Posted on April 11th, 2018

Colombo, April 11 (newsin.asia): The 16 MPs and ministers belonging to the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) led by President Maithripala Sirisena, who had voted for the No Confidence Motion (NCM) against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on April 4, will be sitting in the opposition benches, but will support President Sirisena, a source close to the President said on Wednesday.

The source further said that the dissidents will not join the  Joint Opposition led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The Central Committee of the SLFP met President Sirisena late on Wednesday to take a final decision on the party’s stand on the NCM against the Prime Minister.

Six cabinet ministers, namely, S. B. Dissanayake, John Seneviratne, Dayasiri Jayasekara, Susil Premajayantha, Anura Priyadarshana Yapa and Dayasiri Jayasekara had voted for the NCM. They  have already resigned from the government on moral grounds. Along with ten other MPs, and State and Deputy Ministers who had also resigned, these dissidents will be sitting in the opposition benches and supporting President Sirisena.

The 25 SLFP Ministers and MPs who had abstained from voting on the NCM, will however continue to support President Sirisena and serve in the Council of Minister if appointed to it in the reshuffle which is  due in the next few days.

The SLFP dissidents do not want to work with the coalition partner United National Party (UNP) led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as his right wing and pro-West policies are distasteful to them.

The dissident Ministers might have faced a Motion of No Confidence against them filed by UNP MPs, if they had stayed put.

The resignations of the ministers and the decision of 16 MPs to sit in the opposition will not affect the stability of the SLFP-UNP coalition government because the government will still have the needed number of supporters in parliament.

The UNP with its allies in the SLFP ,along with the MPs of the United National Front  and the 16 MPs of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), will have the support of 145 MPs in a House of 225. The minimum number required to have a simple majority is only 113.

Therefore, the SLFP-UNP National Unity Government led by President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe will continue. Its term ends only in  August 2020.

However, the ball is in Wickremesinghe’s court now. He has to maintain his following in the UNP in the face of impatient dissidents. There are 25 to 27 UNP MPs who had been campaigning for Wickremesinghe’s removal if he did not change the leadership of the UNP and infuse new and young talent into leadership positions.

Wickremesinghe had asked for, and had got time until April 30 to bring about the changes. Meanwhile, he asked for  for and got the resignations of the Chairman of the UNP, Malik Samaraweera and the General Secretary Kabir Hashim to give party cadres a foretaste of the kind of changes they expect.

But if he does not being about the kind of changes expected by his party men, especially the dissidents, the UNP itself would be in turmoil and the stability of the National Unity Government might be in doubt, political observers say.

(The featured picture at the top shows Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in a happy mood. His government is safe despite a division in the coalition partner SLFP)


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