Colombo, November 18 (newsin.asia): In the confused political situation in Sri Lanka, where both major groups are struggling to retain or capture power, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is being wooed by both.
While the group led by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa wants to remain in power, no matter what the odds, the group led by the ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is desperate to regain power which it lost to the Rajapaksa group due to the machinations of President Maithripala Sirisena on October 26.
It is acknowledged that Prime Minister Rajapaksa does not enjoy majority support in parliament. 122 out of the 225 MPs had signed the No Confidence Motion (NCM) against him. And that, not once, but twice.
But what is not generally known is that the Wickremesinghe group is also not sure of its numbers, despite the fact that 122 MPs had backed the NCM against Rajapaksa.
The Wickremesinghe-led United National Front (UNF), as such, has 102. But it needs 113 to go beyond the half way mark in the House of 225.
It therefore depends on the support of the TNA and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP). Both supported the NCM against Rajapaksa. But there is no guarantee that they will support a government headed by Wickremesinghe.
The JVP leader, Anura Kumara Dissanayaka, has very clearly stated that while disapproving the sacking of Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and appointing Rajapaksa in his place, his party does not intend to support a Wickremesinghe administration. It will be in the opposition.
As for the TNA, it can neither support Rajapaksa nor Wickremesinghe without credible assurances about the steps they intend to take to solve the long pending Tamil question.
The TNA needs assurances on issues like a new constitution with substantial devolution of powers to the provinces. It needs the release of Tamil “political” prisoners, and the establishment of mechanisms to address charges of war crimes as per the resolutions of the UN Human Rights Council.
In their talks with Rajapaksa, the TNA leaders were verbally told that he would address these issues. But when they asked for a written assurance, Rajapaksa balked. Likewise, keen to be assured of the TNA’s continued support, Wickremesinghe asked them to give an affidavit signed by all its MPs to say that they will support him.
Wickremesinghe intended to present the affidavit to the President to convince him that he has the 14-member TNA with him.
However, the TNA leaders were reluctant to give an affidavit as doing so would mean committing the TNA to Wickremesinghe whose regime had not met the Tamils’ demands other than ensuring absence of violence since coming to power in January 2015.
“Committing to either Rajapaksa or Wickremesinghe without firm assurances will be bad for the TNA in the run up to the Northern and Eastern Provincial elections, especially in the context of the emerging challenge from former Chief Minister Wigneswaran who is in the fray with a new radical Tamil party,” said a TNA MP.
“The TNA was found wanting in the February 2018 local bodies elections. Its stock could plunge lower if it is seen by the Tamil population as being tied to one or the other of the Sinhalese parties,” the MP added.
Presently, the TNA has 14 MPs (two others having opted out – Sivasakthi Ananthan saying that he will be neutral and Vyalendran crossing over to the Rajapaksa camp). The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) has six members.
Nevertheless, Rajapaksa’s emissaries are still in talks with the TNA. It is said that the Rajapaksa regime is now thinking of giving in writing that Tamil prisoners languishing in jail for long (some even without being charged), will be released.
But the TNA feels that if it supports Rajapaksa, the Tamils back home in the Northern and Eastern provinces will not approve it, because the people there blame Rajapaksa for the atrocities which the Lankan army allegedly committed in the last phase of the war against Tamil Tiger rebels. Rajapaksa was Lankan President during the war.
The Rajapaksa group wanted the TNA to be neutral, but the TNA leaders felt that even neutrality would be seen by the Tamil population as support for Rajapaksa. The suggestion was thus rejected.
Meanwhile President Sirisena got the parties in parliament to agree to conduct the proceedings in regard to the No Confidence Motion as per the rules and regulations of parliament.
But groups opposed to Rajapaksa, in connivance with Speaker Karu Jaysuriya, had been brazenly flouting parliamentary rules in passing the two NCMs that were tabled.
The excuse trotted out for circumventing the rules was that the Rajapaksa group had created mayhem in parliament.
The Rajapaksa group, on the other hand, appeared determined to do everything to disrupt proceedings in parliament to prevent a No Confidence Motion being adopted in the normal way.
The group also wanted the opposition to formally acknowledge the legitimacy of the Rajapaksa government and desist from using terms like “purported government” or “purported Prime Minister”.
As the President had suggested, the Rajapaksa group insisted that the established procedure, spread over several days, should be followed and the Standing Orders should not be dispensed with.
But the opposition is in a frightful hurry to get rid of the Rajapaksa government. It fears that the President might prorogue parliament again, despite an assurance that he will not do it again. He has the power to prorogue for two months.
Parliament is to meet on Monday, November 19. But unless peace is established as a result of President Sirisena’s talks with the parliamentary parties on Sunday, commotion is expected on Monday too.
This could go on till December 7, when the three-judge bench of the Supreme Court is expected to give its verdict on Fundamental Rights Petitions filed against the President’s proclamation dissolving parliament and ordering fresh elections on January 5, 2019.
The case could well drag on beyond that because the Rajapaksa group has filed a petition seeking the institution of a five judge bench court to go into the case given its high constitutional importance.
(The featured image at the top shows Mahinda Rahapaksa, Ranil Wickremesinghe, and TNA leader R.Sampanthan)
Post a Comment