COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan government on Thursday convincingly defeated a No Confidence Motion (NCM) against Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake in parliament, and survived a potential threat to its existence.
Moved by the Joint Opposition headed by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the motion was defeated by 95 votes, with 145 voting against and 45 voting for. There were several abstentions and some members were absent. A notable absentee was Rajapaksa himself.
The motion had put the government to the litmus test because the Joint Opposition was trying to drive a wedge between President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe with the aim of breaking the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP)-United National Party (UNP) coalition government. While President Sirisena heads the SLFP, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe heads the UNP.
The Joint Opposition, which claims to be the “genuine SLFP”, appealed to the SLFP MPs supporting the coalition government to come out and liberate the party from servitude to the UNP. The Joint Opposition was hoping that the motion against the unpopular Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake would give the pro-government SLFP MPs a good excuse to defect. The Joint Opposition blamed the Finance Minister, the Prime Minister and the UNP, for the recent increases in VAT which had made the coalition government quite unpopular.
But the expected defections did not come about because the SLFP chief and Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, threw his weight behind Karunanayake and the coalition with the UNP. His decision influences SLFP MPs because he is the Executive President of Sri Lanka with a lot of powers. Sirisena was present in parliament to ensure that his MPs voted against the motion. Likewise, the UNP issued a whip to its MPs and saw to it that every MP who was in the country, attended.
The leftist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) voted for the motion while the 16 member Tamil National Alliance (TNA) abstained.
Explaining the TNA’s stance, Mavai Senanthirajah MP, said: “ Our intention was not to destabilize the government but to drive home the point that the government had not been consulting the TNA on development work in the Tamil areas.”