Sirisena-backed putsch fails as Ranil rallies dissidents
Posted on February 17th, 2018

by  Political Correspondent ECONOMYNEXT –Courtesy The Island

A last ditch attempt by President Maithripala Sirisena to oust Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has failed due to a constitutional hurdle and more significantly the lack of parliamentary support, sources close to both sides said.

President Sirisena had agreed to continue working with Wickremesinghe, but had a sudden change of heart on Thursday after meeting with his United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) and Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP)  seniors.

The two general secretaries of the parties, Ministers Mahinda Amaraweera and Susil Premajayantha told reporters that neither of them could work under Wickremesinghe and insisted that they would not be in a cabinet with him.

The duo raised Sirisena’s hopes of forming a SLFP/UPFA government with Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva as Prime Minister. Sirisena’s dream of being the leader of an unadulterated UPFA/SLFP cabinet was reinforced by his nemesis Mahinda Rajapaksa pledging conditional support.

The charismatic former president controls at least 56 members of parliament out of the 96 elected under the UPFA ticket, but even together they do not have an absolute majority of 113 seats required to constitutionally topple Wickremesinghe.

A senior official close to Sirisena said the president had been misguided by a senior lawyer who had advised him that he had the power to sack Wickremesinghe the same way he unceremoniously dismissed D. M. Jayaratne in January 2015.

However, he was told that the President’s power to dismiss the Prime Minister was taken away by the 19th amendment to the constitution. Some have argued that the president could sack the entire cabinet and thus the PM too would lose his job, but there is no provision to under Articles 48 (as specified in the 19th amendment) to remove the cabinet in toto.

Aides have argued that Sirisena could have pressed ahead ignoring constitutional provisions if he had an absolute majority as in the case of Mahinda Rajapaksa who used his executive power and the huge parliamentary majority to impeach Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake in 2013 using highly questionable means. In less than three weeks into office, Sirisena’s administration in January 2015 overturned the impeachment of Bandaranayake using equally controversial means, but thanks to a steamroller majority in the House.

Realising both the legal impediments and the lack of a parliamentary majority, the once gung-ho UPFA ministers went silent over the weekend with their efforts at a constitutional putsch backfiring and raising questions about their tenure in the National Unity government.

UPFA general secretary and minister Amaraweera had told the president in writing that no SLFP/UPFA member, himself included, could be in a cabinet with Wickremesinghe, a sentiment articulated over national television by Premajayantha.

While President Sirisena cancelled his meeting with senior editors on Friday, Wickremesinghe hosted senior journalists to tea at Temple Trees after a no-holds-barred press conference where he categorically declared that he will remain but with changes in his party and the cabinet.

In sharp contrast to the president’s camp, Wickremesinghe was careful not to criticize the president or his SLFP ministers. When asked how he could have Messers Premajayantha and Amaraweera in a future cabinet, Wickremesinghe said: “It is coalition politics. We have to get used to it. It was a little difficult for everyone at the beginning, but not anymore.”

He said the president had told him that he was spending the weekend at his home constituency of Polonnaruwa and they would discuss the composition of the new cabinet in the coming week. He expected the process of finalizing a new cabinet of ministers to take over a week.

Parliament meets on Tuesday for the first time after the February 10 local government elections and should the UPFA and the SLFP have sufficient numbers to oust Wickremesinghe they have no impediment to submiting a no-confidence resolution against the premier.

Despite UPFA attempts to push Nimal Siripala de Silva as a successor to Wickremesinghe, the somnolent transport minister made no public comments about accepting high office. Instead, he was attending temple ceremonies and offering poojas for good luck, a source close to him said.

Dissent within

Shortly after the local government election results showed that Wickremesinghe’s UNP had suffered a drubbing, the premier was under pressure from within the party to step down.

However, the final results were not as bad as initially feared and Wickremesinghe was slowly able to rally support and keep disgruntled elements under check. A party senior said he also earned sympathy from the rank and file after a private media channel went out on a limb to personally attack him.

“The media campaign against Ranil was an overkill and many people who saw the live coverage ended up feeling that he was unfairly targeted and began to rally behind him,” the source said.

Wickremesinghe himself told reporters on Friday that he accepted responsibility for the electoral humiliation and was carrying out a restructuring of the party. He said the leadership was in “transition without disruption” and wanted younger members to take a leading role.

He also admitted that the fallout from the bond scandal and his government’s failure to prosecute high profile members of the previous regime accused of corruption were key factors.

He said he had taken on board the powerful warning from the electorate and was on a course correction to swiftly deliver on electoral promises made three years ago to bring to justice those responsible for killings and corruption.

3 Responses to “Sirisena-backed putsch fails as Ranil rallies dissidents”

  1. Ananda-USA Says:

    The SPIN by ECONOMYNEXT in this article that SLFP/UPFA’s move to form a Govt has run into Constitutional Barriers is JUST THAT: A SPIN!

    As I had posted before, the 19A DOES ALLOW the whole Cabinet to be DIS<MISSED together with its first member the PRIME MINISTER.

    There is also another report the PM has rallied his dissenting troops. That IS troubling, because a SLFP/UPFA Govt will need as many as 11 defecting UNP MPs.

    EVEN MORE TROUBLING, is a PERPLEXING TURNAROUND by the Mahanayake's of the Malwatta and Asgiriya Chapters at this CRITICAL time in their REPORTED but unverified release advocating the continuation of the Unity Govt! See my post of the article below.

