The SLFP yesterday proposed a broader coalition sans UNP leader and PM Wickremesinghe to implement President Maithripala Sirisena’s 2015 mandate.
Addressing a packed SLFP auditorium at T. B. Jayah Mawatha, Social Empowerment, Welfare and Kandyan Heritage Minister S. B. Dissanayake said the no-confidence motion (NCM) moved by the Joint Opposition (JO) against PM Wickremesinghe would give Parliament an opportunity to replace the PM.
The NCM handed over to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya on March 23 holds the PM Wickremesinghe responsible for Treasury bond scams in 2015 and 2016.
Having complained to the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) against treasury bond scams and then supported investigations undertaken by the Committee on Public Enterprises (CoPE) into the fraud, the SLFP couldn’t refrain from voting for the NCM, Dissanayake said.
UPFA National List MP and Deputy Speaker Tilanga Sumathipala endorsed Dissanayake’s stand. The absence of SLFP General Secretary Duminda Dissanayake and UPFA General Secretary Mahinda Amaraweera, however, raised many eyebrows.
Dissanayake stressed that PM Wickremesinghe’s complicity in treasury bond scams couldn’t be ignored. The minister also referred to the Presidential Commission of Inquiry report on the treasury bond scams while recollecting Wickremesinghe demanding the appointment of Singaporean Arjuna Mahendran as the Governor of the Central Bank in January 2015.
The SLFP Treasurer declared that the NCM was aimed at an individual and certainly not the President and the government.
The Island sought an explanation as to the culpability on the part of the top SLFP leadership in the far bigger second treasury bond scam.
Dissanayake said that as the main coalition partner, the UNP had enjoyed overriding power and couldn’t be reined in. Dissanayaka admitted that the SLFP lacked the strength to take remedial measures. The National List MP said so when The Island pointed out that President Sirisena had saved those responsible for 2015 bond scam by preventing the presentation of the COPE report on the CB heist by dissolving Parliament, then re-appointing Ravi Karunanayake as the finance minister in the run-up to 2016 scam. The Presidential Commission was set up in January 2016.
Fielding a query from the electronic media, Dissanayake said that it would be the UNP’s prerogative to name Wickremesinghe’s successor. Dissanayake and Sumathipala refused to be drawn on the possibility of Law and Order Minister Ranjith Maddumabandara succeeding Wickremesinghe. The SLFP had no recommendation or proposal regarding who should be Wickremesinghe’s successor, they said.
Dissanayake said that they were hopeful of a consensus on the NCM against Wickremesinghe. They, however, declined to confirm whether President Maithripala Sirisena had officially endorsed the move against Wickremesinghe. Sirisena’s parliamentary group consists of 44 members.
Dissanayake said that the SLFP understood that far reaching changes were expected by the people and major political parties.
Sumathipala said that the vote on the NCM would take place on April 4 after 9 pm. Asked whether it was likely to be a secret vote, Sumathipala said that had to be decided by Parliament by way of a vote.
Dissanayake stressed that the SLFP didn’t want to topple the government. Referring to the debilitating setback suffered by coalition partners at the Feb 10 local government polls, Dissanayake said that the SLFP didn’t want to topple the government. The Feb. 10 result had compelled them to explore the ways and means of effecting changes, he said, pointing out that though a large section of the UNP desired critical changes, they had failed to achieve that objective.