16 up the creek What is in store for the Group of 16?
- PROSPECTS FOR THE GROUP OF 16 SEEMS TO BE BLEAK
- NOT A POLICY DECISION. … AN ACT OF MICE JUMPING OUT OF THE SINKING SHIP
- VOTED IN FAVOUR OF THE NCM AGAINST THE PM
- TREATED SHABBILY BY THE UNP, JO AND THE SLPP
- TAKEN A DECISION, RIGHT OR WRONG, AT A WRONG TIME
Will the 16 Parliamentarians, who left the Government recently become political destitute in the near future? They seem to have been left to themselves. They might have thought that they would receive a red carpet welcome by the Joint Opposition (JO) and the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) soon after they left the Government in the wake of their voting in favour of the No-Confidence Motion (NCM) against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in April, which was not to be.
Whatever they had said and done in order to justify their desertion of the Government and in a way the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), it was not a policy decision. It was an act of mice jumping out of the sinking ship.
In the light of the fact that the Joint Opposition seeming to have let them down, it would be very difficult for them to find grounds to mend fences with the Government again on their part. And also the United National Party, the main party in the Government, is not in favour of them being taken into the Government’s fold.
The Group of 16, as they are now being called, is now up the creek.
The 16 SLFP Parliamentarians voted in favour of the No-Confidence Motion against the Prime Minister on April 4 while holding Ministerial portfolios and the post of Deputy Speaker in Parliament.
In spite of the main allegation contained in the motion having been linked to the infamous Central Bank bond scandal, there had already been issues that had created a wedge between the SLFP and the UNP.
Main among them was the UNP treating the SLFP members in the Government as second class citizensand ignoring the President in taking major decisions.
These were issues that had affected not only these 16 members but all the SLFP members in the Government.
If the decision to leave the Government was taken purely on policy grounds, they would have taken it long before. Besides, they were not prepared to leave the Government giving up their portfolios along with the privileges and perks attached to them until the Ministers of the UNP, the party that had the majority members in Parliament declared that they were not prepared to work with those who voted against the Premier.
Even if they had reasons to leave the Government, they did not seem to have any issues with the SLFP to leave it and to team up with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
They had accepted the leadership of President Maithripala Sirisena and declared their unwavering support to him. Some of them were in the forefront when the SLFP, going against President Sirisena’s election pledge decided to field him as the SLFP candidate at the next Presidential Election.
They have been maintaining this stance throughout their stay in the Government.
Yet, they became hardcore disciples of the former President overnight after they were forced to leave the Government. Now, MP Dilan Perera, a leading member of the Group says that anybody who aspires to be the President must have the blessings of the former President.
This group, except for a few, worked against President Sirisena during the last Presidential Election and also during the subsequent Parliamentary Election.
Some of them joined his Government after he won the Election and the rest joined him after Parliamentary Elections at which the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) suffered a humiliating defeat.
After the SLPP swept the electorate at the recent Local Government Elections, they want again to join the winners
And now, after the SLPP swept the electorate at the recent Local Government Elections, they want again to join the winners.
They cannot be blamed for this decision, as personal interests always take precedence over national or any other interests in politics.
It is on the same grounds that they are now being treated shabbily by the Joint Opposition.
It was the No-Confidence Motion presented by the Mahinda Rajapaksa loyalists against the Prime Minister that compelled the Group of 16 to bow out to their portfolios with privileges and perks.
And Mr Rajapaksa publicly said that he would welcome them to his fold when the UNP showed them the door.
However, a rude shock awaited them at the doorstep of the Joint Opposition and the SLPP. They are now being treated as outcasts by both the Mahinda loyalist groups.
Kumara Welgama who boasts to be the topmost leader of the JO next to Mahinda Rajapaksa said last week that the Group of 16 should shed their SLFP membership if they were to join the Joint Opposition and stand as individuals – not as a group- at the tail end of the queue.
He might have forgotten that Mahinda Rajapaksa still claims that he is still a member of the SLFP and was appointed a member of the Advisory Council of the party on June 3.
Welgama also alleged that the 16 MPs were attempting to divide the Joint Opposition. His reference to the “queue” points to the personal interests taking precedence over their own political grouping.
He was apparently making this reference mainly in respect of electorate organiser posts of the SLPP.
When Sudharshani Fernandopulle’s name was proposed for the Deputy Speaker Post last month, some of the members of the JO did not vote for her. SLPP Chairman Professor G.L. Peiris during an interview with the Daily Mirror justified it saying “They had certain reservations about doing it. It is human feeling.”
Professor Peiris, with regard to the differences of opinion in the JO over the accommodation of the Group of 16 said: “there is no reason for anyone to be astonished.”
It was the No-Confidence Motion presented by the Mahinda Rajapaksa loyalists that compelled the Group of 16 to bow out
He went on to say “these are the people who strongly backed President Maithripala Sirisena and accepted office under him. They were part and parcel of the Government, which carried out policies bringing down the country to the brink of ruin. They came only after public opinion became very clear from the results of the elections on February 10, 2018. … They attacked the SLPP. They belonged to the Government that pursued the Rajapaksa family and the SLPP leadership. Therefore these feelings are to be expected”. His remarks are clearly hostile.
However, the desperation in which President Sirisena is in, has given the Group of 16 some solace. Even after they attempted to team up with the former President making references against President Sirisena’s Presidential aspirations, they were invited to the SLFP Central Committee meeting and some of them were given plum posts during the temporary reorganization of the party.
The desperation of the President was further evident at that meeting as the party had appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa as one of its Advisory Council members
The desperation of the President is further evident at that meeting as the party had appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa as one of its Advisory Council members.
Nevertheless, the prospects for the Group of 16 seem to be bleak, if they continued to be with the SLFP after the party’s poor show at the February 10 LG Elections.
On the other hand, they are being treated by the JO and the SLPP shabbily. Have they taken a decision, right or wrong, at a wrong time?