Going Independent | Daily News

Going Independent

The Joint Opposition, having failed to secure the post of Opposition Leader in parliament, for a second time, has devised another strategy by which it hopes to achieve this end. Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, at the very outset, gave a ruling that the JO cannot legally claim the post of Opposition Leader since it was elected to parliament on the SLFP/UPFA ticket. By virtue of the SLFP/UPFA joining hands with the UNP (which secured the majority seats at the General Election) to form a unity government, the JO, which is part of the SLFP/UPFA alliance is, therefore, excluded from claiming the Opposition Leader's post which rightfully went to the TNA which is the party with the next highest number of seats in parliament (after the SLFP/UPFA - UNP combine).

However, after a long interval, the same issue was revisited by the JO, occasioned by the exit from the government of 16 SLFP/UPFA parliamentarians, after the February LG election to make common cause with the JO, although this did not change the status quo. This bid too was shot down once again by the Speaker based on the earlier premise. Having been thwarted for the second time in its bid to secure the Opposition Leader's post, the JO members have now decided to sit as Independent MPs in parliament, believing that this would be the remedy for their interminable quest.

However, not all JO MPs will be enthusiastic about the fresh ploy. With the UPFA General Secretary Minister Mahinda Amaraweera broadly hinting about the fate that awaits the JO clique, should they decide to go Independent, panic buttons are already being pressed in the JO camp. Apparently as a face saving device, the JO has decided to appoint a committee, to decide on this whole matter of going Independent, headed by Prof. G. L. Peiris. But even the former Law Professor will know that the attempt is bound to flounder.

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa himself is not sold on the idea, telling a group of journalists, the other day, that since it was the Speaker who had the final say, going by his (Speaker's) earlier ruling not much hope could be laid in the bid succeeding.

However, more than the Speaker, opposition to the move to go Independent is bound to come from the first time entrants to parliament from among the JO MPs such as Prasanna Ranaweera, D.V. Upul and a host of others. With disciplinary action that is bound to follow their contemplated move to go Independent and the inevitable expulsion from parliament, all the young Turks in the JO, having not yet completed five years as MPs would automatically forfeit their claim to a pension. Hence, the fresh ploy is bound to meet with fierce resistance. Not only that. The exit of the JO from parliament would see the entry of a new set of SLFP/UPFA MPs, next in line in the preference votes, who, no doubt, will be forced to toe the line of the party hierarchy. This means the new entrants will be made to join the unity government, leading to the strengthening of the Yahapalanaya regime with the addition of 70 more members to its ranks.

This will be the most likely outcome which will not be lost on the likes Prof. Peiris, who is entrusted with the task of going into the nitty-gritty of the ‘post Independent’ scenario.

This is doubly so because this time the Sirisena faction of the SLFP/UPFA means business. For the JO members to leave the alliance under which they were elected they have to communicate their decision in writing to the General Secretary. Minister Amaraweera has already made his intentions clear. Speaking to the media, at a function, he said that once he receives the letters he would send them to the Chairman of the Elections Commission Mahinda Deshapriya announcing the vacation of the parliamentary seats of all the signatories. Cabinet Spokesman Dr. Rajitha Senartne too said that the dream of the Joint Opposition to elect their own Opposition Leader replacing incumbent R. Sampanthan would never come to fruition because they will lose their parliamentary seats immediately after they resign from their SLFP membership. He told the Cabinet news briefing on Wednesday that the government was rubbing its hands in glee waiting to see how the JO would get about the task of accomplishing its mission after the Speaker placed a tight lid on the whole matter.

Like the Minister said, JO members elected to parliament under the SLFP/UPFA umbrella and then attempt to form a majority in the Opposition, by resigning from the party, to claim the Opposition Leader's post will be sacked by the General Secretary from the party and evicted from parliament. This reality though has not dawned on the likes of Udaya Gammanpila who is all gung ho about the JO going Independent to claim the Opposition Leader's post.

What step will the JO take next to bag the coveted post, no doubt, is being eagerly watched by the public.

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