Feature Article

Struggle to take Sri Lanka Parliament gathers pace

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 05 November 2003, 06:02 GMT]
Tamil and Muslim MPs and the Sinhala nationalist Janata Vimukthi Peramuna are set to play a key role as frantic efforts by President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s People Alliance and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Front to cobble together a majority in Parliament before 19 November gathered momentum in Colombo Wednesday. Mr. Selvam Adaikalanathan, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP for Vanni told TamilNet: “We won’t go for horse deals. The TNA will take a principled stand in the interests of peace”.

Political analysts and her opponents in Colombo say that President Chandrika would not risk an election at this juncture. “I do not think she will go for an election now. It will be a mess for her. So she will have to get the right number of MPs to form the government”, says Mr. Rajpal Abeynayake, the well regarded political columnist for Sunday Times, an independent English weekly paper published from Colombo.

The United National Party (UNP) has 109 seats in the Sri Lankan Parliament. Its main coalition partner, SLMC has five.

The legislature has 225 seats. Hence a party or a coalition should have at least 113 seats to form a government.

Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe’s coalition, United National Front (UNF), has 114 seats. The CWC and UPF contested on the UNP list.

President Kumaratunga’s People’s Alliance (PA) has 77 MPs.

The JVP has 16 seats. The Tamil National Alliance 15, EPDP 2 and PLOTE 1.

President Kumaratunga needs 36 extra seats at least to form her government before 19 November.

“Right now the President’s best bets are the JVP and EPDP, both of which were her coalition partners until Mr. Rauff Hakeem quit the PA, bringing down the government in 2001. PLOTE might also tilt to her side”, said Mr. V. Devaraj, the editor of the Sunday edition of the Virakesari, the Tamil paper with the largest circulation in Sri Lanka.

That will still leave her short of 17 seats. PA leaders express confidence that several UNP MPs are planning to cross over to their side.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe moved swiftly Tuesday to stop MPs in his coalition from being inveigled by the President. He issued instructions from Washington that all Parliamentarians in the UNF should sign a pledge of allegiance forthwith.

“We have signed it”, said Mr. H. M. M Harris, an outspoken MP of the SLMC from the Amparai district.

Meanwhile, an SLMC spokesman said that the party would insist on the condition that the Muslims should be included as a third party in any future negotiations between the Liberation Tigers and the Sri Lankan government. (The LTTE objects to this on the ground that talks should be confined only to the parties to the conflict)

Earlier in the day, PA sources in Colombo said that a deal between the SLMC and the PA was on the cards.

The fractured SLMC has 12 MPs, 7 of whom were elected as UNP candidates. The party bargained plum positions in the cabinet in return for supporting the PA (1994) and the UNP (2001) to form governments.

Meanwhile, Mr. Rajavarothayam Sampanthan, the secretary general of the Tamil United Liberation Front, the main constituent of the TNA, denied a report in the Tamil daily Virakesari Wednesday morning that President Kumaratunga had contacted him for talks to form a broad coalition.

“There is no basis for us to support the PA. It has categorically rejected the LTTE’s proposal for the Interim Self Governing Authority. It is indulging in dangerous war mongering. The President’s main ally is the JVP, which wants the ceasefire agreement scrapped and spoiling to plunge the country into war and anarchy. How can we support these people?’ said Mr. Selvam Adaikalanathan.


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