19 November, 2018

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Confidence Vote In The PM & Its Intricacies

By Siri Gamage

Dr. Siri Gamage

Results from the No confidence vote in the parliament on April 4th 2018 show that the no confidence motion (NCM) against the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has been soundly defeated after a day of deliberations. 76 MPs voted for and 122 voted against. Prime Minister won the confidence of parliament by a majority of 46 votes. Contrary to reports that a group of UNP MPs will vote for the NCM, members of the UNP stuck together in the vote displaying party loyalty. Even Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe voted against the NCM. Minority parties except the JVP were firmly behind the PM. A section from the SLFP abstained.

Thus if the recent Local Government elections result was used by the Joint Opposition (JO) to show a popular growing trend among voters in the country toward its political platform, the country’s parliament has shown majority support for the PM and the United National Party that he leads. The two different results show a significant difference between the ground reality so far as the popular sentiment is concerned and the thinking among the legislators who were elected to parliament three years ago. No doubt in coming days and weeks this gap will necessitate the UNP and the minor parties supporting it to take measures including internal party reforms to address the evolving situation.

Results from the vote show that the majority of MPs in the parliament wishes to continue with the current government for the rest of its term with Mr Wickremesinghe at the helm. Though there were plenty of criticisms of the Prime Minister and his party policies including the recent budget prior to this vote, what this result does is to consolidate PM’s leadership. The PM is in a position to claim a mandate on his own to govern for the remaining term of government without being distracted by sideshows. How far he will use this mandate to carry on the promises made to people during the last national elections including chasing those who were corrupt during the former President Rajapaksa’s regime will be a litmus test. While the voting result consolidates the position of Wickremesinghe for the time being, it is not certain how far this will continue? Future support for him within the UNP and minority parties supporting him will depend on the steps his government takes to address the concerns among the UNP second tier leaders and minority parties with varying interests. For example, whether his government will accelerate the constitutional change process and further devolution, concrete reconciliation measures, measures to reduce the cost of living burdens can be crucial issues.

The voting outcome shows the extent to which the SLFP that the President Sirisena leads is split between those who supported the stance of the Joint Opposition and those who did not. Rather than showing internal divisions within the UNP, the fact that a group of SLFP MPs and ministers voted for the NCM submitted by the JO and another group abstained shows the internal divisions within the SLFP. It also shows where the loyalties of SLFP members of parliament lies. SLFP is not a united party today. Those who read between the lines had known all along that the SLFP has far more divisions compared to any divisions within the UNP. Both are in the national government yet after the results of Local Government elections in favour of the Joint Opposition, some SLFP ministers and MPs started to look to a future with the Joint Opposition and Podu Jana Peramuna (PJP) rather than sticking with the present national government. This trend has the potential to further undermine the authority and leadership of the President.

Whether the PM is able to get rid of SLFP ministers who voted for the NCM against him and install a cabinet of his liking for the rest of government’s term is a critical issue? Any such change requires the consent of the President. Theoretically at least, those ministers from the SLFP who voted against the PM have no moral right to remain in the cabinet. They should either resign or be removed. But such removal can only occur if the President agrees. Even if the PM and his party want such change, obtaining agreement from the President will not be an easy task. This shows the futility of continuing with the present arrangement for governance with a directly elected executive President and a Prime Minister elected through parliamentary elections. Sri Lanka has to choose between a Westminster style government with a President who has ceremonial functions only or a Presidential system where a directly elected President and his party rule the country. There are examples in Asia itself for the latter type but the dictatorial tendencies of such Presidents should counsel against such a move among those contemplating such a system.

The negotiations and horse trading occurred before the vote and media reports about which party or group of MPs will vote for which side shows how Sri Lanka’s polity is fragmented into smaller factions representing a range of interests including ethnic, religious and class. To garner a majority in the parliament, a leader has to negotiate with a multitude of smaller groups and factions. The vote of confidence in the PM shows that he enjoys the support among a multiethnic electorate whereas the vote for the Joint Opposition and its unofficial leader former President Rajapakse displays support from the Sinhala Buddhist community. This difference in voter bases and sources will be the deciding factor in future years/decades in Sri Lankan politics, especially during the forthcoming Presidential and Parliamentary elections scheduled in two years time.

