By Shandra Ferdinando
President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday said that the current dispensation would continue with UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister.
SLFP leader Sirisena asserted that the failed attempt to oust Wickremesinghe through a tripartite No-Confidence Motion (NCM), moved in parliament couldn’t be an impediment to the continuation of the unity government.
Sirisena said so at a special media briefing called at the President’s House to explain the circumstances that had let to the vote on the NCM on April 4.
The President was flanked by Secretary to the President Austin Fernando and presidential media advisor Sarath Kongahage.
Asked whether he had met Wickremesinghe since the abortive no-faith bid Sirisena said that they had discussed on Thursday (April 5) ways and means of reaching a consensus on an action plan. Sirisena referred to a new agreement as well as change of cabinet portfolios, in accordance with the overall plan to address issues.
The President indicated that he didn’t expect further trouble in spite of various claims and counter claims attributed to different parties.
Sirisena said that he felt the need to explain his role in the NCM as various accusations were being made. A smiling Sirisena said that some had accused him of backing the NCM whereas others alleged he didn’t support the JO initiative.
The NCM should be examined against the backdrop of the Feb. 10 Local Government polls outcome that gave an opportunity to the JO/Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) to flex muscles. Claiming that none of the major political parties and coalitions in the fray could secure 40 per cent of the polled vote, Sirisena alleged the outcome was interpreted in a way to give advantage to JO/SLPP.
Some had compared the LG polls results with that of a general election, Sirisena said, adding that the SLFP, UPFA and those who had contested under horse and cockerel symbols polled nearly 15 per cent of the vote. That result would have given us (SLFP) and the JO/SLPP, about 30 and 102 seats, respectively, Sirisena said, underscoring none could obtain the required simple majority in the 225-member parliament.
The SLFP leader acknowledged that an influential section of the 41-member parliamentary group had been pushing for their exit from the UNP-led government even before the Feb. 10 LG polls. That group had wanted to leave the government at the end of Dec, 2017, the president said. After the JO/SLPP had secured the majority of local authorities, the group calling for an end to yahapalana partnership attracted more members, Sirisena said.
The SLFP leader explained how the parliamentary group had agreed to delay a final decision until the conclusion of the Feb. 10 polls. After the Feb. 10 polls, there had been further calls to quit the government, Sirisena said, adding that the situation took a different turn with a fresh crisis in the UNP.
Sirisena revealed that he had thrice met those who had been planning to oust Wickremesinghe in the run-up to the April 4 NCM. According to the President, the exercise had brought together those within the SLFP-led UPFA demanding an end to the power sharing arrangement with the UNP, JO/SLPP and a section of the UNP pushing for far reaching internal party reforms.
They had agreed to remove Wickremesinghe and been confident of achieving that objective, Sirisena said.
Sirisena disclosed how the group had accepted his challenge to prove it got the majority in parliament to get rid of the PM. Sirisena said that the group was informed of the need to follow the Constitution in this regard.
The President emphasised that his primary responsibility was to ensure the consolidation of the government whatever had happened in parliament. Pointing out that the UNP-led UNF had 106 elected and appointed on the UNP ticket, the largest block of members in parliament, Sirisena said that no party had a simple majority. Whatever the issues, no party could form an administration of its without the support of some other party, Sirisena said.
Sirisena urged members of all political parties to join the government.
Sirisena said that the SLFP Central Committee would meet on Monday (9) to discuss post-NCM developments and resolve whatever issues arising out of the failed bid to expel Wickremesinghe.