Opposition has no strength to set up Government - Rohitha Abeygunawardene | Sunday Observer

Opposition has no strength to set up Government - Rohitha Abeygunawardene

8 May, 2022

Deputy Speaker Ranjith Siyambalapitiya on Friday decided to step down from his position one day after being re-elected to the position. As reported by the media, he has already sent his resignation letter to the President.

The newly elected Deputy Speaker Siyambalapitiya said that he made this decision after considering the repeated requests from the public. Siyambalapitiya was elected uncontested to the post of Deputy Speaker on August 20, 2020 and he decided to step down from his position on April 30, with his Party - the SLFP defecting from the Government.

He was re-elected to the post at a crucial vote with 148 votes in favour with the support of Government Parliamentarians on Thursday, May 5. The SJB backed candidate - Imithiaz Bakeer Markar garnered only 65 votes.

A tense situation arose in the House on Thursday when the Speaker announced that the MPs had to indicate the name of the preferred candidate and place their signature at the bottom of the voting form during the vote to select the Deputy Speaker.

Chief Opposition Whip MP Lakshman Kiriella argued that by requesting the MPs to sign their voting form it would not protect their anonymity and secrecy in voting. However, the Speaker insisted that the Standing Orders cannot be changed.

Amid an uproar in the House, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa said that the Speaker has the authority to suspend the Standing Orders and allow the MPs to vote safeguarding their anonymity. “There are many Government MPs who need to vote in our favour. Hence, if they have to sign their vote, that would create a problem,” he said.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekara said that this was the same manner that the vote was conducted in 2015 and added that the Opposition is unaware of the parliamentary voting mechanism and neither are they aware of what is happening in Parliament.

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa told Parliament on Thursday that the political game in Parliament was clear based on the results of the election of the Deputy Speaker. He made these remarks soon after the appointment of Ranjith Siyambalapitiya of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) as the Deputy Speaker, defeating Imthiaz Bakeer Makar, representing the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB). Premadasa said that although SJB had decided to support Siyambalapitiya’s candidature, the decision had to be changed after learning that the SLPP would also vote for him.

He said, “Various people are trying to mislead the whole country. It was revealed to the whole country today. We changed our decision with the SLPP support for Siyambalapitiya. He became a henchman of the Government. At this time, it is clear to the people, clear to those involved in the struggle as to who is misleading them. What is happening in Parliament is a political game. We are clearly against the President. We are against the Government.”

Lost opportunity

SLFP General Secretary MP Dayasiri Jayasekera said they lost an opportunity to show that the Government does not have a majority in Parliament, due to the divisions within the SJB. He said “If the SJB did not change their stance over the election of Deputy Speaker, we could have shown the world that the Government has lost the majority in Parliament.”

At a press conference in Colombo, Jayasekera said that the Independent Parliamentarians Group had decided to propose Ranjith Siyambalapitiya as their nominee for the Deputy Speaker’s post and the main Opposition Party, the SJB had informed them that they would support Siyambalapitiya’s candidature. Jayasekera said however the SJB’s position over the election of Ranjith Siyambalapitiya as Deputy Speaker had later changed and they had decided to field a nominee from the SJB too. He said that the ruling party made use of this situation to prove that they have a majority in Parliament in a subtle manner.

Wimal lashes out at Sajith

National Freedom Front Leader MP Wimal Weerawansa said Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa is aiming at creating divisions within the Opposition. He said. “If he is a real Opposition Leader, he should reach consensus on major issues. An Opposition Leader should maintain unity among Parties in the Opposition.” Weerawansa said that Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa has been given a contract to create rifts among the parties in the Opposition. He said, “We are a part of the Opposition. If a candidate is fielded from the Opposition, the Opposition Leader should extend his fullest support for his victory.”

At a press conference in Colombo on Thursday over the election of Ranjith Siyambalapitiya as the Deputy Speaker, former Minister Weerawansa said that the SLPP wants to show the world that the SLPP breakaway group is still with the Government though they are sitting in the Opposition.

Weerawansa said, “The Opposition Leader wants to show that we are for the Government though we are sitting with the Opposition MPs.” He said that Opposition Leader Premadasa does not have a plan to at least bring Parties in the Opposition together. He said the Opposition Leader is dancing according to the whims and fancies of the Rajapaksa family.

“This Govt alone not responsible for failures”

SLPP Parliamentarian Rohitha Abeygunawardena told Parliament on Thursday that not a single member in the Opposition has the strength or the backbone to take over the Government and find a solution to the people’s problems. He said that Anura Kumara Dissanayake and Sajith Premadasa were in one camp on January 8, 2015. He said that even today they are together and queried why they can’t take over the Government and resolve the issues.

Abeygunawardena said, “They can’t and they don’t have the backbone to do so. No one has the strength to do so. They are engaged in a gamble.” He thanked Finance Minister Ali Sabry, PC for revealing the correct and the stark reality of the economy of the country while being in the Government side. He said that although there were ups and downs in the economy of the country during the past 74 years, some attempt to pass the responsibility for the failures of the corresponding period to the past two-and-half-years, which is not correct.

SJB cannot set up a Govt

The Independent Parliamentarians who sat with the Opposition said in Parliament on Thursday that the SJB cannot set up a Government with 67 seats. They demanded that they must know whether the SJB would take over the Government or whether they had a plan and mechanism to overcome the issues in the country if they voted for the No Confidence Motions (NCMs). They warned the SJB not to mislead the people and said that although the SJB think they had peoples’ support, it is a myth. They said so when SJB Parliamentarian Harshana Rajakaruna demanded to summon sittings next week as well and take up the No Confidence Motions against the Government side as there is no political stability in the country.

