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Sri Lankan Parliament debates no-confidence motion against Ranil Wickremesinghe government

A vendor walks past a police special task force water cannon placed near the Sri Lankan parliament building as part of security measures as the House debated a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government in Colombo on April 4, 2018.

A vendor walks past a police special task force water cannon placed near the Sri Lankan parliament building as part of security measures as the House debated a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government in Colombo on April 4, 2018.   | Photo Credit: AFP

The UNP-led front, with 107 seats in the 225-member Parliament, is the single largest group in the House, while Mr. Sirisena has about 45 MPs backing him.

Sri Lankan legislators debated a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at length in Parliament on Wednesday, ahead of a crucial vote that the Premier seemed poised to win.

The Joint Opposition, a loose coalition of some 50 MPs supporting former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, initiated the motion, but found fewer supporters than it expected to secure. Virtually conceding defeat, some Joint Opposition MPs gave media interviews, saying they would gain irrespective of the outcome, as the motion had weakened the government further.

The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) led by President Maithripala Sirisena, which cohabits Mr. Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) in government, was split with some declaring their vote against the PM, and others announcing that they would abstain from voting, which was scheduled for around 9.30 p.m. on Wednesday.

The UNP-led front, with 107 seats in the 225-member Parliament, is the single largest group in the House, while Mr. Sirisena has about 45 MPs backing him. The other faction of the SLFP supports Mr. Rajapaksa and sits in Opposition.

Intervening in the debate, Leader of Opposition and veteran Tamil politician R. Sampanthan said the motion against the PM was part of the Joint Opposition’s plan to topple the government. “They want to first defeat the PM, and the next target will be the President. They want the government brought down. We can’t allow ourselves to be used for their political objectives,” he said, suggesting that the Tamil National Alliance’s (TNA), which has 16 seats, was unlikely to support the motion.

Countering claims that the TNA was siding with the UNP, he recounted Tamils’ support to the SLFP in the past, including in 1994 when they supported President Chandrika Kumaratunge against the UNP.

Local poll impact

In the February local election, the two major parties in the ruling alliance took a severe beating, while a new party with Mr. Rajapaksa’s support emerged winner, effectively weakening the ruling coalition. The crisis which began then culminated in the no-confidence vote that the Joint Opposition mooted, readily endorsed by some from the SLFP.

However, observing that the outcome of the local poll was a reflection of the inadequate performance by the government, Mr. Sampanthan said corrective measures could change people’s judgment.

The debate also threw up interesting questions about the implications of the vote, when SLFP Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara said he would vote in favour of the motion. Challenging him was UNP Deputy Minister Harsha De Silva, who pointed to the text of the motion, which was not only against the PM, but also against the government itself that Mr. Jayasekara himself was part of.

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 6:05:11 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/sri-lankan-parliament-debates-no-confidence-motion-against-ranil-wickremesinghe-government/article23434867.ece

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