ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s main opposition the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) has handed over a no confidence motion against Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, media reports said.
Chief Opposition Whip and SJB MP Lakshman Kiriella handed over the motion to Abeywardena at the Speaker’s office June 21 morning, the privately run English daily The Daily Mirror reported June 22.
Parliament convened at 10am June 22.
The SJB parliamentary group including Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa signed the no confidence motion against Gammanipla on June 16 over the recent fuel price hike.
The motion notes that, as per an official statement from the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) itself, the Energy Minister had increased fuel prices without the approval of the cabinet in contravention of the principle of collective responsibility.
The controversial SLPP statement, signed June 12 by party general secretary MP Sagara Kariyawasam, has caused much controversy, leading to speculation of an internal rift within the government.
Gammanpila has denied that decision was his own but, rather, was taken collectively by a cabinet sub-committee on the cost of living at a meeting chaired by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and attended by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The president’s office, too, said June 13 that the government raised fuel prices to strengthen the economy, the rupee and the banking system which has loaned over 652 billion rupees to the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation.
The motion also faults Gammanpila for maintaining high fuel prices since January 2020 that have yet to reflect falling prices in the world market.
Meanwhile, the SJB too is dogged by speculation of a conflict within its own ranks. The party said in a statement on June 08 that the parliamentary group had unanimously expressed their support for Premadasa’s continued leadership – in a kind of “confidence motion” – amid speculation that all is not well within. This was while the party leader was recovering from asymptomatic COVID-19.
A number of opposition parliamentarians have also gone on record questioning the fuel price drama, acknowledging the implausibility of a single minister unilaterally increasing the prices of fuel.
Rumours of infighting notwithstanding, the government still holds its near two-thirds majority in parliament. (Colombo/June22/2021)