Former president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s legislator son Namal fathered the failure to topple Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on President Maithripala Sirisena, hours after a humiliation in the national parliament.
“President Sirisena’s habit of betrayal proven again at the no confidence motion. First he encouraged SLFP members to support it and then backs off. He has betrayed both the SLFP and the UNP,” a livid Namal Rajapaksa tweeted after the vote.
The Joint Opposition (JO) led by Mahinda Rajapaksa had hoped to topple Wickremesinghe at Wednesday’s no-confidence vote after Sirisena had asked his faction of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) to vote in favour of the resolution to oust the PM.
However, the Sirisena faction broke apart with 22 of his loyalists and absenting themselves at the time the vote was taken on Wednesday night. Even if they had voted for the motion, Wickremesinghe had a comfortable majority to defeat the motion.
He secured a majority of 46 seats with the help of the minority parties. United National Party dissident Wijeyadasa Rajapaksha who was expected to vote against Ranil did a U-turn and supported the premier. Venerable Athuraliye Rathana who was also initially against Ranil Wickremesinghe decided at the last minute to remain neutral.
The final vote showed that even if the entire SLFP voted as one bloc, they would not have been able to topple Wickremesinghe as no member from the UNP broke ranks. Even the Puttalam district UNP MP Range Bandara who had claimed there were 26 legislators from the UNP ready to defect called a press conference on the eve of the vote to announce he was supporting Wickremesinghe.
What was more surprising was the abstention of Malith Jayatilleke, a key advisor to Sirisena and one of the prime movers behind the no-confidence move against Wickremesinghe.
Ministers among the 19 SLFP MPs who voted against Wickremesinghe demanded that they be allowed to continue in the cabinet despite their lack of confidence in the government. The ministers include Dayasiri Jayasekara, Anura Yapa, Susil Premajayantha, John Seneviratne , Chandima Weerakkody and Dilan Perera.
However, the UNP legislators signed a petition soon after the vote asking Wickremesinghe to sack the SLFP dissenters in the cabinet. However, the Prime Minister does not have the power to remove ministers. It can only be done either by the president or through a no-confidence move in parliament.
A news director at Sirasa, which strongly backed Sirisena’s move to oust Wickremesinghe, said on Wednesday night that their station was “under attack.” “My head office Sirasa news and Newsfirst surrounded and attacked literally minutes after no-confidence vote in parliament. Staff stranded and unable to move out,” said Chevan Daniel of Sirasa.
Namal Rajapaksa re-tweeted Daniel asking whether it was the media freedom the Prime Minister and the President had promised. However, within a short period, Daniel deleted his tweet as it became apparent that there was no attack, only celebratory fire crackers outside the Sirasa office as elsewhere in the country.
But re-tweeting Daniel backfired on Namal who received several barbs from other tweeters for his father’s record of bombing Sirasa, attacking several other media institutions and killing journalists during his decade in power.
“Street celebrations are not attack on the media, but for sure you and your family knows how it has been done,” said the twitter handle @oshanda77.
“Spot on Namal. But Newsfirst deserve this for using journalism to achieve their political desires,” added @Dhineteweets.