Nov 25, 2018

President ready to appoint new PM if Parliament follows Standing Orders Featured

President ready to appoint new PM if Parliament follows Standing OrdersAs the country’s political turmoil entered the second month, President Maithripala Sirisena declared that he would appoint a new Prime Minister “if Parliament follows Standing Orders and shows a majority.”

“If Mahinda Rajapaksa has the majority in Parliament, he can continue with the government without any obstacle. If it is proved that Mr Rajapaksa does not have a majority, I believe he will take a decision,” he told the Sunday Times.

This was his first exclusive interview since he ousted Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe on October 26. “I have no possibility of re-appointing Mr Wickremesinghe. I will stick to that principle,” he said.In what seemed a coincidence, Premier Rajapaksa and leaders of his partner groups met President Sirisena on Friday night. It was to ascertain the future of the one-month-old government in the absence of a majority in Parliament. Mr Sirisena urged him to continue.

Despite President Sirisena’s offer to name a new Premier, it has become a distant possibility in the light of what appears to be a new deadlock between the Executive and Legislature. Last Sunday, Mr. Sirisena told party leaders, including ousted Premier Wickremesinghe, that Parliament should abide by Standing Orders.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, who thereafter met party leaders last Friday, just ahead of Parliament sessions, named a Parliamentary Business Committee. Dinesh Gunawardena, Leader of the House objected to the move, saying their request for seven slots had not been heeded and only five had been given. He and his colleagues then walked out.

Later, Parliament endorsed the composition of the Committee after MPs of the Sirisena-Rajapaksa alliance walked out. It was passed by 121 voting in favour and none against. “We do not recognise this Committee,” Mr. Gunawardena told the Sunday Times.

The United National Front’s answer is to move a motion to cut off funds allocated to Cabinet Ministers. It has already moved to cut off funds allocated to the Prime Minister. Thus, government leaders are armed with a reason to forestall the recognition of a majority vote. “At least for the moment, we will not pursue the No Confidence Motion,” a UNF source familiar with their moves said.

President Sirisena told the Sunday Times, “When the majority is shown in Parliament, the responsibility lies in the party leaders to continue with the work. Whoever has the majority in the 225 member House will be Prime Minister.”


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