Joint opposition tipped to call for a secret vote on no-faith motion SLFP ministers, except a handful, confident of ousting the PM
Posted on March 23rd, 2018

Courtesy Ceylon Today

President Maithripala Sirisena received a warm welcome extended by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko in the land of the rising sun at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Later, the two Leaders held bilateral talks following which they toured the Imperial Palace, taking in the sights.

Though the season of Cherry blossoms has begun as the spring has started, President Sirisena like many other heartbroken tourists did not get a chance to witness the beauty as the full bloom of Cherry blossoms will happen around April in Tokyo.

However, the Emperor and Empress did not disappoint their guest as they escorted President Sirisena and First Lady Jayanthi Sirisena to the garden of the palace and showed a tree full of red cherry-blossoms.

It is from Thailand. Hence the red colour blossoms,” Emperor Akihito offered an explanation.

State of Emergency
Meanwhile, President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe are expected to sit together and decide whether they should seek Parliament’s approval to extend the State of Emergency for another period with security forces alleged to have demanded to do so.

Following requests made to the Government, by the security and intelligence network of the country, to refrain from lifting the State of Emergency until the conclusion of investigations into the recent communal clashes in the Kandy District, the Prime Minister on Thursday informed the security heads that he would convey their request to the President once he returned to the island after his tour of Japan.

This request had been made by the security network to Premier Wickremesinghe during the Security Council meeting.

The security heads had informed him that already 70 per cent of the inquiries into the incidents had been completed.

However, the State of Emergency promulgated by the President just before leaving the country to undertake an official visit to New Delhi and then to Japan will automatically lapse unless extended with the approval of Parliament on Tuesday (20).

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe stated that one of the key reasons for the defeat suffered by the Government, at the 10 February Local Government Polls, was its inability to prevent the rising cost of living.

The Premier was speaking at the Damunupola temple in Kegalle on 15 March.
Referring to the recent unwarranted incidents that erupted in the Digana and Teldeniya areas in Kandy, he noted that when the trust among different ethnic and religious groups erodes systematically, then it automatically can have ripple effects on the smooth running of the Government as well.

Now, we must strive to rectify the situation though it may not be easy to begin with. We must study the reasons behind the eruption of such clashes and attempt to prevent them from recurring. As Sinhalese Buddhists, we should all remember to work with people who follow other faiths. As a Sinhala Buddhist nation, we must remember that it is our duty to work with such people without attempting to discriminate against them.”

Elsewhere he added that there are still many shortcomings that could be seen at the village level throughout the country.

Scores of youths and elders still seek better jobs and poverty is still prevalent. During the first two-year period, we had to grapple with many issues such as the paying of loans taken by the previous regime. But, the people did not have enough patience with it and we saw the result at the recent elections. There was also a fertilizer shortage. We failed to grasp the heartbeat of the people as a Government and this is a lesson that we must learn ahead of contesting future polls. We intend to bring down many investors to the country after the Sinhala-Tamil New Year and during that time we also intend to provide essential items at concessionary rates. Subsequently, we hope to develop the hotels, ports and airports. Hence by 2020, I am confident the people will be able to reap the benefits of these development projects.”

No- faith in PM
With the Joint Opposition all set to hand over their much awaited No-confidence Motion against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and his Government to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, on Tuesday (20), at least 36 Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) Parliamentarians including ministers, have signed another letter to be handed over to the President simultaneously.

A top SLFP Cabinet Minister told Ceylon Today that they are planning to hand over the letter to President Maithripala Sirisena early in the week.

We are enthusiastically engaged in gathering signatures for this letter, in which we have mentioned that we have no confidence in or desire to work with the incumbent Prime Minister due to a number of reasons. Therefore, we will inform President Sirisena, in writing, that we will be compelled to vote in favour of the No-confidence Motion, submitted by the Joint Opposition, in Parliament,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Joint Opposition will take a final decision on handing over the draft No-confidence Motion to the Speaker, following its Parliamentary Group Meeting chaired by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Tuesday morning.

We have already gathered more than the required number of signatures and only 20 signatures are needed for the motion to be accepted by the Speaker. Several SLFP and UNP Parliamentarians have also expressed their support to us. However, the final decision on when to hand over the motion and the type of the division we are going to call for, will be taken at the group meeting,” a JO Parliamentarian said, while indicating that the Joint Opposition will most probably call for a secret ballot on the No-confidence Motion thus, enabling UNP Parliamentarians to cast their vote independently.

The United National Party (UNP) group, that is seeking party reforms, including a change in Party’s leadership, said they will only take a decision on the No-confidence Motion once it is presented in Parliament.

