By Shamindra Ferdinando
Former State Minister for City Planning and Water Supply Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle yesterday alleged that those SLFPers who skipped the vote on No Confidence Motion (NCM) moved by the Joint Opposition (JO) on April 4 had brazenly violated a collective party decision to oust UNP leader and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Those who had defied the party decision remained ministers whereas the 16 MPs who acted in keeping with it had lost thier minsterial positions, Dr. Fernandopulle told The Island, in a brief interview yesterday.
The group elected and appointed on the UPFA ticket at the last parliamentary polls in August 2015 and still in the UNP-led government consisted of 25 members. The UPFA group comprised 23 SLFPers and two CWC members.
The Gampaha District MP said that the parliamentary group that had met President and SLFP leader Maithripala Sirisena on Feb. 11 at his official residence at Pajet Road, unanimously agreed to seek PM Wickremesinghe’s removal. Dr. Fernandopulle said that the Feb. 11 decision had been confirmed on April 4 several hours before the vote on NCM, at a meeting chaired by UPFA General Secretary Mahinda Amaraweera.
Dr. Fernandopulle emphasized that the original decision was taken in the immediate aftermath of the humiliating defeat suffered by the SLFP and the UNP at Feb 10 Local government polls. “All of us felt we cannot continue with Wickremesinghe as the PM,” Dr. Fernandopulle said, urging those still in the government to join those who voted for the NCM.
The former State Minister warned of dire consequences unless the SLFP quit the UNP-led coalition. The electorate had rejected the National Unity Government or whatever the yahapalana proponents choose to call it and it would be a grave mistake on the SLFP’s part to continue with it.
Asked whether the prorogation of parliament would affect the group’s planned campaign in and outside parliament, Dr. Fernandopulle asserted that nothing could revive the government. The government’s credibility had been damaged beyond repair. Dr. Fernandopulle said, adding that the situation would continue to deteriorate.
The government last Thursday night announced the decision to prorogue parliament. The next Parliament session will commence on 8th May 2018.
Responding to another query, Dr. Fernandopulle said that contrary to highly publicized statements, the government hadn’t been able to finalize cabinet reshuffle before Sinhala and Tamil New Year. Instead, portfolios that had been held by six ministers who voted for the NCM were temporarily assigned to three SLFPers and one UNPer. Now, those who had undermined the party decision to oust Wickremesinghe were in a position to secure plum cabinet portfolios. “The whole thing is a farce.”
Dr. Fernandopulle pointed out that of the 96 elected and appointed UPFA members at the last parliamentary election, only 25 remained with the government as the administration headed for its fourth budget.
Dr. Fernandopulle said the UNP still refused to accept the unprecedented crisis caused by the treasury bond scams.
Referring to President Sirisena’s April 6 remarks at a meeting with the media at the President’s House, Dr. Fernandopulle said that they proceeded with the blessings of the SLFP leader. “We were asked to show a majority in parliament after the failure of our efforts to persuade PM Wickremesinghe to quit.
Dr. Fernandopulle admitted that the 96 member UPFA parliamentary group had been divided into three with the largest section loyal to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The following elected SLFPers, Dayasiri Jayasekera, Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena, Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, Susil Premajayantha, Dilan Perera, Susantha Punchinilame, Chandima Weerakkody, S.B. Dissanayake, John Seneviratne, T.B. Ekanayake, Sumeda Jayasena, Anuradha Jayaratne, Tharanath Basnayake, Lakshman Wasantha Perera and Thilanga Sumathipala, in a letter dated April 5, addressed to President Sirisena pointed out that those who had been penalized were the ones faithfully carried out the party decision.
A copy of the letter was made available to The Island by the group at last Thursday’s media briefing held at the SLFP party office at T.B. Jayah Mawatha.
The group has reminded President Sirisena, that members of the UPFA accepted portfolios in the National Unity Government following August 2015 parliamentary polls on his request. Appreciating President Sirisena’s leadership, the group pointed out that though a two-year agreement with the UNP had lapsed over six months ago, they remained in accordance with an understanding with the President.
The group has further told President Sirisena how they unanimously requested PM Wickremesinghe to quit before the vote on NCM.