The defeat of the JVP’s no-faith motion against the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and the government in Parliament came as no surprise, on Thursday. Even the Catholic MPs voted against the motion which blamed the government for having failed to prevent the Easter attacks in spite of being forewarned. The government mustered a comfortable majority of 27.
The motion received 92 votes in favour and 119 votes against.
The JVP and the UFPA voted for the motion which had been debated for two days. The TNA, the UNP and their allies voted against the motion. It had been signed by MPs Anura Kumara Dissanayake, Vijitha Herath, Nihal Galappaththi, Sunil Handunnetti, Bimal Ratnayake and Dr Nalinda Jayatissa.
JVP could not get it wrong more; their latest political manoeuvre – the motion of no confidence against the government was a flop. It did not yield the desired for the Reds who sought to shore up their image and gain some political traction. It was obvious from the very beginning that the no-faith motion had a cat in hell’s chance of passage. Worse, the motion failed to attract even the attention of the parliamentary staff; they were seen watching the World Cup semi-final between India and New Zealand on the first day of the debate. Many seats in the House were empty and the quorum bell had to be rung to bring MPs to the chamber. The session was adjourned around 5.42 p.m., as the listed speakers did not turn up. The second day was no better; many were watching the cricket match between Australia England.
The history of no-confidence motions in Lankan Parliament shows that the latest one was the 51st taken up for debate. The JVP submitted its motion on May 21, one month after the Easter Sunday carnage, stating that the government had no right to remain in power because it had failed to avert the disaster that claimed over 250 lives and left more than 500 injured.
The no-faith motion accused the government of “failing to act upon notwithstanding prior information being provided to Director- Ministerial Security Division, Director – Judicial Security Division, Director – Former Presidents’ Security Division, Acting Director – Diplomatic Security Division and Acting Director – Former Presidents’ Security Division through letter No. DIG/SPR/12/4.19 titled ‘Information of an alleged plan attack’ dated 11.04.2019 by DIG Priyalal Dassanayake in charge of Special Protection Range stating that planned suicide attacks would be launched targeting specific locations i.e ‘Drawing special attention to matters included in the report provided by the State Intelligence Service as regards information to the effect that a suicide attack had been planned in the country by Mohammed Zahran, the leader of the National Thowheeth Jamath.”
The JVP’s motion was submitted while the country was reeling from the disaster and accusing the government of having within its ranks some ministers who had had links to Zahran’s terror group. There was another NCM submitted by the Joint Opposition (JO) against the then Commerce and Industry Minister Rishad Bathuideen for assisting extremist Islamic groups and funding their clandestine operations. Posters and banners appeared in many parts of the country, asking the MPs not to come to electorates without voting for the NCM against Bathiudeen.
By submitting an NCM against the government vis-à-vis the one JO had already submitted against Minister Bathiudeen in a bid to muster the support of some government MPs as well, the JVP had carried out a contract to save the UNP, the JO alleged.
Leader of the Pivithuru Hela Urumaya and Parliamentarian Udaya Gammanpila pointed out that the JVP’s NCM was meant to save a beleagured Minister Bathiudeen. He claimed that the JVP had sought to prevent government MPs and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) from voting against Bathiudeen. The JVP move had provided a divided government with a rallying point, he argued. He alleged that the JVP also wanted to save Bathiudeen’s closest friend and their National List candidate Ibrahim. He said the people would never forgive the JVP for throwing a lifeline to the UNP.
The JVP launched a countrywide poster campaign to drum up support for its no-faith motion and to counter the JO’s allegation that it was doing a contract for the UNP. It also staged a two-day protest march from Kalutara to Nuegegoda on July 7 and 8 in the run-up to the two-day debate on July 10 and 11. A group including the leader of the JVP Anura Kumara Dissanayake, members of the party’s Central Committee and trade union activists took part in the march.
Speaking during the protest, the leader of the JVP Anura Kumara Dissanayake said that they had brought forward a no-confidence motion to mobilize the people against the government, which, he said, had failed and forfeited its right to run the country. He said he was confident that the no-faith vote would be carried with a comfortable majority.
The debate was a wash up except for a few fiery speeches. Moving the motion for debate, the JVP leader said that there was a minority government because it had only 106 seats while the Opposition had 118. Ironically, late last year, he said exactly the opposite of what he told the Houe on Wednesday. “Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa has stated that he and his party would vote for the motion against the government. If the entire Opposition is united we could send this government home,” Dissanayake said.
Leader of the House, Public Enterprise Development, Kandyan Heritage and Kandy Development Minister Lakshman Kiriella found fault with the JVP for not including the name of President Maithripala Sirisena in the motion. Sirisena was the Minister of Defence when the terror attack took place therefore the name of the Minister of Defence should have been included in the motion, he argued half in jest.
UPFA MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara’s statement that the government had received prior information of the attack but refrained from taking action for fear of losing Muslim votes apparently went down well with the public. “We also warned of such an eventuality but then we were called racists. We were accused of seeing crocodiles in glasses of water. Now, I would like to ask the government whether they could see those crocodiles even after the disaster.”
MP Dayasiri Jayaksera accused the JVP of protecting the government. The JVP had helped form the Yahapalana government and now it was propping it up, he said. It was the JVP which had helped the UNP when there was an attempt to topple it, he noted. “If the JVP had not helped the UNP come back to power then terrorist like Zaharan would not have been able to carry out attacks.”
Outside the chamber, in the lobby, the Opposition Leader’s Secretary Kumarsiri Hettige told the Opposition Leader Rajapaksa that the MPs were not keen to take part in the debate and the Chamber was almost empty. MP Lohan Ratwatte, too, said that gone were the days when people and MPs were interested in no-confidence motions. Opposition Leader Rajapaksa said: “People have no faith in what is happening in Parliament. What we have is not a people’s Parliament. It is a distortion of public representation. So, it is only natural that the people have lost interest in parliamentary affairs. To avoid this we need a new parliament representing people. Then only people will have an interest in what is happening here.”