Udays reiterates New Fortress Energy deal harmful, dismisses SLPP  warning over dissenting views  

…strategy in line with post-2020 general election

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila has reiterated that the rebel group within the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) parliamentary group would continue its role regardless of consequences.

The leader of Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) Attorney-at-Law Gammanpila has stressed that their right to function as a dissident group was in line with an assurance given to the electorate in the run-up to the last parliamentary election in August 2020.

According to the Minister, the PHU and the National Freedom Front (NFF) led by Wimal Weerawansa reached consensus on several contentious matters.

The declaration was made at an event held at Muthurajawela where the former Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) stalwart launched a tree planting campaign to match the number of preferential votes he received at the last general election. The SLPP Colombo District candidate secured 136,331 preferential votes and was placed third in the list. Retired Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera (329,092) and Wimal Weerawansa (267,084) topped the district list.

Minister Gammanpila was responding to SLPP Chairman and Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris, who warned that dissent within the government parliamentary group wouldn’t be tolerated.

Addressing the weekly media briefing at the party headquarters, Prof. Peiris said whatever the differences within the parliamentary group once the government took a stand all constituents should abide by that decision. The Foreign Minister was referring to a spate of contentious matters, including the most recent dispute over an agreement with US-based New Fortress Energy group to supply LNG to Sri Lanka under controversial terms.

Minister Gammanpila emphasized that they had the right to pressure the government in case it pursued policies contrary to that of the mandates received at 2019 presidential and 2020 parliamentary polls.

Having discussed the political campaign the PHU carried out over the past several years, lawmaker Gammanpila said that they opposed the 20th Amendment to the Constitution when the cabinet approved the proposal without an internal discussion. “We didn’t keep quiet just because the controversial decision was taken at the very first cabinet meeting following the general election,” MP Gammanpila said.

Minister Gammanpila emphasized that the New Fortress deal was inimical to the country.

Several parties, including some of those who backed the SLPP at the presidential and parliamentary polls have moved the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal against the New Fortress deal.

Referring to the SLPP’s 2019 presidential election manifesto, Minister Gammanpila compared the way the cabinet of ministers, contrary to the party manifesto, had approved Indian and Japanese investment in the ECT (East Container Terminal) of the Colombo port.  Lawmaker Gammanpila pointed out that they had no option but to oppose the ECT project as it was contrary to their manifesto.

The NFF and the PHU have received the backing of the SLFP (Sri Lanka Freedom Party), the second largest party in the ruling coalition, in addition to the CP (Communist Party) and Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara led DLF (Democratic Left Front). The dissident group consists of over two dozen lawmakers and the crisis undermined near two-thirds majority enjoyed by the SLPP in parliament. The government group comprises 145 members.

Minister Weerawansa recently told The Island that they had to go public over the New Fortress deal as their efforts to halt it failed to achieve the desired results.

The NFF leader declared that the government brazenly manipulated the cabinet process to facilitate the US investment, a charge strongly denied by the SLPP.

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