Ranil vetoes no-confidence move against Sri Lanka President loyalists
ECONOMYNEXT – Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has vetoed a move by his United National Party (UNP) backbenchers to oust six Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) ministers loyal to President Maithripala Sirisena, the government said.
The UNP on Friday gave notice of a motion of no-confidence against ministers Susil Premajayantha, John Seneviratne, Anura Yapa, Dayasiri Jayasekara, Chandima Weerakkody and S. B. Dissanayake as well as deputy Speaker Thilanga Sumathipala. All seven are said to be strong loyalists of President Maithripala Sirisena who is said to have been driving Wednesday’s failed bid to topple Wickremesinghe.
The no-confidence motion (NCM) against Prime Minister Wickremesinghe has further split the SLFP’s Sirisena faction with a group of 22 absenting themselves at the time a vote was taken on Wednesday.
The premier comfortably defeated the move to oust him, but angry UNP backbenchers are out for blood seeking to expel the six SLFP ministers for voting against Wickremesinghe. The Prime Minister has no power to sack ministers and the only way to get rid of them is either for the president to sack them or through a no-trust move in parliament.
UNP sources said backbenchers decided to bring a no-confidence motion against the SLFP ministers because Sirisena was not agreeable to sacking his ministers deepening a conflict within the fractured coalition government.
However, Wickremesinghe, instructed his members on Friday night to withdraw the NCM against SLFP ministers, leaving UNP backbenchers surprised. With pressure building within the UNP rank and file for decisive action against SLFP ministers, Wickremesinghe may not be able to hold back for too long, a source close to Wickremesinghe said.
“In his capacity as the leader of the UNP, while noting that any decision regarding a no-confidence motion must be taken at a UNP parliamentary group meeting, the Prime Minister has instructed UNP backbenchers to withdraw the no-confidence motion,” the UNP said.
The source close to Wickremesinghe said the Prime Minister’s veto of the NCM may be reopening the threat to his leadership of the party unless he takes a tougher stand against the SLFP ministers who voted against the government.
Wickremesinghe has said he wanted to resolve the issue through negotiations. “Further decisions on the matter will be taken at a UNP group meeting, soon. The Prime Minister has asserted that the issues with the SLFP would be resolved through negotiations,” the UNP said.
The UNP defeated the no-confidence motion against Wickremesinghe with a comfortable majority of 46 seats.
MPs voted 76 in favour of the motion and 122 against while 26 legislators were absent in the 225-member assembly at the end of a lengthy polemic debate which saw invective and barbs thrown from both sides of the House.
A notable absentee at the vote was MP Malith Jayatillake, a senior aide of President Sirisena who was accused of having been the driving force behind the NCM move which was initially mooted by the Joint Opposition of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa.
State minister Nishantha Mutuhettigama who signed the NCM motion was also not present at voting time. (COLOMBO, April 7, 2018)