UNFGG sticks together to defeat crucial no-faith motion | Sunday Observer

UNFGG sticks together to defeat crucial no-faith motion

After weeks of tug-o-war, the winning coalition in the August 2015 parliamentary poll – the United National Front for Good Governance - closed ranks, and managed to garner the vital support of the Tamil National Alliance with its 16 seats to defeat the Joint Opposition attempt to oust the Prime Minister by an overwhelming 46 votes, even with 26 abstentions from the SLFP, CWC and JHU’s Rathana Thero

The Joint Opposition’s (JO) much touted No Confidence Motion (NCM) against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was reduced to ‘sound and fury signifying nothing’ when it was defeated by a landslide majority in Parliament.

The UNP with its usual flair for wriggling out of complex political situations held its United National Front for Good Governance (UNFGG) ranks, and managed to muster the support of all minority parties predominantly, the TNA to support its cause. The serious miscalculations on the part of the JO that 27 members of the UNP together with several others would support the NCM ended up sadly in a damp squib. Several party ‘dissidents’ who were conspicuous in their criticism of the party leadership eventually reconciled themselves to vote against the NCM probably due to their understanding even at the eleventh hour, of dangers to the country if the Prime Minister is voted out at this critical juncture. At the end of a 12 hour marathon debate, the NCM received 76 votes in favour and 122 votes against, while 26 MPs were absent at the division taken by name.

Completely shattering the hopes of the JO, the entire United National Front (UNF) bloc voted against the NCM. The UNP State Ministers Palitha Range Bandara, Wasantha Senanayake and former Justice Minister and UNP MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe who were bent on supporting the Motion also voted against it while UNP Parliamentarian Ven.Athuraliye Rathana thera was absent at the voting. All minority parties in the UNF led by Ministers Rauff Hakeem (SLMC), Rishad Bathiudeen (ACMC), Mano Ganesan and P. Thigambaram (TPA) and the TNA voted against the motion.

Despite the unanimous decision by the SLFP Ministers to extend their support to the JO sponsored NCM, only 16 voted for the Motion while the rest of the SLFP Ministers were absent at the time of voting. The SLFP MPs in the Government ranks who voted in favour of the motion were Susil Premajayantha, Dayasiri Jayasekara, Dilan Perera, W.D.J Senewiratne, Lakshman Wasantha Perera, Dr. Sudarshani Fernandopulle, Tharanath Basnayake, Susantha Punchinilame, Anura Priyadharshana Yapa, S. B. Dissanayake, Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena, Chandima Weerakkody, Thilanga Sumathipala, Anuradha Jayaratne, T. B. Ekanayake and Sumedha Jayasena. The six JVP members too voted in support of the motion along with the JO MPs.

The absence of a majority of SLFP members in the Government was yet another clear reflection of the division in the SLFP over the NCM. The notable absence of both SLFP General Secretary Minister Duminda Dissanayake and UPFA General Secretary Mahinda Amaraweera along with other SLFP members Dr.Sarath Amunugama, Nimal Siripala de Silva, Faizer Mustapha, Ranjith Siyambalapitiya, Wijith Wijyamuni Zoysa, Piyasena Gamage, Mohan Lal Grero, Sriyani Wijewickrama, M.L.A.M. Hizbullah, A.H.M. Fowzie, Lasantha Alagiyawanna, Manusha Nanayakkara, Nishantha Mutuhettigama, Indika Bandaranayake and Weerakumara Dissanayake was clearly witnessed during the vote. Yet another notable absentee was CWC Leader Arumugam Thondaman.

Would further remain

Meanwhile, SLFP Ministers who voted for the NCM in a last minute press conference told the media that the Government and Cabinet is headed by President Maithripala Sirisena so that they would further remain in the Government. Some SLFP veterans such as, Ministers W.D.J. Seneviratne, Susil Premayayantha, Anura Priyadharshana Yapa and Dilan Perera were of the view that it is entirely up to the President to decide whether they should hold ministerial portfolios or not. However, some UNP members queried about the moral right of the SLFP Ministers to continue in the Government after they voted in favour of the NCM against the Prime Minister.

On the following day, some UNP members publicly announced their decision to move No Confidence Motions against 16 SLFP Ministers, State Ministers and Deputy Ministers who supported the NCM, blatantly violating the collective responsibility of the Government. They also asserted that UNP Ministers should not participate in Cabinet meetings until these 16 SLFP MPs are removed from their portfolios. The UNP members were highly critical of the conduct of the Deputy Speaker as he too voted for the NCM. JO Parliamentary Group Leader Dinesh Gunawardena on Friday drew the attention of the Speaker on continuous threats faced by the Deputy Speaker after he supported the NCM and requested the Speaker to take steps to ensure his security. Gunawardena said, the Deputy Speaker has complained to the Police about the death threats made against him.

Many Government legislators who joined the 12 hour marathon debate described the JO sponsored NCM as an attempt to destabilize the Government to realize their narrow political objectives. However, some Government members thanked the JO for moving the NCM, paving the way for them to repose their confidence in the Prime Minister. They questioned, when the Presidential Commission Report on Bond scam has not even mentioned the Prime Minister’s name what made them to move an NCM targeting the Prime Minister. Government law makers questioned the basis of the NCM which contains a series of baseless allegations for which the pm is not responsible at all. They claimed, this was an organized plot to bring down the incumbent Government.

