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Calm amidst a storm

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Tuesday, 20 November 2018 00:00

Parliament on Monday was a calmer affair than what was observed last week, partially because the session was completed within minutes with Deputy Speaker Ananda Kumarasiri presiding in the House. But the scenes of surface peace are unlikely to last as parliamentarians on both sides of the divide have failed to come to a compromise and both are steadfastly adhering to their version of events. 

On the side of the United National Party (UNP) the consensus remains that a no confidence motion was passed in Parliament with the vote taking place twice. On the basis of this UNP Deputy Leader Ravi Karunanayake submitted to Parliament a proposal insisting that since MP Mahinda Rajapaksa does not have the confidence of the House the Secretary to the Prime Minister should not deploy public funds. 

The parliamentarians loyal to President Maithripala Sirisena and MP Mahinda Rajapaksa have insisted that they do not accept the no confidence motion as it has not followed due process. The latest motions presented by MP Karunanayake are likely to run into the same storm as it is based on the UNP’s insistence that the no confidence motion was valid. The Rajapaksa faction in Parliament has insisted that they will continue to hold Cabinet meetings and continue affairs of Government with MP Thilanga Sumathipala calling on public servants to carry out their duties. 

Both sides are convinced they are in the right, which means this standoff is unlikely to be resolved any time soon. The earliest hope for a loosening of the deadlock lies in the Supreme Court determination that will be delivered on 7 December. Till then neither side has any intention of backing down. The Rajapaksa faction on Monday insisted that they have 104 seats in Parliament while the UNP has only 98, arguing that 122 Parliamentarians only supported the removal of MP Rajapaksa as Prime Minister but does not back a government of the UNP. They have pointed out that both the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) have decided to remain independent, which means the UNP cannot count on them if it wants to form a government. If this argument is to be believed then neither side as 113. 

One silver lining that emerged was the party leaders agreeing to appoint a select committee that would then form the myriad of committees that oversee the functions of parliament, which includes the disciplinary committee. It was this compromise that assisted to reduce the humiliating fracas in parliament and give a chance for the House to proceed with relative calm, even if it was for a few minutes. 

The next parliamentary session will be on Friday, with a party leaders meeting likely to be called beforehand to decide on the schedule. If party leaders and continue to build consensus it is possible that Parliament will return to its average level of insults and disruption. This may not seem like a high benchmark to hope for but given the level that was seen in the past week it could well be the only glimmer of hope moderate Sri Lankans can have this week.

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