The dilemma of the sixteen | Daily News

The dilemma of the sixteen

It was quite obvious even to a political novice, where the 16 SLFP rebels would end up when they decided to quit the Unity Government, following the abortive No Confidence Motion against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Despite their posturings that although they left the government, unable to be part of a regime that had the UNP as a partner, and yet they would still remain members of the Sirisena faction of the SLFP, it was plain from the day the LG election results were out, which way the wind was blowing. It was equally plain that the rebels were loath to give up their ministerial portfolios. We say this because Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara continued to insist that only the President could remove him from office, when the UNP back benchers would not hear of those who voted in favour of the No Confidence Motion to oust the Premier remaining in the Cabinet, while Deputy Speaker Thilanga Sumathipala too arguing on the same lines although telling the media that he sent his resignation to the President.

Now the inevitable has come to pass. It was reported in an English daily yesterday that ten out of the 16 SLFP rebels would join the Joint Opposition before the next parliament sittings, on July 03, and they would also take part in the Parliamentary Group meeting of the JO next week. It was also reported that these ten members would seek to persuade their other colleagues who are undecided, to join with them in their flight to the JO. It is well known that Messrs S.B. Dissanayake and Dayasiri Jayasekara are reluctant to take the plunge and had wanted the rest to stay put in the SLFP while entering into a working relationship with the JO, both, inside and outside parliament.

However, it appears that the rebel group of ten have had enough of remaining in isolation. Being neither here nor there may not have fitted into the restless nature of the likes of Susil Premajayantha and Anura Priyadharshana Yapa, both former General Secretaries of the UPFA and SLFP, respectively.

However, the question remains if the rebels will be welcomed into the Joint Opposition fold, given the hostility shown towards them by the likes of Basil Rajapaksa and Prasanna Ranatunga who walked the gauntlet being hauled before various courts, while the rebels were firmly ensconced in the seats of power. In fact Basil R., the other day, made some very uncomplimentary remarks about the rebels to the effect that they(JO) were not prepared to accommodate anyone who enjoyed the crumbs, while in government, aanduwe idang mas katu sooppu karapu aya ganda api sudanam ne.

In any event, the JO has ruled out accommodating the rebels so long as they remain members of the SLFP. This is on the basis that the Blues were in partnership with the Greens in governance. Although the group of 16 quit the government, some of them were recently appointed office bearers in the SLFP by President Sirisena. JO spokesman Dullas Alahapperuma opined that the group of 16 could not hope to serve both the SLFP and the JO simultaneously.

Going by all accounts, the SLFP rebels are going to receive the cold shoulder from the JO. MPs of the JO are also all too aware that had the LG polls results been any different those who now claim they could not serve in a coalition government which had the UNP as the other partner, would have continued to remain in the same government holding ministerial office and enjoying all the perks and privileges.

Besides, the rebels campaigned against the JO at the LG poll, although the likes of Dayasiri Jayasekara and Susil Premajayantha took care to keep their options open by playing footsie with Mahinda Rajapaksa. Needless to say, this ploy of trying to have the best of both worlds obviously was not lost on those like Prasanna Ranatunga who continues to oppose any rapprochement with the rebels. He has good reason to do so. Should the rebels worm their way into the JO they would have to be accommodated on the JO nomination lists at the next general election which would be out of the question for many in the JO as this would be at the expense of many of their dedicated members who braved the odds to remain loyal to the Rajapaksas.

In any event, the chances of any of them being returned are slim, given their association with the UNP led government, albeit for a brief period. Even in the event they receive nominations they are bound to walk into a hostile reception from JO stalwarts who will ensure their defeat by enjoining the voters ignore the renegades. This is more so given that Basil Rajapaksa would have a big say in the drawing up of the nomination lists, like he did at the LG poll, and, what is more, lead the campaign. He certainly would not fail to remember the remarks made recently by Dilan Perera describing his (Basil's) nocturnal flight overseas on the night of January 8, when his brother was losing the election. 


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