JO Parliamentary Group Leader Dinesh Gunawardena moving the NCM attempted to give the impression that there is no confidence in the Prime Minister. He said it is a serious issue to decide whether the House itself has confidence in the Prime Minister or not. Gunawardena said, having come to power on January 8, 2015, the Government brought the Central Bank under the purview of the Prime Minister and a Singaporean national was appointed as the Central Bank Governor. The MP said there is only one Central Bank in the country and it is a known fact that its Governor has the power to influence the country’s economy. The Central Bank which is traditionally under the Finance Ministry was taken away from the Finance Ministry and placed under the Prime Minister and Arjuna Mahendran was appointed Governor, being well aware that he would not comply with the Government’s financial norms.

In a lighter vein

The Government members interrupting MP Gunawardena asked him where the JO members were as there were only a few members in the Chamber when he moved the NCM. Raising a Point of Order, UNP MP Nalin Bandara said they would also probe into Bond scams that had taken place since 2008. UNP MP Ajith Mannapperuma raising yet another Point of Order asked MP Gunawardena in a lighter vein whether it was the famous astrologer Sumanadasa Wickremesinghe who gave the auspicious time to move their NCM. JO front liner Dullas Alahapperuma who seconded the motion called upon all parliamentarians in the House to honestly feel the pulse of the 22 million people in the country and vote for the NCM against the Prime Minister.

Totally refuting the contents in the NCM against the Prime Minister, Leader of the House Minister Lakshman Kiriella said, since the COPE Report and the Bond Commission Report have not made any reference to the Premier being responsible for the Treasury Bond scam, the Motion has no effect at all. Minister Kiriella said, every time Ranil Wickremesinghe became Prime Minister, he appointed an opposition MP as the Chairman of the COPE. In 2002, he appointed the late Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle as COPE Chairman and this time it is JVP MP Sunil Handunneththi. Similarly, the Premier also set up Parliamentary Oversight Committees and gave chairmen posts to both, Government and Opposition MPs because he thought there was nothing to hide.

Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan attempted to convince the House, that the wording of the NCM and its timing are indicative of a political agenda rather than fixing responsibility on the Bond scam. The NCM seeks to implicate the Prime Minister in the Bond scam. Sampanthan pointed out the wording of the motion is too loose and too general in nature due to the lack of specific material against the Prime Minister regarding the Bond scam so that the motion lacks credibility. He also commented on certain misconceptions that the TNA backs the UNP as against the SLFP. Citing several examples, he explained how they extended their support to former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga in 1994 and 1999 and added that when the late Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike was deprived of her civic rights, they stood for her defence.

Airlifted

Science, Technology and Research Minister Susil Premajayantha who joined the debate announced the decision taken by the SLFP Ministers in the Government to vote for the NCM against the Prime Minister. He was very critical of the Treasury Bond scam and the manner in which the Government acted after the scandal. Government members were seen continuously interrupting the Minister’s speech. The Minister said, it was President Maithripala Sirisena who decided to go for a consensual government. He attempted to portray that the Treasury Bond scam took place during the tenure of a Government in which they were not stakeholders. “ We are MPs truly representing the people, not like those ‘airlifted’. I was elected to Parliament from the Colombo district having obtained 175,000 votes and we are always responsible to the people who voted for us.”

Explaining the JVP’s position on the NCM, JVP MP Bimal Ratnayake said, President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa have all betrayed the people who have voted for them. Whatever the motive to move the NCM, the Prime Minister had acted against his mandate received in 2015. The Premier assumed office at a time when the people had suffered a lot under the Rajapaksa regime. Unlike in 1977, this is not a Government formed with the support of UNPers alone. Today, even intellectuals have branded the ‘good governance’ as a total failure. The Premier deliberately defended some corrupt elements in the Rajapaksa family and the law was not enforced against them. In such circumstances, the NCM is completely relevant to the Prime Minister. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and most of the JO members didn’t seemingly entertain any interest in winning the NCM. Only a few JO MPs which he called ‘Gotabaya kalliya’ and some of those with President Maithripala Sirisena are behind the NCM.

Amid the continuous disturbances by Government members, the JO front liner MP Wimal Weerawansa who joined the debate remarked, “It is nothing but money which plays the role of defence for Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Here money matters very much more than one’s conscience.” Weerawansa said Parliamentarians like Hakeem who blasted the non-enforcement of law during the recent Digana incidents have displayed their nakedness in public. The MP also made the point that the NCM gave two weeks for the Prime Minister to talk to MPs he had never ever spoken to. The SLFP is shaken down to its foundation due to the impact of the NCM. Those who vote against the NCM will be dumped in the political graveyard by the people. He said the JO through the NCM has already made the change they long desired.

SLMC Leader Minister Rauff Hakeem referring to the NCM said it was a sort of still-born NCM. The NCM against the Prime Minister seems to be an attempt to remove him from the 2020 Presidential Election race. He noted, the SLMC supports the Prime Minister as they consider that the motion is merely an attack on the Yahapalanaya Government. The Prime Minister has become only a symbol, and the JO wants to destabilize the Government by moving this NCM. 

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