by Shamindra Ferdinando
Parliamentarian Arundika Fernando, a key member of an influential group of SLFP MPs critical of the UNP-led government, who was sacked yesterday from his deputy minister’s post by President Maithripala Sirisena told The Island that dissent couldn’t be suppressed by sacking ministers.
President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday sacked Deputy Minister of Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs Arundika Fernando (Puttalam District MP) causing further turmoil in the party.
MP Fernando is the third government member to lose his ministerial portfolio in as many months. Recently, the UNP sacked Justice and Buddha Sasana Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe for being publicly critical of the Hambantota port deal. Ravi Karunanayake had to resign as Foreign Minister in the wake of his appearance before the Bond Commission.
Of 95 MPs elected on the UPFA ticket at the last parliamentary election in Aug. 2015, 52 members, including former President Mahinda Rajapaksa operate as an independent group in parliament under the banner of the Joint Opposition.
Political sources told The Island that the top leadership had been irked by Fernando’s recent criticism directed at the ruling UNP-SLFP coalition as well as his controversial role in a group consisting of members of parliament opposed to the UNP’s style of governance.
A spokesman for the President’s Office said that Fernando had been removed from his ministerial position in terms of Article 46(3)(a) of the Constitution.
Responding to a query, SLFP sources said that there had been about a dozen parliamentarians in Fernando’s group relentlessly campaigning for the party to put an end to its continuing partnership with the UNP.
MP Fernando yesterday told The Island that growing dissent couldn’t be suppressed by depriving them of ministerial portfolios. The SLFPer said that the top leadership resented his recent criticism of some policy decisions, including the move to introduce the 20th Amendment to the Constitution to put off the PC elections.
Asked whether he would join the JO headed by former President Rajapaksa, MP Fernando said that that outfit comprised those who had contested the last parliamentary elections on the UPFA ticket.