The Sri Lanka Freedom Party which came out divided after Wednesday night’s No Confidence Motion (NCM) against the Prime Minister is of the view that the sole purpose of the NCM was to divide the SLFP and not remove the Prime Minister.
“The official stance we agreed on was to abstain,” said SLFP Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe yesterday.
He was addressing a media briefing at SLFP Headquarters along with Ministers Ranjith Siyambalapitiya and Vijith Vijithamuni Soysa.
All three of them chose to abstain from voting. The SLFP had 16 of its members voting in favour of the NCM while 23 abstained.
UNP MPs on Wednesday night had signed a letter asking that the Prime Minister remove the SLFPers who voted in favour of the NCM from the Cabinet and government,but, Samarasinghe stressed that, this was a collective decision that needed to be made by both the President and the Prime Minister.
“The Joint Opposition never consulted the SLFP or the Central Committee on this and throughout the whole process, we saw that they took no action to lobby members for it,” he said.
“From the start, we saw that there was something wrong with this NCM. There was no way forward proposed after this. The SLFP had not thought of a Prime Ministerial candidate if the NCM went through and neither had the UNP. Even the JO had not made it clear whether they would support us to form a new government after this. If the NCM had passed, the country would have been thrown into chaos,” said Minister Siyambalapitiya explaining their reservations over the NCM.
“We needed to think of the country first so we abstained,” he added.
“On principle we had decided that we could not go against the government whilst being in it. Hence, we asked the Prime Minister to resign on his own accord, when that failed, we made the decision to abstain,” Minister Soysa added.
“The NCM was clearly not against the Bond issue or the Prime Minister, the JO simply wanted to split the SLFP and go for a Parliamentary election in the wake of their Local Government victory, he explained further.
“They wanted to eventually isolate the President, similar to former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s government in 2001,” he added. The Ministers also stressed that the President had nothing to do with the NCM and had given them a free hand to vote,
“The President told the SLFP Parliamentary group meeting on Tuesday night that we needed to come to a common consensus on our vote. He said, he could not take a stance on this, as the leader of the country he had to run it on April 5 too”, said Minister Samarasinghe.
When asked if disciplinary action would be taken against the SLFPers who voted in favour of the NCM, the minister pointed out that there was no basis for such action as the President had not directed them on how to vote, “We all made our own choice”.
“Our party is like ‘amoeba’, we have had many opinions on this and we have accommodated them all,”quipped Minister Soysa.
In the wake of the NCM, he noted that it was only the UNP that had come out stronger than before.
With the NCM behind them, the SLFP yesterday morning also held discussions with regard to party reforms with the President, said Minister Samarasinghe, “We too, like the UNP, need to look at that in the wake of our Local Government results,” he said.