Colombo, April 4 (newsin.asia): The Sri Lankan Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, on Wednesday convincingly defeated the No Confidence Motion (NCM) against him tabled in parliament by the Joint Opposition (JO) led by Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Seventy six MPs voted for the motion, 122 against, and 26 abstained. The House has a total strength of 225 members including the Speaker.
Till a few days ago, Wickremesinghe was thought to be the loser in this game, as the alliance partner, Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) led by President Maithripala Sirisena, was campaigning for his removal. And a large section of his own United National Party (UNP) was wanting to replace him with a new leader dissatisfied by his leadership style which had been dictatorial.
Even the President wanted him to quit in favor of a new leader from the UNP , as his party men were seeking Wickremesinghe’s dismissal.
But the 19 th.Amendment of the Sri Lankan Constitution did not allow the President to dismiss the Prime Minister or replace him unless the entire government lost the vote on a money bill or the vote on an NCM against the entire government.
Till the last moment, the President had tried to get Wickremesinghe to resign before the NCM was taken up.
But Wickremesinghe was adamant and refused to quit saying that he had the support of the majority both in the UNP, and the alliance United National Front (UNF) to which the UNP belonged. He was confident that the UNP-led UNF was the single largest group in parliament. Therefore, he had the right to be the Prime Minister, Wickremesinghe argued.
As it turned out, all the 106 members of the UNP led UNF voted for him along with the Tamil National Alliance to fetch him 122 votes. The main reason for this was Wickremesinghe’s solemn promise to reform the party and give the leadership role to more people ,especially the youth, April 8.
The JO, the movers of the NCM, got 76 votes though they should have got at least 95 or even 101.
There was cross voting across party lines as many MPs (including Ministers) of the SLFP voted with the JO. But clearly more MPs of the SLFP voted against the NCM supporting the Prime Minister.
This is a great victory for Prime Minister Wickremesinghe. He has emerged victorious in the most difficult political contest in his career.
But his victory could increase the instability in the coalition government. He has to rub shoulders with the SLFP led by President Sirisena, much of which is bitterly hostile to him.
Unless the President and the Prime Minister have arrived at a tacit agreement to work together, sinking past differences, the coalition government could face greater instability than before.
Political pundits gloomily predict that from now on Wickremesinghe will be more assertive than he ever was. And that could lead to clashes with the President who has been checkmating him and watering down his powers specially over economic policy.
The currently sluggish developmental projects could suffer continued neglect as a result of the tug of war between the top two leaders.
Ultimately, parliament may have to be dissolved to pave the way for fresh elections to reflect the change in the mood of the electorate as seen in the February 10 Local Bodies elections, which the JO swept.
President Sirisena is perhaps the main loser in this game. His SLFP is split badly with one group with Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, and the other with the JO led by Rajapaksa.
This leaves President in a weak position vis-à-vis both the Prime Minister and the Joint Opposition leader.
(The featured image at the top shows the Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe)