Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena’s party on Tuesday formally informed embattled Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe that it will support a no-confidence motion backed by the Joint Opposition against him. Wickremesinghe, 68, leads a national unity government in alliance with Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). He faces the no-confidence motion in Parliament tomorrow.
There was a flurry of discussions among key players since last night to discuss the no-confidence motion. Senior SLFP leader and Minister of Aviation Nimal Siripala de Silva conveyed the party’s decision to Wickremesinghe this morning, political sources said.
The motion scheduled for tomorrow was handed over to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya by the Joint Opposition last month against Wickremesinghe, accusing him of financial mismanagement and failing to tackle anti-Muslim riots last month in the central Kandy district.
The SLFP this morning insisted that Wickremesinghe should step down before the motion. The prime minister refused to step down, a spokesman for Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) said. “We will defeat the motion tomorrow,” said Harsha de Silva, a UNP frontliner and a minister of state.
Wickremesinghe had resisted a call from Sirisena to resign following a crushing defeat to former president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s new party Sri Lanka People’s Front in the February 10 local election.
It is no secret that Sirisena wants Wickremesinghe’s ouster so that he could replace him with his own choice. Wickremesinghe was recently replaced as law and order minister after clashes erupted in the Kandy district. The President also removed key institutions, including the Central Bank, from the control of Wickremesinghe.
Wickremesinghe’s broader front, UNFGG has 106 seats in the 225 member assembly while the SLFP and the JO combine of Sirisena and Rajapaksa represents only 96. However, some of Wickremesinghe’s allies – Sri Lanka Muslim Congress – have expressed dissatisfaction with the UNP.
Sirisena is said to believe that at least 12 Muslim MPs in Wickremesinghe’s front may decide to vote against the premier. The main Tamil party which has 16 seats will decide later tonight on the stance to be taken at the no trust vote against the premier. Its leader R Sampanthan met President Sirisena today.
Sirisena in 2015 quit the Rajapaksa government to join hands with Wickremesinghe, the then main opposition leader, to defeat Rajapaksa in the presidential election ending his 10-year rule.
Constitutionally, the current Parliament could not be dissolved before February 2020. It requires a motion adopted with 2/3rds in the 225 member assembly to call for snap elections.