Though Wickramasinghe won confidence of the large majority in the parliament and there is reason for his party to celebrate, this is no guarantee that this victory will ensure stable government for the rest of the term. Primarily this is due to the existence of two power centres under the existing system, lack of party reforms within the UNP, further agitations by the Joint Opposition, economic downturn, cost of living pressures and tax burdens on the people, and the need to satisfy diverse needs and demands of a multi ethnic constituency. Furthermore, governing on the basis of democratic principles and norms with free media etc. can become even harder if sectional demands cannot be reconciled and balanced with firm but fair decision-making. If Wickremesinghe is able to secure a cabinet of his choosing at least for the remainder of the government’s term in office, it will show his true colours in terms of whether he moves down from the Ivy League mentality and listen to the people more so than his close associates from the Royal College etc. A cosmopolitan government based on Sri Lankan national interest and a global orientation is desirable so long as the policies and programs implemented secure independence of the country and reduces dependence on everything foreign. The shockwaves sent through PM’s party’s spine as a result of no confidence proceedings would require him to reflect, rethink and revise his government’s economic and social policies. No doubt that the outcome of NCM vote weakens the hand of the President. This could be for better or worse for the UNP and the PM depending on how he decides to move forward rather than backward.

For the Joint Opposition and Sri Lanka Podu Jana Peramuna, the vote has shown the limits of their power in the present parliament. Though its spokesmen will try to depict this as a victory for the JO, the outcome is a considerable defeat for what it stands for. The crucial question is whether the JO can move forward by winning national elections in coming years with the same political platform that it presented to the voting public during the Local Government elections? The only hope for the JO and Sri Lanka Podu Jana Peramuna under the circumstances would be to rely on infighting and inefficiencies in the National Government and wait for more blunders to occur. An opposition party cannot come to power purely on the basis of criticising a government. It has to have clear policies and programs that address concerns of a multiethnic electorate. Furthermore, its economic policies need to be differentiated from the existing ones. The irony is that the neoliberal free market economic policies and practices are shared by all major parties except perhaps the JVP. The differences are only in rhetoric.

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Latest comments

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    Note that no one from the SLFP voted against the motion.
    Voting against a ‘no confidence’ motion is not an expression of confidence.
    The TNA made it clear that it did not approve of the motion as it was rather woolly.
    The ‘Good Governance’ regime is a shambles, but right now the options are not very bright.

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    Siri Gamage ~ “Confidence Vote In The PM & Its Intricacies”
    It was NOT a confidence vote in the PM but it was against NCM.
    The MPs voted as directed without considering the ‘intricacies’.
    Siri says ~ “……….Even Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe voted against the NCM. Minority parties except the JVP were firmly behind the PM…………..”.
    Voting against NCM is not necessarily standing ‘firmly’ behind the PM. In any case why rub this ‘Minorities behind PM’ thingy?
    The performance of SLPP at the recent LG election was because they used the good old language/religion-divide.

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    I think your analysis is very short sighted. Remember, PResident said that before the elelction they would – SLFP and JO – would fight together. SO, both the SLFP anf JO can not win. and SLFP lost but JO won infront of your eyes. What happened to UNP. You know it. Now, NCM Ranil won. Minorities showed who they are and what is they are in Sri lanka. Muslims are always, as Tamils say, thoppi Pirattis. they hang on to Sinhala people, they keep on islamizing the country because that is what their quran Says, Otherwise, they are for money. they went overseas for money. Islam was began as a result of the need for business. So, they continue. The new news is there is another business group. they are simply for business. their prodict is Jesus christ and they are for Athiests too. Sri lanka has Islamic Evangelists and Buddhist Evangelists. they had a considerable victory. those are the things coming behind. Otherwise, politicians are for money and power. If Sri lanka is to develop as a respectable country, We do not need to be Singapore or a super pwoer, Parliamentaary power should be cut down drastically. I don’t think MR or Ranil would do it. I am suspicious about MY3 too.

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    mahinda rajapksa and his clan will never get the votes of the minorities even in the future elections as they continue to be racist in their outlook and actions

    I am surprised that mahinda being a smart person does not understand this .