It is still premature to take a decision on the matter, as the motion has not been submitted to the Speaker as yet. We will have to look at the points in the motion and then decide whether they are reasonable or not, before taking a final decision on voting in favour or against,” a State Minister in the group said.

Meanwhile, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) appear to be in a fix with not being able to support something spearheaded by the Rajapaksa-led group but not being able to say no to something that would speak about the Treasury bond scam.

Hence, they seem to have adopted a defensive line by stating they will take a final decision on the matter after studying the content of the No-confidence Motion. It is likely that the JVP will abstain from voting unless a secret vote was called.
The Tamil National Alliance also said to have not reached a consensus on the matter with the party being divided into two camps-one in favour of the motion and the other against.

Counter plan
Meanwhile, in what appears like an attempt to garner the support of the UNP Parliamentarians and to douse heating opposition against its leader, Minister Sagala Ratnayaka on Friday evening announced the new office bearers of the party will be appointed before 31 March 2018.

According to party sources, Party General Secretary Minister Kabir Hashim will most probably get replaced while an interim leader will be appointed for a certain period.

However, sources also claimed there are plans to propose an amendment to the Constitution to repeal Executive Presidency. The proposal most probably would be forwarded by the JVP who strongly believe that there should not be another presidential election in the country. The JVP politburo as well as the UNP group has discussed the matter as President Sirisena in his 2015 Presidential Election campaign had pledged to abolish the Executive Presidency.

MR to back Maithri
Former President and Kurunegala District MP Mahinda Rajapaksa who met Colombo based-foreign journalists and the members of the Foreign Correspondents Association at his official residence at Wijerama Mawatha Colombo 7 has said that they (Joint Opposition/Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna) have no problem in wholeheartedly supporting President Sirisena in the event, the latter sets up an SLFP Prime Minister-led government.

One Response to “Joint opposition tipped to call for a secret vote on no-faith motion SLFP ministers, except a handful, confident of ousting the PM”

  1. Nanda Says:

    Informative discussion- good for Christie to read carefully and comment

    India will look at things differently now; MR
    2018-03-24 09:31:36

    Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa in an interview with the Indian Express said that even though the present Indian government may have had reservations about his government in 2014, he believes they (India) will look at things differently now.

    Three years after he was swept out of office, Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka’s former President, thinks he is in with a chance to return to power. Last month, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), the party loyal to him, made a stunning comeback with a massive win in local body polls. And early this month, Rajapaksa’s rival and successor President Maithripala Sirisena had to declare a state of emergency for more than a week after Buddhist-Muslim clashes left the island-nation reeling.

    Although elections are not due in Sri Lanka until 2020, these developments have prompted Rajapaksa to press for early elections. In an interview to The Indian Express, Rajapaksa spoke on the possibility of his return to power, his role in the next presidential polls, the economic crisis in Sri Lanka and the Chinese debt trap.

    Excerpts from the interview:

    You had a massive victory in the local body polls. What does this mean for the party loyal to you?

    It is quite clear that people of Sri Lanka want to see us return to power. They want to see an end to the chaos that has reigned in this country since January 2015.

    Have you started talks with potential allies? Are new political equations emerging? How do you hope to reassure your critics such as civil society and human rights groups?

    We have been approached by some ministers and MPs from the ruling coalition. Some crossovers may take place in future. You referred to civil society groups and human rights groups. In Sri Lanka, most of these so-called civil society groups are not real civil society groups but NGOs funded by Western nations. Such groups support only those who promote the agenda of their paymasters. In India, I believe things are very different.

    It has been nearly a decade since the war ended. Has peace returned?

    After the war was brought to an end, we concentrated on rebuilding affected areas with roads, schools, hospitals, irrigation works etc, restored civil administration and re-established democratic institutions. Our aim was, and will be, to have a united Sri Lanka where members of all communities have equal rights and equal opportunities and are assured personal safety.

    What is left for the country’s Tamils? What is the status of rehabilitation and the reconciliation effort?

    Sri Lanka is a textbook case of how a problem arose in the 1950s due to a series of misunderstandings and deliberate misrepresentations in a situation where there had been no problem earlier. This was started by opportunistic politicians who saw communal politics as an effortless way to win and retain popular support. In time, this escalated into a war that shook not just Sri Lanka but also India and the whole world. Unfortunately, even after the war, certain foreign powers and interest groups operating from overseas have not allowed things to stabilise in this country. Today, the biggest obstacle to reconciliation between the various communities living in this country is interference by overseas-based interest groups and various foreign powers.

    How do you look at the recent communal tensions in Kandy?