Youth demand change

SJB Parliamentarian Nalin Bandara Jayamaha said that the Government does not have the support of even 69,000 people in the country today. The people are awaiting the Government’s departure from power. The youth in the country are on roads demanding a change. Hence, the date when the NCM is taken should be revealed.

SJB MP Chaminda Wijesiri said that the election of the Deputy Speaker was done with the consent of the Speaker but it had flaws. He said that all should get together to build up the country. SJB MP Harin Fernando said that the people are on the road engaged in protests. He said that therefore, the No Confidence Motions should not be delayed. SJB MP Thushara Indunil said that they saw the birds of the same feather flock together.

Uproar in Parliament

Parliament had to be adjourned for ten minutes on Friday afternoon when the Opposition MPs created uproar in Parliament when the Police fired tear gas and water cannons at the protesters at the Parliament entry point. At the time SJB Parliamentarian Hesha Withanage was at the presiding chair and the Opposition MPs were demanding that the Speaker be brought in immediately.

The Opposition MPs demanded that at a time of crisis the Speaker should be in his seat and not in his office. SJB MP Harin Fernando demanded that the Speaker immediately return to the Chair and if not he threatened to surround the Speaker’s office and hold the Speaker hostage until a date was given for the debate on the No Confidence Motions.

Later when Parliament was convened after the recess, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said that the Party Leader’s Meeting had been scheduled for next Monday, May 9 and a decision would be taken if Parliament could be convened the same week or on May 17. Thereafter, he adjourned Parliament. Deputy Minister Tharaka Balasuriya said that the Opposition had assaulted a senior MP and requested the presiding MP to take a decision as the situation was getting out of hand.

Sergeant-at-Arms Narendra Fernando and Deputy Sergeant-at-Arms Kushan Jayaran he fell on the ground when Samagi Jana Balawegaya MPs tried to grab the Mace during a tense situation in the Chamber on Friday.

SJB Parliamentarians Harin Fernando, Manusha Nanayakkara, Gayantha Karunatilake, Hector Appuhamy, Kavinda Jayawardena, Mujibur Rahuman and others demanded that the Speaker be called to the chair while Harin Fernando and Manusha Nanayakkara were seen approaching the Mace. However, when the Sergeant-at-Arms and his deputy tried to protect the Mace from being grabbed, they were attacked. With that the Sergeant-at-Arms fell down but he put in great effort to hold onto the Mace.


A massive 24-hour hartal campaign launched on Friday, May 6 brought the country to a standstill as workers across a number of sectors including transport, health, education and banking went on strike and private businesses and Government offices shut down demanding the Government’s resignation.

Workers took part in protests around the country, joining ordinary citizens in their demand for the Government’s resignation. Workers at Free Trade Zones also were seen protesting, demanding solutions to Sri Lanka’s worst economic crisis yet. Protest marches were held in Colombo Fort, and at the Borella junction, in addition to demonstrations around the city organised by unions representing various government bodies.

Hundreds of trade unions took part in the hartal campaign in what has now become the country’s biggest general strike in decades. In addition, underwear and lingerie are placed by protesters on a temporary metal barrier made to block protesters at the main entrance to the Parliament during the protest demanding the 225 MPs to resign on Friday.

Bad precedent

Former Prime Minister UNP MP Ranil Wickremesinghe told Parliament on Friday the TNA MPs involvement in organising protests and urging the protesters to surround MPs residences sets a bad precedent. He queried as to what would happen in future if the people protested against them and surrounded their houses as well. He made these queries in response to a statement made by TNA MP S. Rasamanikkam on Thursday stating that MP Wickremesinghe had a secret pact with the Rajapaksas. He said that he had no connection with Rajapaksas, though Rasamanikkam once accepted the Padirippu Organiser position from Mahinda Rajapaksa.

He said that he was not in deal politics but some of those in the SLFP who were in that trade were once welcome to the UNP and now they were in the SJB.

Leader of the House Minister Dinesh Gunawardena on Friday requested Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to take action to increase the security of former Prime Minister and UNP National List MP Ranil Wickremesinghe. He made this request following MP Wickremesinghe’s statement where he said that there were plans by a group of protestors to surround his house with the intervention of TNA MP Rasamanickam on Saturday, May 7.

Resignation not accepted

Co-operative Services and Consumer Protection State Minister Gunapala Ratnasekera handed over his resignation letter to the President. He said that despite Parliament convening, not an iota of a decision was taken to resolve the crisis or provide solutions. He said Parliament has failed to find even a political solution for this country.

He questioned the purpose of Parliament convening if it cannot even take decisions to resolve the country’s burning issues. However, he said that the President had refused to accept his resignation, but said that under the t circumstances, it was not possible to work productively in his post.

He said, “During the past three days Parliament was convened in a situation where the country is in chaos, but sadly nothing was done and no decision was taken in Parliament to resolve this crisis. We have all failed to find any solution to this crisis but since the demands of the public have not been met, they have reached a situation where they reject the entire 225 MPs.”

Sarath Fonseka to make complaint

SJB Parliamentarian Sarath Fonseka said that he would officially complain to the SJB Leader and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa over the conduct of SJB Parliamentarian Harin Fernando at the party’s May Day rally last Sunday.

Responding to journalists, Fonseka said that the verbal clash between MP Fernando and himself was over the speakers’ list at the SJB May Day Rally. Field Marshal Fonseka expressed his disappointment for not giving him a prominent place in the list.

He said, “MP Fernando was entrusted with the organising work of the rally, but there were several lapses in it. We could see that the images of certain individuals had been promoted, and I objected to that. MP Fernando misbehaved even using foul language at that point. He should have known to behave better at a public place. He could have replied in decent language as I did. I condemn his behaviour.”