A controversy over the chief ministerial slot for the Central Provincial Council spilled over to the council’s inaugural session today when at least seven Government councillors voted for the opposition candidate contesting the posts of chairman and deputy chairman of the council.
UPFA members nominated Councillor S.B. Ratnayake while the UNP nominated its councillor, Rohana Bandaranayake for the position of Deputy Chairman.
Ratnayake, the Government candidate won the contest with 33 votes, while Bandaranayake obtained 24 votes.
The total number of opposition members in the Central Provincial Council is 18. One opposition councillor was also absent at yesterday’s inaugural session making a total of 17 seats.
Bandaranayake’s vote tally proved that seven Government members had voted in favour of the opposition candidate.
The vote for the chairman of the council was even closer with the Government candidate obtaining 29 votes while the opposition candidate obtained 27 votes, proving that 10 Government councillors had voted for the opposition candidate.
The Central Provincial Council was mired in controversy after President Mahinda Rajapaksa overtook the province’s highest vote taker Anuradha Jayaratne for the post of Chief Minister and appointed Sarath Ekanayake who got only half of the number of Jayaratne’s votes. Anuradha Jayaratne is the son of Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne, a SLFP strongman in the Central Province. The President’s decision, based on the fact that the son of a prime minister could not be made chief minister of a province. The decision was despite several announcements before the provincial elections that chief ministers would be chosen based on the preferential vote tallies. Angry supporters of Jayaratne held a protest in Kandy against the President’s move. In a remarkable turn of events, the Prime Minister also participated in the protest.
The remarkable voting patterns at yesterday’s inaugural session is believed to be a continuation of the crisis in the Central Provincial Council with many of the councillors still displeased that Jayaratne was not given his due.