Ten days to the debate on the motion of no-confidence against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) remain undecided.
The SLFP, the major partner of Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) in the ‘Yahapalana’ Government, despite much braggadocio over ousting him and forming a new Government immediately after the February 10 election debacle, is yet to state its position. While some senior SLFP ministers have made ambiguous statements which indicate that the party could vote either way, no firm decision has been taken, according to sources close to the party leadership.
The JHU, which contested the August 2015 General Election in a coalition with the UNP, similarly is said to be ‘watching the situation within the UNP closely,’ and has not announced its stand. JHU Leader Patali Champika Ranawaka, for example, has predicted that the motion was bound to fail, but said that there’s a lot of wrongs that need to be righted through ‘a reform package for economic, social and political reform.’
Possibly referring to the leadership crisis in the UNP, Ranawaka said ‘we have to bring in those young, who have the expertise to put matters right; simply clinging on to existing positions and ignoring realities will be a serious mistake.’
While the TNA too has remained silent on the matter, sources close to Wickremesinghe are confident that they will not side with the Joint Opposition (JO), at worse choosing to abstain from voting.
The JVP has stated that it will support the motion. Interestingly, however, only 50 of the 54 MPs who are officially with the JO have signed the motion. On the other hand only a little over 80 of the 106 UNP MPs signed a letter supporting their leader.
There is also speculation that newly sworn-in Minister of Law and Order Ranjith Madduma Bandara could be the new Prime Minister in the event that the motion passes and Wickremesinghe chooses to resign. According to the 19th Amendment a vote of no-confidence has no binding effect on the position of the Prime Minister.