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Sri Lanka President’s party retains jobs of dissidents

ECONOMYNEXT – President Maithripala Sirisena is due to assign the portfolios of rebels within his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) faction to other ministers of the same party at a ceremony later Thursday, official sources said.

Ministers Susil Premajayantha, John Seneviratne, Anura Yapa, Dayasiri Jayasekara, Chandima Weerakkody and S. B. Dissanayake – all from the SLFP, but who voted for a no-confidence miotion against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on April 4, have resigned.

They reluctantly resigned after Wickremesinghe’s  United National Party (UNP) submitted a motion of no-confidence in them. The UNP had demonstrated it had a comfortable majority in parliament and if a vote was taken against the Sirisena-faction SLFP ministers, they would have had to go.

It is not clear if a full reshuffle of the cabinet will take place before the New Year. Sirisena is due to fly to London on Sunday.

Rebel ministers within Sirisena’s faction of the SLFP had expected to keep their jobs despite voting against the Prime Minister. However, pressure from the UNP legislators had forced the president to change course and ask them to step down as Sirisena’s own position in the government was becoming tenuous.

 The no-confidence motion (NCM) against  Wickremesinghe was initiated by the Joint Opposition, which includes a majority of SLFP legislators who are loyal to former president Mahinda Rajapaksa. Later, Sirisena himself is reported to have supported the NCM against Wickremesinghe.

 Rajapaksa’s legislator son Namal has already blamed Sirisena for the defeat of the NCM saying he betrayed both Wickremesinghe, who had helped him to come to power in January 2015 and the JO.

 The premier comfortably defeated the move to oust him, but angry UNP backbenches were 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 to go or through a no-trust move in parliament.

Despite Wickremesinghe attempting to restrain his back benchers , they were determined to get rid of the rebel ministers ion the cabinet.

Wickremesinghe has said he wanted to resolve the issue through negotiations. And it appears that he had managed to convince the President to get his rebels to go without the embarrassment of being forced out. (COLOMBO, April 12, 2018)





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