NCM boomerangs on SJB | Daily News

NCM boomerangs on SJB

The NCM rejected in Parliament.
The NCM rejected in Parliament.

The Government grabbed the valuable opportunity, offered by the main Opposition on a silver platter, with both hands when it closed ranks to roundly defeat the No-Faith Motion against Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila last Tuesday.

Keeping all differences and disagreements aside, the ruling party members rallied behind their Cabinet colleague to fend off the Opposition’s criticisms. It allowed the Government to bring all its Members back into the fold and reinforce its strength.

The No-Confidence Motion (NCM) presented by the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) led by Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa mainly revolved around last month’s fuel price hike. However, by the time it was taken up in Parliament, the public attention had moved on from the topic of increased fuel prices to other contemporary issues, and the Opposition could not sufficiently get the topic back in the limelight in the run-up to the debate.

After a two-day Parliamentary debate full of sound and fury, the Opposition’s move against Gammanpila proved to be a damp squib. In a showdown in Parliament, the NCM was thrown out with a majority of 91 votes on Tuesday evening. It received 152 votes against and 61 votes for, while 11 MPs did not turn up to vote. Among the absentees were Minister Chamal Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) dissident MP Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, SJB MP Harin Fernando, All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) Leader MP Rishad Bathiudeen, SJB MP Kumara Welgama and Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) MPs Faizal Cassim, H. M. M. Harees, Naseer Ahamed and M. S. Thowfeek.

The Government, not only could garner the support of a two-thirds majority in Parliament to reject the Motion, but could also rope in a few MPs belonging to the SLMC and the ACMC to vote with the Government. These MPs broke ranks with the SJB even during the vote of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution last year.

Heated debate

It was a well-attended debate full of heated exchanges of words between the Government and the Opposition Members, but those arguments often lacked substance, and an unpleasant blame game was the order of the day for the most part. Some Members even went to the extent of settling old scores on their opponents in the rival political camp with countless allegations and derogatory remarks.

The SJB, in an attempt to attract media spotlight ahead of the debate, held a demonstration on Monday at the Parliament roundabout holding placards and shouting anti-Government slogans. While complaining about spiralling Cost of Living, they demanded immediate relief for the ordinary masses. Unlike the scenes that unfolded during a demonstration by several Teachers’ and Students’ Unions at the same venue on July 8, the Police, this time, did not interfere with the Opposition’s protest.

Probably high-spirited after the protest or out of ignorance of the Parliamentary procedures, SJB MP S. M. Marrikar, who was on his feet to move the NCM on behalf of the Opposition, kick-started the debate vociferously criticizing the Government, overlooking that he was supposed to formally read out the Motion first. Not even his senior colleagues in the Opposition noticed the lapse until the Leader of the House Minister Dinesh Gunawardena brought the attention of the Speaker that, there was no Motion before the House either to be adopted or rejected as the MP failed to read it out as per the tradition. Later, MP Marikkar was given additional time to present the NCM thanks to the intervention of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Confidence reassured

The Members in the Government ranks emphasised that the fuel price hike was a collective decision by the Government, and that it was an unpopular but required decision to tide the country’s economy over this difficult phase. They pointed out that revising fuel prices had been done by every successive Government from time to time.

The SJB, over and over again, cited SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam’s controversial letter, which demanded the resignation of Minister Gammanpila in the immediate aftermath of the oil price increase, to justify the NCM against Gammanpila. It was obvious that the SJB was trying to cash in on the internal frictions within the Government. Yet, at the end of the day, it was an own goal by the Opposition as it only exposed divisions within its own camp, whereas the Government Members stuck together in the face of the NCM.

Former Prime Minister and UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and the SJB MPs too locked horns during the debate a few times, and this was despite fresh attempts by former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to unite the two camps with the aim of creating a common Opposition platform.

Wickremesinghe sought an amendment to the NCM to make it against the entire Cabinet, observing that it is the Finance Minister, who effects oil price revisions, and that all Ministers at the Cost of Living Cabinet Subcommittee also need to be held responsible for the decision. The SJB frowned upon this proposal, stating that it would only make the Government stronger. The Speaker’s final say was to reject the amendment on the basis that it alters the scope of the original Motion before the House.

National People’s Power (NPP) Leader MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake opined that the NCM was an imprudent and immature decision by the SJB that ill-judged the current political situation. He went on to say that it was a mere media stunt by the SJB. Buttressing this view, Wickremesinghe said that he was on the same page with Dissanayake on the timing and the content of the Motion. Nevertheless, both of them voted for the NCM.

In a closed-door meeting of the Government Parliamentary Group presided over by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, on the eve of the debate, both the President and the PM had stressed the need to stand in unity to defeat the Opposition’s attempts to take political advantage by fanning tensions within the ruling coalition.

The fate of the NCM could be foretold even before the debate started. Well-aware that he was getting the full backing of the Government, jubilant Minister Gammanpila told the House that he was moved by the solidarity extended to him by the people and his colleagues in the Government. He thanked the SJB for the golden opportunity afforded to him to show his real political strength. SLPP General Secretary Kariyawasam, whose original missive against Minister Gammanpila inspired the SJB to draft the NCM, too voted to defeat the NCM, toeing the Party line.


Another major political development this week was President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s allusion of his intention to seek another Presidential term.

“In addition to the remaining three years, I have got another five years to implement my policies,” the President was quoted as saying. He had passed the above remark during a luncheon meeting with owners of media houses when he was asked as to how he would accomplish his goals as planned within the remaining three years of his term.

Almost all predecessors of President Rajapaksa since the introduction of the Executive Presidency under the 1978 Constitution, except former President and SLFP Leader Maithripala Sirisena, had been elected for a second term. Former President Sirisena did not finally contest for a second term, but his comments towards the end of his term showed that he was willing to throw his hat into the ring again.

This was the first time President Rajapaksa publicly hinted that he was keen on a second term. The next Presidential Election will come in the latter half of 2024. The President was initially not inclined to seek the highest political office for another term, but his above comment possibly indicates a change of mind.

This could probably be because the first half of his first term has been considerably blighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, an unexpected and severe health crisis that has befallen not only Sri Lanka, but the entire world. He may be looking at a fresh term of office to make up for lost time and accomplish his work plan in line with the Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour Policy Document.

He must have also taken stock of the current political situation before this comment. The President has not only spoken his idea of re-contesting, but also his confidence of winning it. With this comment, the President has also indicated that any efforts by those in the ruling party to groom another candidate for the next Presidential Poll in 2024 will be redundant.

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa at the protest organised by the SJB on Monday.

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