    COME ON Hamuduruweni ….. WHERE is YOUR SPINE? STICK to your GUNS that you had FIRED EARLIER in DEFENCE of our Motherland!

  2. Ratanapala Says:

    Malwatte Cheevaradhariya is a CIA/RAW spy who favors the UNP with no conditions attached. Asgiriya Cheevaradhariyas are as usual ‘fence sitters’!

  3. Ananda-USA Says:

    MOKODA WUNAY overight of Feb. n18, 2018??

    The SLFP/UPFA with the support of the JO was going to form a Govt with a majority well in EXCESS of 113 on Feb 18th. Yet, overnight the UNP is confidently claiming VICTORY! How did that happen?

    Did the promised CROSSOVERS from the UNP REFUSE to show up?

    There were also reports that a handful of SLFP MPs DISAPPEARED into hiding and switched off their cell phones, while an EPIDEMIC of SICKNESS struck some other SLFP mPs who checked themselves into Hospital!!

    Did the TRAITORS DISEASE strike WITHOUT warning as it did 200 years ago on March, 2015, and DID IN FACT AAPPAYA Sirisena ORCHESTRATE a SECOND BACKSTABBING??

    Thank God the POHOTTUWA was smart enough to stay beyond the reach of these Machiavellian TRAITORS who cannot be trusted!!

    JVP: SLFP’s traditional support base has shifted to a new camp
    February 19, 2018, 10:48 pm

    By Saman Indrajith

    JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake told Parliament yesterday that the results of the local government election had proved that the SLFP’s traditional support base had shifted to a new camp.

    Participating in the adjournment debate on the prevailing political crisis in the country in the aftermath of the local government polls, Dissanayake said: “The elections results have shown the world that SLFP is no longer at the Darley Road but elsewhere. We could not reach our target but we achieved some success. Ranil Wickremesinghe and Maithripala Sirisena should realise that they cannot dream of winning the next presidential election. They won’t be able to muster the forces which brought them to power at the Jan 08, 2015 election. The country needs to end their power gambling.

    Some try to interpret this election results as a referendum. If anyone does so, then there is no clear cut victor in this referendum for none had polled more than 50 percent.

    The incumbent government provides safe haven to fraudsters and thieves. It has become a den of thieves. The government acted in contravention of the mandate it received. The Prime Minister protected one set of thieves while the President protected another. The government failed to punish thieves. It could not punish a single person responsible for the crimes under the previous dispensation. The government delayed investigations. The people reacted by voting against it.”

    MEP leader Dinesh Gunawardena moving the motion for debate said the government’s time had come to an end. The government had no legitimacy. “People have rejected you. The government cannot say that the results are only of local government bodies. It is not so. Both the Prime Minister and the President engaged in the campaign and asked people to vote for them. People rejected them. Now, you have no mandate to run this country.”

    NFF Leader Wimal Weerawansa, seconding the motion, thanked the people for having sunk their differences and voted for the SLPP for the sake of the country. Now, those who lost would come up with statistical lies to cover up their humiliating defeat. “It is laughable that some pundits are adding up the votes all other parties which contested the LG election polled in a bid to make the SLPP out to be the loser.”

    Health Minister Dr Rajitha Senaratne said the Opposition had a dream of toppling the government but it had been shattered. There were media reports to the effect that the UPFA was breaking ranks with the government. The reports quoted Minister Mahinda Amaraweera. Now Minister Amaraweera denied those reports.

    MP Weerawansa challenged Minister Senaratne to prove that Minister Amaraweera had denied it. While Minister Senaratne was trying to read out from his mobile phone, MP Weerawansa said that if the minister had a document to prove it he could table it and what is read out from a mobile phone could not be considered official.

    Minister Senaratne: You are afraid of new technology. You have not passed even Ordinary Level.

    MP Weerwansa: I challenge the Minister to prove that I failed my O Level, if he can do so, I will resign.

    Minister Senaratne: There was a beggar minister, who took funds from his ministry and spent them to throw a party at his sister’s daughter’s wedding. There were no such beggars running ministries anywhere in the world.

    MP Weerwansa: Prove that allegation, Prove it. If you can prove it, I will resign from politics.

    Minister Senaratne: I need do nothing to prove it. Housing Minister in his budget speech tabled all the documents. You went into hiding then. He tabled those documents in this House. You are dreaming of toppling this government so that you can become a minister and influence investigations and get away.

    Opposition Leader R Sampanthan: The team led by Mahinda Rajapaksa could not poll at least 50 percent in last three elections including the recently ended local government elections. Parliament is not constituted on the basis of local government polls results. It is wrong to demand power in Parliament on the basis of local government results. During the early stage of their campaign Mahinda Rajapaksa said that Tamil eelam was being revived. It is abhorrent to play the racial card. If you continue to behave the way you have, eelam will bloom; it will bloom out of your lotus bud. We want a solution in a united, undivided, indivisible and single country. We have made our position clear. It is wrong to instigate communal feelings against a single community while we are demanding a political solution.”

    UNP MP Nalin Bandara said UPFA members had short-lived dreams of forming a government. You came here to prove you had 113 MP on your side today. You cannot now even find 13. I am not sure whether you can show at least three. The President gave you a dead rope. You swallowed it.

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