    In my view, the disturbances in Kandy were a natural outgrowth of a project that was started in 2012 to defeat my government. People were taken overseas by foreign governments, and some were granted multiple re-entry visas to powerful countries. Various organisations sprang up overnight and unknown people suddenly became public figures. This tension between the Sinhala and Muslim people was deliberately created 2012 onward. The mistake that we made was that we tried to do damage-control instead of dealing with it head-on. Muslims voted en masse against my government, thinking that we were behind these organisations. But by now, most Muslims in this country have realised that the people responsible for all these incidents, in 2012 through 2014 to this day, are all in the present government, and not with us. What is necessary here is for the Muslims to observe the manner in which they were manipulated and used for a political project in January 2015. The incidents that we saw taking place last year and this year is due to an attempt by the same parties to use the Muslim community to further their political agenda yet again.

    You were in Delhi when Narendra Modi became Prime Minister. How do you look at India given that elections are due next year?

    When Prime Minister Modi was in Sri Lanka last year, I met him at the Indian High Commissioner’s residence in Colombo. The year 2019 will be an election year in India as well as in Sri Lanka. We got on well with the Congress government and I believe Shivshankar Menon, India’s former Foreign Secretary and National Security Advisor, made appreciative comments in his memoirs about the relationship that existed between our countries at that time. Prime Minister Modi was elected to power in 2014 and we did not have enough time to get to know each other better before I was voted out. Our aim will be to have cordial relations with both Congress as well as BJP-led governments.

    What is your reaction to observations on Sri Lanka moving closer to China, Chinese interests in the Indian Ocean region and the huge investments being made in Sri Lanka, Maldives and Pakistan?

    There was no question of betraying India. Sri Lanka has had close relations with the People’s Republic of China since it was founded. The relationship that my government had with China was purely economic. Some of the key projects that China did… like the Hambantota Port was first offered to India but was declined and it was then handed over to China. When my government was in power, there was never any move to lease the entire Hambantota free port along with its precinct of 5000 acres to a private company. My government had made plans to lease only the container terminal the same way the terminals in the Colombo harbour have been leased to private companies. But the free port and its 5000 acres would have remained under the Sri Lanka Ports Authority. I must say that China also never asked us to lease the free port to them. This idea of leasing the entire Hambantota free port to a private party came up only after the change of government in January 2015.

    How do you look at relations between Sri Lanka and China, and India’s complicated relations with Pakistan and China?

    Sri Lanka has always had close relations with India, China and Pakistan and these friendships will continue in the future as well. Pakistan is a valued friend which has helped us at crucial moments during the war and on the diplomatic front. Likewise China is a valued friend with whom we have had many economic dealings. It has helped us on the economic front. Even though the present government of India may have had reservations about my government in 2014, I believe they will look at things differently now.

    Since the 19th amendment of the Sri Lankan Constitution doesn’t allow you to contest in the presidential poll for the third time, where do you place yourself in the next presidential poll?

    My role in the next presidential election will be the same as the role I played in the recent local government election. I will lead the campaign on behalf of the candidate chosen by the joint Opposition and the SLPP.

    You have issued statements on a failing economic situation. Is Sri Lanka facing an economic crisis?

    What I was trying to show was that even though there was this talk of huge debts incurred by my government for infrastructure projects, the loans taken for those projects was actually quite small when compared with the foreign currency borrowings of the present government. Sri Lanka was never in any kind of Chinese debt trap during my tenure in office even though some sections of the Western media portrayed it as such. Today’s debt crisis has been brought about by the present government.

    After the recent riots, you said a coalition comprising Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslim leaders like the post-independence government should be ideal for Sri Lanka. What is your message to minorities in the country?

    My message to the Tamil people of Sri Lanka is that they should not be influenced by the propaganda of overseas-based organisations and various other interested parties. The Tamil people of Sri Lanka should realise that there are Tamil communities living in India, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa and many other countries and they all lead normal lives. However, in Sri Lanka we see that the Tamil people are being deliberately denied a normal life by forces that want to use them to carve out an independent Tamil state. Even after the war ended, this attempt has not ceased because foreign parties are keeping alive the hope of incremental progression towards a separate state.

    Where do you place your two brothers in your political and personal life?

    Ours has always been a very united family. Gotabaya and Basil came from overseas to help me in my presidential election campaign in 2005 and on my request, they both stayed back to help me administer the country. I did not get them involved in my government simply because they were my brothers, but because they had abilities that the country could use. I think they both proved themselves in the tasks they undertook. But both have made their mark. After I lost power in January 2015, both have faced persecution by this government. We have never had any falling out among ourselves.

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