High drama ensued in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province on Thursday after a large bloc of members of the Provincial Council wrote to the Governor, expressing “no confidence” in Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran.
Their move comes in the wake of the Chief Minister’s call to two provincial ministers to resign and to two others to go on compulsory leave, based on a report on corruption charges facing them. A committee appointed by Mr. Wigneswaran had found two of the accused ministers guilty, while the enquiry found insufficient evidence against the two others, whom the Chief Minister nevertheless asked to go on leave.
“I cautioned him against taking action on Ministers who were not found guilty, it is unfortunate that he took the decision without consulting the leader of our party,” said R. Sampanthan, leader of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).
Late Wednesday, as many as 21 of the 38 members in the Council wrote to Northern Province Governor Reginald Cooray, saying they had lost confidence in the Chief Minister. Confirming receipt of the letter, Governor Cooray told The Hindu from Jaffna: “I am currently verifying the content of the letter and the signatures. I will write to the Chief Minister after that.”
In Sri Lanka’s historic Northern Province election in 2013, the TNA — an amalgam of four Tamil parties — fielded former Supreme Court Judge Wigneswaran as chief ministerial candidate. The TNA won a massive mandate with 30 seats and he became the first Chief Minister of the Tamil-majority north.
However, differences between him and the TNA leadership became evident in the next couple of years, manifesting starkly ahead of the Lanka’s parliamentary elections in 2015.
The last straw
The CM’s action against Ministers was “the last straw that broke the camel’s back”, according to C.V.K. Sivagnanam, Chairman of the Northern Provincial Council and senior member of Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi, a key TNA constituent. Speaking of long-simmering discontent within the Council, he said: “..he [CM] did not take the members into confidence.” Accusing the CM of having “made a mess”, Leader of Opposition in the Council S. Thavarajah said Mr. Wigneswaran’s administration was inefficient right from the beginning. “...His recent decision to take action on Ministers who were not found guilty was a mistake.”
Meanwhile, a group of people protested in Jaffna demanding that Chief Minister Wigneswaran stay. Responding to them, a visibly emotional Mr. Wigneswaran said: “Your love is my strength, I will continue to serve the people.”
“I would like the matter to be resolved,” said Mr. Sampanthan, in the interest of "larger issues" such as Constitution-making that the Sri Lankan government has taken up. “I am not very happy with the developments. They are harmful to the interests of our people.”