JO aims at Opposition Leader post, the General Secretary posts of United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP)
Attempting to get hold of the General Secretary posts of the UPFA and the SLFP using as pawns the 16 SLFP MPs
NCM against Sampanthan put on hold at the instance of the former President
JO argued that they be given the Opposition Leader post claiming that they were the largest group in the Opposition
Local Government election results point to the fact that the UNP’s calculations have gone wrong
The Joint Opposition, the Mahinda Rajapaksa loyalists in the Parliament, seems to aim currently at three main positions in and outside of the Parliament. One is the Opposition Leader post, a position that they have been eying from the day this Parliament met for the first time after the last General Elections and the others being the General Secretary posts of two parties led by President Maithripala Sirisena – the United people’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) and its main constituent party, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).
Once the three positions are captured, the “mission is accomplished” they seem to think as it would be a leap forward in their campaign to office. They are attempting to get hold of the General Secretary posts of the UPFA and the SLFP using as pawns the 16 SLFP MPs, who had resigned from their Ministerial posts and the Deputy Speaker post after voting in favour of the No-Confidence Motion against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Interestingly, among this “group of 16” there are those two former General Secretaries of the SLFP and the UPFA, Anura Priyadharshana Yapa and Susil Premajayantha, who were unceremoniously sacked from those posts by President Sirisena on the eve of the last General Elections for helping his main rival, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa under his nose.
If any two persons of the group recaptured the two positions it would really be a sweet revenge especially for the duo.
The Joint Opposition had been challenging to bring in another NCM against Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan for voting against the NCM against the Premier and it is said to have put on hold at the instance of the former President.
Meanwhile, the backbenchers of the United National Party (UNP) were also to bring in separate no-faith motions against the group of 16 for voting in favour of the one against the PM but they too were withheld on the instructions of Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe.
The purported reason for the proposed NCM against the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader Sampanthan was just a ruse, as the Joint Opposition have been laying claim to the Opposition Leader post occasionally from the very beginning. And the stand of the UNP towards this demand has been strange as they have rejected it while recognising the Joint Opposition as a separate group in the Parliament.
However, Sampanthan seems to have forgotten his duty towards all the communities in the country as the Opposition Leader. His current attitude justifies the Joint Opposition’s demand for the Opposition Leader post
Hard on the heels of the last General Elections, Mahinda Rajapaksa and 54 of his loyalists who contested under the UPFA led by President Sirisena requested the Speaker of the Parliament to make arrangements for them to sit in the Opposition benches and recognise them as a separate group in the House.
They also argued that they should be given the Opposition Leader post claiming that they were the largest group in the Opposition of the House.
Mahinda Rajapaksa recommended former Transport Minister of his government Kumara Welgama for the post and all 55 members of the Joint Opposition made it a request in a letter to the Speaker Karu Jayasuriya.
It was rejected by the Speaker as well as the UNP on the grounds that no party called Joint Opposition had contested at the General Elections and no party had returned to Parliament under the name of Joint Opposition, despite their request to sit in the Opposition being acceded.
Accordingly, leader of the TNA Sampanthan was recognised as the Leader of the largest party in the Opposition of the House and was appointed the Opposition Leader on September 3, 2015, by the Speaker.
JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake was appointed the Opposition Whip.
Legally the contention was correct.
JO request rejected on the grounds that no party called Joint Opposition contested and no party had returned to Parliament under the name of Joint Opposition
The UNP (106 seats), UPFA (95 seats), Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi under which the TNA contested (16 seats), Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) (6 seats), Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) (1 seat) and Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) (1 seat) were the parties that had returned to the Parliament.
Therefore no other party or group can legally be recognised as a party or group representing Parliament Opposition.
However, there has been precedence, where parties which contested under a coalition, with other parties had later been recognised as a separate group in the House.
The JVP which contested under the UPFA symbol at the 2004 General Elections had been recognised as a separate group until 2010, after they severed links with the UPFA in June 2005.
Yet, the Speaker dismissed the Joint Opposition’s demand to be treated as a separate group.
A few weeks later the Joint Opposition’s demand for the recognition as a separate group reemerged-this time sans the demand for the Opposition leader post.
And this time the UNP was amenable apparently with a view to strengthen the Mahinda Rajapaksa group within the SLFP, which according to the calculations of the UNP leadership, would divide the SLFP and help the UNP at the forthcoming elections.
It was on the same grounds that the UNP might have been soft on the high profile corruption charges against the leaders of the former regime.
However, the recent Local Government election results point to the fact that the UNP’s calculations have gone wrong.
The SLFP has not been divided right in the middle. Instead, at the grassroots level, the entire party has been with Rajapaksas from the beginning.
Again in April 2016, the Joint Opposition had some issues over the Opposition Leader post.
Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP) leader Dinesh Gunawardane criticised Sampanthan for speaking only about problems faced by the Tamil people ignoring national issues.
Sampanthan, in response, had lashed out at the MEP leader and questioned as to whether southern politicians had taken up issues that affected Tamil people in their engagements with the government or the people.
“They are concerned about the issues around them and we too are concerned about the issues around us,” he had told the media.
As a Tamil leader, Sampanthan’s argument was sound but he seems to have forgotten that he was the Opposition Leader representing the whole country.
His complaint that the Sinhalese leaders were indifferent to the problems faced by the Tamil people and leave them to the Tamil leaders is undeniable.
Southern political leaders, irrespective of them even being ministers, view as alien to them the issues that affect Tamils such as resettlement of people displaced by the war, occupation of thousands of acres of lands belonging to the people by the security forces, detention of people for years even without a charge and disappearance of thousands of people during the war.
However, it does not in any way justify Sampanthan’s laxity in his duties as the Opposition Leader, since a strong Opposition is a must for a healthy democracy.
Many important national issues such as corruption, cost of living, the imposition of new taxes on the people and failure in the new electoral system had cropped up for the past three years which invites a broad public discourse.
The Opposition Leader cannot be indifferent to them.
One does not suggest the Opposition Leader oppose everything the Government does or proposes to do, as the tradition had been and the Joint Opposition expects. He is at liberty to support the Government when he feels fit as in the case of the national budget.
However, he seems to have forgotten his duty towards all the communities in the country as the Opposition Leader.
Mr Sampanthan’s involvement in nationally important matters would help promote the much-needed reconciliation as well and the Tamil and Muslim people too might come out from the secluded insular mindset they have been pushed into by their leaders during the past several decades.
His current attitude justifies the Joint Opposition’s demand for the Opposition Leader post.