Prez plays down bid to oust PM, refers to demand for Japanese leader’s resignation

President Maithripala Sirisena urged the media not to get worked up by recent abortive bid to oust PM Ranil Wickremesinghe over treasury bond scams as political leaders world over faced such trouble. He cited recent protests demanding Japanese PM Ashinzo Abe’s resignation, during his state visit to Tokyo, as an example.

Sirisena said so in answer to a media query last Friday (April 6) at a special briefing called by the President’s Office to explain the SLFP leader’s role in the move against the premier.

The president was flanked by Presidential Secretary Austin Fernando and his media advisor Sarath Kongahage.

Asked whether now that Wickremesinghe had comfortably defeated the no-faith bid, President considered the PM clean, Sirisena asserted that needed a long explanation. Sirisena, however, dismissed the journalist’s assertion that the move against the PM was caused by a power struggle within the ruling coalition.

Such moves could be made in any part of the world, Sirisena said, recollecting recent political turmoil in Japan over corruption charges.

At the invitation of the Japanese PM Abe, President Sirisena visited Japan from 12 to 17 March 2018.

President Sirisena also had an imperial audience with His Majesty, Emperor Akihito on 13 March, and on 14 March, he met Abe for talks.

President Sirisena said: “When the Sri Lankan delegation went in for officials talks with PM Abe around 5 pm, there had been about 2,000 protesters displaying banners and shouting slogans. The crowd had swelled to about 5,000 when we left at the conclusion of the meeting around 10.30 pm or perhaps 11 pm. The situation is the same world over.”

Acknowledging that Wickremesinghe had surmounted the challenge in parliament, Sirisena pointed out that bond scams case was proceeding and some suspects were in remand custody.

Japanese launched protests in the wake of revelation that the name of PM Abe’s wife had been removed from documents regarding a suspected cronyism scandal and alleged cover-up involving Abe and Finance Minister Taro Aso.

Abe, now in his sixth year in office, had been under heavy Opposition and media flak over the sale of state-owned land at a huge discount to a school official with ties to his wife, Akie.

Fielding several other questions regarding post-no faith motion developments, Sirisena played down a section of the UNP taking on those SLFPers who had voted for the JO-led motion. Sirisena said that the SLFP and the UNP should continue to work together for the sake of the people and the country though there were political issues. Sirisena asserted that they could continue the arrangement regardless of the recent issues.

Asked whether Western powers and India had intervened to save the UNP-SLFP marriage of convenience, Sirisena emphasized there was absolutely no basis for such accusations. Sirisena said that these allegations were irrelevant.

Responding to another query, the SLFP leader recollected how he appointed UNP leader Wickremesinghe as the PM after 2015 January presidential polls in spite of the UNP parliamentary group being less than 50. Sirisena said that the SLFP-led UPFA at that time had two-thirds majority in parliament.

Sirasa representative sought Sirisena’s views on disturbances caused at its head office by UNPers at the behest of Wickremesinghe, Sirisena said that attacks and threats on media weren’t acceptable. Whoever carried out such intimidation, it was wrong, Sirisena said, adding that he unreservedly condemned the incidents that took place immediately after the vote of no-faith motion.

Sirisena stressed that he hadn’t interfered in anyway in the move against Wickremesinghe and those who had wanted to oust the UNP leader were told to show their majority in parliament.

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