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    The essay went down below to see in depth of the problems. But I think it didn’t go the ultimate flat bottom level to see the voter pattern of Lankawe. A country’s democratic government reflects the voters’ education, cultural maturity and the breadth of the minds of the communities. Lankawe too has a democratic constitution, but dictatorial to control the minorities. Lankawe is 174th out of 179 countries on Media freedom. This is impeding, like nothing can, the functionality and strength of the democracy of country. Country is rated as one with in the 22 using rape as a weapon against its own voting minorities. Most of the 70 year history, it is ruled under emergency and or with PTA. After with Universal franchise for 90 years, it is only below 5% women in political services. Women ratio is 52:48. Country started as the leader in the region, now has ended as the least in the region, in Economic growth, Political freedom and maturity, Media Freedom, ethnic harmony………… The fastest growing Industry is sex trade and GDP is 4.3% well below the neighbors. Almost all leaders, including Batalanda Ranil, are war crimes like massive crimes accused ones. All the minorities all these times cried about government’s impunity. But it is the minorities collectively got together and saved Ranil out of his world famous Central Bank Robbery. Advancing from Chitanta government firing one CJ, Yahapalanaya government is dismissing any amount of CJs, any law & order or any Justice Ministry’s administrative or political position on its will and hiring on its will. There is no use of Radhika Commission sitting there and taking payments. Deal Dasa and Sahala are fired political positions in Law and Order and Justice. Marapana, LTTE IGP, Mokan Peiris, Shiranee Bandaranaike and SriPavan are fired CJs, IGP and AG. In addition to these, there is satirically functioning HRCSL too.

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    As many commentators have pointed out, the use of Universal Suffrage is in very primitive stage and instead it improve from 1931, the Universal Franchise date, it appears to be have slipped back to adverse more. People are voting in every election on Biryani and Arrack, the single issue, entertained by a popular candidate of the election time. But as mentioned in the essay, there is no much difference in the political parties’ policies. Even if there is something, people are not able to evaluate it. If the people care, then the constitution and election process are fine tuned to bring in only what the leaders want but not the ones people elect. More and more the parties are operating on agendas, instead of policies. The classic example is TNA asked to sign a paper from Ranil and then supported him. For some people, it may appear that the matter promised was a political issue; but the reality is, it is an agenda. I am not writing from the side of the Old Royals’ acolytes. If one look at the LG election, the people from majority community have voted against the Ranil-SamSum pact, signed on April 3rd. The Old Royals’ rep, GLP’s campaign theme on LG was blocking any constitutional relief for Tamils. They won on that and that is what gave the strength to Joint Comedy club moot the NCM. In all Lankawe 70 years’ history, until Yahapalanaya – UNHRC pact, the resolution 30/1, signing pacts with minorities and ending them up tearing by the majority community’s pressure is the reality. So by all measuring rods, the signed Ranil-SamSum pact is not implementable as it is against the majority community as per LG election. If that is not a drama enacted by Ranil and TNA jointly, this is another agenda by two parties to take up their interest, ignoring the people’s wish.

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    Of course, TNA resisted the temptation for a pact to the last minute, but had already resolved to vote for Ranil even after he openly cheated on secret Solution ,TNA changed its mind seeing Hakeem had achieved his objects by refusing to support Ranil until Ranil relented to Hakeem’s demands. This political corruption is like Dengue Fever, spread to every one nearby, whether they are healthy to resist corruption of weak and susceptible. Ranil engineered the LG election’s date to manipulate the UNHRC. Further on the fine tuning, Mangala or Harsha are no longer responsible the signature of resolution 30/1, but a man who resigned from government for his corruption deals on Avant Grade was reinstated as the minister responsible for it. Interestingly no firmer Law order Minister is appointed to take care of the promises to UNHRC. In Addition to Ranil setting the date of the LG to suite with UNHRC sitting, he did not oppose the GLP’s Slap Party on the campaigns against the non-existed Secret Solution. It is in that condition the Ranil-SamSum pact has been signed. People are unaware of it, but when the pact has to be manipulated, some single issue candidates, like the ones functioned for the LG election using Secret Solution, will handle this too.

    People, the voters, are democracy or political principles and purpose illiterate. In election times, from media to the political masters make the ignorant voters into Arrack and Biriyani seekers, vote on single issue referendum, instead of promoting them as partners in nation Building. Lection after election, their illiteracy is reinforced and thought process erased out. The first important act passed after freedom was Indian Pakistani Citizenship Acts. This turned Tamils to seek protection through ITAK, a single issue party. Developing further on Don Stephen Idea, SWRD permanently swayed the Lankawe political landscape ethnicity based, the single issue. So the parties and voters are not policy based, but ignorant & untrained, ethnicity single issues dependents.

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