Mahinda Rajapaksa failed to secure a majority in parliament because MPs demanded over 500 million rupees each to defect, President Maithripala Sirisena said yesterday acknowledging that his power grab had backfired.
President Sirisena in a video interview with the Daily Mirror admitted that the man he controversially installed as Prime Minister on October 26 did not have a majority in the 225-member assembly despite confident claims at the time.
Sirisena had told a public rally on November 3 near parliament that he had secured over 113 legislators to support Rajapaksa who was made prime minister after sacking Ranil Wickremesinghe.
“Do not fear. We have already got more than 113,” Sirisena announced at a rally dubbed 113 Plus.
The president said MPs were being offered over 500 million rupees to defect and the high price prevented Rajapaksa gathering enough support to form a government.
“The price of an MP was over 500 million rupees. This is unbelievable. This (high price) is what stopped from Mahinda Rajapaksa from getting a majority,” President Sirisena said blaming Rajapaksa for his failure.
“If Mahinda was able to get the 113 MPs to support him, this problem would not have dragged for over one and a half months. We wouldn’t have faced this political crisis. We wouldn’t be facing this political unrest,” Sirisena said.
At least one legislator from the United National Party (UNP) who was approached by Sirisena’s party to defect said he was offered 500 million rupees and an apartment in Malaysia along with free passage for the entire family to a foreign destination.
Several UNP Mps said the purchase of MPs was financed by China, an allegation Beijing denied.
Sirisena who had previously said he would end the political deadlock by Tuesday (Dec 11) announced that he would abide by the Supreme Court’s decision on the legality of his dissolution of parliament on November 9.
The president initially prorogued parliament for 20 days saying it was to give time to Rajapaksa to unveil a new budget, but his loyalists admitted that it was really to give nearly three weeks to Rajapaksa to cobble together a majority.
With the writing clearly on the wall, Sirisena eventually sacked the legislature and called snap elections for January 5 after realizing that Rajapaksa had no way of mustering a majority in the 225-member assembly where Wickremesinghe’s party enjoyed the support of over 113.
Rajapaksa lost two no-confidence motions brought against him and his purported cabinet on November 16 and 16, but Sirisena refused to accept it and insisted on keeping his disputed government going.
However, the Court of Appeal on December 3 suspended Rajapaksa as well as his disputed cabinet pending a final hearing into a petition filed by 122 MPs