Prof. Peiris stressed that there was absolutely no basis for claims as regards a dispute between him and Foreign Secretary Admiral Jayanath Colombage, a former Commander of the Navy. Prof. Peiris said that they worked closely and the Foreign Ministry performed its responsibilities amidst challenges.