Kiriella chastises dissidents for lingering on impeachment movement
Second group of govt. rebels criticize defection
SLPP attempt to win over rebel MP Navaratne fails
By Shamindra Ferdinando
National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa has stressed that the splinter 11-party group will not return to the negotiating table until President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fires new Minister of State Shantha Bandara.
The former Minister of Industry said so yesterday (17) in response to The Island wonder if the second round of talks, postponed indefinitely with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, could resume early this year.
The splinter group has engaged in talks with opposition political parties in support of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s call for the establishment of an interim administration as part of overall measures to restore political stability.
MP Weerawansa has ruled out resuming talks with the president unless he is ready to rectify wrongdoing.
The splinter group canceled a meeting due to take place at the Janadhipathi Mandiraya at 7 p.m. on April 12 after Shantha Bandara was sworn in as Minister of State for Agriculture. The first round of talks took place on April 10 also at the same location.
The rebel group includes Democratic Left Front, Lanka Sama Samaja Pakshaya, Communist Party of Sri Lanka, National Freedom Front, National Congress, Pivithuru Hela Urumaya, Sri Lanka Mahajana Pakshaya, Vijaya Dharani Jathika Sabhawa , the Eksath Mahajana Pakshaya and the civil society organization Yuthukama. The group consists of about 30 members.
MP Anura Priyadarshana Yapa alleged that the government’s inability to address ongoing issues prompted another group of SLPP members to rebel against the ruling coalition. Stating that they had no intention of betraying the government by joining what he called the opposition political project, MP Yapa said the government should not have engineered the defection of Shantha Bandara.
Responding to another question, Yapa said the second rebel group currently comprises 11 members, although there is a likelihood that more will join.
Yapa said that although there were no formal discussions between the 11-party group and those of the second splinter faction, the two groups largely represented the same interests. Stressing that the existence of the second group had been officially announced in parliament, Yapa said they would continue to carry out their own campaign to put pressure on the government. Lawmaker Yapa, who is also the chairman of the Committee on Public Finance (CoPF), described Shantha Bandara’s defection as an outdated political strategy, simply irrelevant at present.
Former Communist Party General Secretary DEW Gunasekera yesterday warned the government that the rapidly developing crisis could not be resolved through technical defections. The former minister agreed with MP Yapa’s assertion that such strategies were outdated and even counterproductive.
Gunasekera said the 11-party group had expressed concerns over Shantha Bandara’s defection. Stating that whoever organized the defection, it did not help the President’s efforts to defuse the political crisis. According to the former minister, an extremely untimely decision has jeopardized the government before the next discussions with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) aimed at obtaining the essential aid to overcome the financial crisis.
Gunasekera stressed that the government could not ignore the implications of the decision to announce the suspension of debt repayments pending talks with the IMF. The former minister asked, “Wouldn’t it have been better to make the announcement after getting IMF approval for this?”
The CP veteran questioned the alleged attempt to win over rebel group member Asanka Navaratne through underhanded means. Gunasekera alleged that a National List MP and another first-time MP accompanied by the chairman of a state-owned company went to MP Navaratne’s residence in Kurunegala where they offered the rebel a ministerial portfolio. on behalf of SLPP founder Basil Rajapaksa.
The targeted MP declined the offer and brought the incident to the attention of the rebel group.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa denied knowledge of the move when the rebel group asked for his position on the latest backdoor attempt. Gunasekera said the president’s assertion that he was not involved in the failed defection should be seen in the context of Shantha Bandara receiving a ministerial portfolio of state.
Gunasekera said there were half a dozen SLPP lawmakers closely monitoring the situation. “They are considering siding with the rebels and that could even cause the government to lose its simple majority in parliament,” the former minister said.
Meanwhile, Chief Opposition Whip Lakshaman Kiriella said yesterday The Island that the rebels, including the so-called second splinter group, could in no way refuse to sign a petition to depose President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. “We don’t want to hear any more excuses. What we need is their support to impeach the president. Dissidents cannot drag their feet on the impeachment decision, especially in the context of the defection of Shantha Bandara,” said MP Kiriella.
When asked if the decision of Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) had the support of all the opposition, MP Kiriella said that there was absolutely no problem regarding their support, the problem to be resolved was the delaying tactic adopted by those who declared their intention to operate. as independent groups in Parliament.
The SJB needs 113 signatures to make impeachment proceedings against the president a reality.
Responding to questions, MP Kiriella said they hoped to introduce an amendment to remove the executive presidency and also to explore ways and means of achieving consensus on re-enacting the provisions of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution through a 21st Amendment.
Lawmaker Gammanpila said President Rajapaksa’s response to the political crisis and the ongoing public protest campaign against the presidential secretariat demanding his resignation appeared wholly inadequate. Gammanpila said Shantha Bandara’s defection has increased pressure on the government which is struggling to cope with the ongoing protest campaign.