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Sunday July 25th, 2021

Sri Lanka’s UNP, NPP to vote against energy minister against better judgement

ECONOMYNEXT – Both the United National Party (UNP) and the National People’s Power (NPP) will vote in favour of a no confidence motion against Sri Lanka’s energy minister Udaya Gammanipla Tuesday (20), MPs said, though neither party believes the move to be politically sound.

Former prime minister, UNP leader and the party’s sole representative Ranil Wickremesinghe told parliament Tuesday that he will vote in favour of the motion though he is of the view that the opposition should instead be voting against all cabinet ministers.

Main opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) MP S M Marikkar moved the no confidence motion against Gammanipla Monday (19) morning over the latter’s role in the recent, highly controversial fuel price hike.

An amendment proposed by Wickremesinghe that the motion include the entire cabinet was rejected by Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena Tuesday morning.

Related: No-faith motion: Former Sri Lanka PM proposes amendment to include entire cabinet

“The energy minister was one of the parties responsible for the fuel price increase. But it’s actually the finance minister that increases the price, in any government. As far as I know, this has not changed. So the finance minister is also responsible.

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but the cost of living committee also discussed this matter – which means the ministers on that committee must also be included,” said Wickremesinghe.

Signed by 43 SJB MPs including opposition leader Sajith Premadasa, the motion cites an official statement by ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) general secretary MP Sagara Kariyawasam blaming the price hike on Gammanipla. The energey minister, however, maintains that the price increase was a collective decision made by the pricing committee, a sentiment that’s since been echoed by the government.

“The new finance minister must also be included since the price has not been brought down as promised,” said Wickremesinghe, referring to statements made by a number of backbencher MPs in the government who claimed that newly sworn in Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa would not have allowed a fuel price increase.

“This motion has evidently been brought over a statement attributed to MP Sagara Kariyawasam. He has since retracted that statement. He is no longer of that position,” he added.

Wickremesinghe said the no confidence motion has resulted in bringing government MPs together.

“Now all the minsters have united. The government is collectively ready to show its strength,” he said.

Speaking to EconomyNext from parliament, NPP MP Dr Harini Amarasuriya said though the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP)-led coalition will vote in favour of the motion for a number of concerns with regard to the energy minister, the party believes the move has given increasingly disillusioned government MPs a rallying cry.

“We’re not very happy with the motion, in that we don’t think it was politically very useful or strategic at this point. It’s kind of playing to the gallery. We’re voting in favour of it because we do have a problem with what’s going on with the fuel price increase, and the fact that the government has not given the advantage of the global reduction in oil prices to the consumer at any point,” said Amarasuriya.

The MP said what came of the mysterious fuel stabilisation fund was also a key concern.

Related: Sri Lanka minister warns of financial terror, mystery deepens over fuel stabilisation fund

“We have a lot of questions and concerns. That’s why we’re voting in favour, but we don’t think that this no confidence motion is very strategic at this point because it has given an opportunity for  government members who were showing some dissatisfaction with the government an opportunity to rally,” she said. (Colombo/Jul20/2021)


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