Sri Lanka’s Tamil par­ties vow to vote against Mahinda Ra­japaksa

Tehran Times - - WORLD IN FOCUS -

Sri Lanka’s newly ap­pointed Prime Min­is­ter Mahinda Ra­japaksa has suf­fered a set­back in his power strug­gle with a de­posed ri­val af­ter a coali­tion rep­re­sent­ing the coun­try’s Tamil mi­nor­ity pledged to back a mo­tion of no-con­fi­dence against him.

In a state­ment on Satur­day, the Tamil Na­tional Al­liance (TNA) called Ra­japaksa’s shock ap­point­ment by the pres­i­dent last week “un­con­sti­tu­tional and il­le­gal” and said its mem­bers would back a bid by sacked Prime Min­is­ter Ranil Wick­remesinghe to re­move him.

The mi­nor­ity coali­tion has the back­ing of 15 leg­is­la­tors in the 225-mem­ber par­lia­ment and could play a key role in sway­ing a no-con­fi­dence vote as Ra­japaksa and Wick­remesinghe now com­mand the sup­port of about a 100 politi­cians each.

But an­a­lysts said the TNA’s de­ci­sion did not spell de­feat for Ra­japaksa be­cause the for­mer pres­i­dent has man­aged to whit­tle away at Wick­remesinghe’s ini­tial ma­jor­ity by get­ting at least six mem­bers from his United Na­tional Party (UNP) to switch camps.

A ma­jor­ity of 113 is re­quired to vote a prime min­is­ter out.

Sri Lanka was plunged into a con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis on Oc­to­ber 26 when Pres­i­dent Maithri­pala Sirisena fired his for­mer ally Wick­remesinghe and re­placed him with Ra­japaksa, an ex-pres­i­dent he de­feated in a 2015 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

The tur­moil was ex­ac­er­bated by Sirisena’s sub­se­quent de­ci­sion to also sus­pend par­lia­ment un­til Novem­ber 16.

Wick­remesinghe, who in­sists he re­mains prime min­is­ter, has de­manded a par­lia­men­tary vote to prove his ma­jor­ity. The United Na­tions backed that call on Fri­day, just as the UNP sub­mit­ted a no-con­fi­dence mo­tion against Ra­japaksa and said the vote will be put on the agenda as soon as par­lia­ment re­con­venes.

But observers be­lieve the longer par­lia­ment re­mains sus­pended, the more likely the United Peo­ple’s Free­dom Al­liance (UPFA) - a coali­tion mainly com­prised of Sirisena and Ra­japaksa’s po­lit­i­cal par­ties - will be able to tempt de­fec­tions.

The TNA said Sirisena’s sus­pen­sion of par­lia­ment was “un­demo­cratic and in vi­o­la­tion of par­lia­men­tary supremacy”.

Ex­plain­ing its de­ci­sion to vote against Ra­japaksa, the TNA said: “Re­main­ing neu­tral in such a sit­u­a­tion would pave the way for achiev­ing an un­demo­cratic end by force.”

The al­liance has long op­posed Ra­japaksa, who ruled the coun­try from 2005 to 2015, over al­leged atroc­i­ties against the eth­nic mi­nor­ity at the close of a decades-long civil war in 2009.

The 26-year con­flict left at least 100,000 peo­ple dead. Ac­cord­ing to the UN, about 40,000 peo­ple - mostly Tamil civil­ians - were killed in the fi­nal five months alone.

In re­cent days, hu­man rights groups have warned Ra­japaksa’s re­turn might jeop­ar­dize the coun­try’s in­cre­men­tal progress on tran­si­tional jus­tice and put war vic­tims who have spo­ken of hu­man rights abuses at risk.

Still, in a sur­pris­ing move, TNA leg­is­la­tor S Viyal­en­dran de­fected on Fri­day and was later named Ra­japaksa’s deputy min­is­ter of re­gional devel­op­ment.

In its state­ment, the TNA strongly con­demned S Viyal­en­dran for tak­ing part in the “con­spir­acy” of Sirisena and Ra­japaksa, whom it ac­cused of us­ing the sus­pen­sion to “bribe mem­bers of par­lia­ment with both money and min­is­te­rial posts” to ob­tain a “fraud­u­lent ma­jor­ity”.

Palitha Range Ban­dara, a UNP mem­ber who al- leged he was of­fered $2.8m and a min­is­te­rial post to switch sup­port, on Satur­day aired an au­dio clip at a news con­fer­ence in which a pur­ported se­nior of­fi­cial from Sirisena and Ra­japaksa’s United Peo­ple’s Free­dom Al­liance (UPFA) could be heard of­fer­ing him a cab­i­net post.

“We have 113 MPs, but we would re­ally like to have you,” the man was heard say­ing. “If you come now you can get a cab­i­net po­si­tion … don’t wait.”

The UPFA has pre­vi­ously dis­missed al­le­ga­tions of bribery.

Ra­japaksa, in a state­ment soon af­ter his ap­point­ment, pledged to “es­chew pol­i­tics of hate” and said he will hold long-de­layed provin­cial elec­tions and call a gen­eral elec­tion as soon as pos­si­ble.

Dayasiri Jayasekara, a UPFA mem­ber, said the Tamils have “no rea­son to fear” the newly ap­pointed prime min­is­ter.

“His ad­min­is­tra­tion ended the war,” he said on Satur­day.

“His gov­ern­ment de­vel­oped so much in­fra­struc­ture in the north and there was law and or­der. But Wick­remesinghe has given them noth­ing. No jobs, no devel­op­ment and there is only crime. So I urge our Tamil friends not to worry,” he said.

Na­mal Ra­japaksa, the newly ap­pointed prime min­is­ter’s son and a mem­ber of par­lia­ment, con­demned TNA’s de­ci­sion in a Twit­ter post and said Sirisena and Ra­japaksa will con­tinue to ad­dress “the needs of the North/East”, in­clud­ing re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing for­mer Tamil fight­ers.

The UNP, mean­while, thanked the TNA for “join­ing our strug­gle”, say­ing its fight was not “for a sin­gle po­lit­i­cal party, but for the fu­ture of our na­tion”.

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