Dialogue deadlock

Saturday, 1 December 2018 02:04 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • President likely to withdraw controversial Gazette 
  • Discussions with TNA and UNF inconclusive; UNF to meet Pres. on Sunday again 
  • Parliament to take another vote on NCM
  • TNA to discuss political prisoners on separate meeting with Pres. on 3 Dec.
  • Cordial meeting between RW and MR in Parliament


By Chathuri Dissanayake

President Maithripala Sirisena is now considering rescinding the order to dissolve Parliament, showing signs of loosening the deadlock between the Executive and Legislature while talks with political parties opposing his decision to appoint new a Prime Minister ended inconclusive. 

Two meetings Sirisena had with Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and United National Front (UNF) leaders ended with no clear decision. There are plans in place to hold yet another discussion between UNF and the Executive on Sunday. As the discussions with political parties bring no immediate relief to the country’s political impasse, the Gazette notification dissolving Parliament is likely to be withdrawn next week, the Daily FT learned. 

“There are a few options that the President has before him; one is to rescind the Gazette dissolving Parliament, and the other is to wait till the court case is over on 7 December,” the source who functions as a Cabinet Minister of the Government appointed by Sirisena said. 

Sirisena’s decision to fire sitting Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and appoint one-time rival former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was met with stiff resistance from the UNF, led by the United National Party (UNP), and Opposition parties JVP and Tamil National Alliance. Even a month after the move, the country has not been able to move past the political crisis. For the first time in weeks, ousted Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and his successor Rajapaksa had a cordial meeting in the Parliament library.

President Sirisena’s decision to reverse the order to dissolve Parliament however depends on the withdrawal of the court cases challenging his decision, a Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) member close to Sirisena told Daily FT.

“The Gazette will be rescinded provided that the cases before court challenging the Gazette are withdrawn, and he can then appoint a new Prime Minister and Cabinet.”  

Another SLFP member close to the Executive said that the move was discussed as a way of gaining support for the new Prime Minister appointee Rajapaksa. 

“When the Parliament may be dissolved soon, it is difficult to get MPs to cross over. So, this was to send a message to the Rajapaksa camp to say they can get the 133,” he told Daily FT. 

However, the uncertainty over the outcome of the Supreme Court decision on his proclamation dissolving Parliament may also have been considered as the concerns were raised during the meeting with the TNA as well.

During the discussions held with the TNA, Sirisena had been more responsive to accepting a no confidence motion if taken by name without suspending the Standing Orders, a TNA member who was present at the meeting told Daily FT. 

“He told us to bring a fresh no confidence motion against Mahinda Rajapaksa when we meet again on Wednesday and take a fresh vote by name through the electronic system,” the member said.  

However, the TNA told the President that the no confidence motion passed on 16 November can be voted again as it has now been entered into the order book giving five days of notice. 

During the meeting which lasted close to one and half hours, TNA leader R. Sampanthan reminded Sirisena that he was voted to the office he holds with the support of the members of the UNP and minority parties. The members also noted that the mandate given to the current Parliament was to appoint Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister. 

“We explained to him that it should be the party who should decide on who should be appointed as the Prime Minister, and he has to accept it,” TNA source said. 

The meeting also discussed issues of the Tamil community, with TNA raising the issue of political prisoners. The President has invited the members of the TNA to take part in a discussion set to take place with all stakeholders, including the Attorney General, on the matter on 3 December, a TNA source said. 

The President has also promised to hold a separate discussion on other issues faced by the Tamil community.