A trust vote on the government presented by the opposition Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) in Sri Lankan Parliament was defeated on Thursday with a majority of 119 legislators in the 225-member House voting against it.
The leftist JVP or Peoples’ Liberation Front, an opposition party, on Wednesday submitted a motion accusing the ruling coalition of failing to prevent the April 21 Easter terror attacks despite the “fact that proper information had been made available regarding suicide terrorists.” Its leader Anura Dissanayaka said the attacks occurred because of the government’s failure to fulfil its responsibility, adding: “people have no confidence in this government.”
Following a two-day debate that ended on Thursday evening, a total of 92 lawmakers from President Maithripala Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), which pulled out of government last October, the coalition backing former President and Leader of Opposition Mahinda Rajapaksa, and the JVP voted in favour of the no-confidence motion.
Muslim MPs, who had resigned protesting “demonisation” of the community following Easter attacks and the opposition Tamil National Alliance (TNA) voted in favour of the government. From April last year, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has won multiple trust votes with the support of minority Tamil and Muslim parties, without whom his party may not have been able to garner a majority.
Intervening in Thursday’s debate, All Ceylon Makkal Katchi leader and lawmaker Rishad Bathiudeen said the allegations levelled in the JVP-led no-confidence motion against the government were ‘on target’, but said he decided to vote with other Muslim MPs, in favour of the government.
Referring to attacks unleashed on him by some MPs backing Mr. Rajapaksa following the Easter bombings, linking him to the terror plot, he said: “Hurling these incriminating accusations at a time when the country was on the brink, the opposition sought cheap triumph by making me their main prey.”
Further, referring to a string of violent incidents targeting Muslims, the former Minister said, “29 mosques were attacked, a Muslim father was murdered while his entire family watched in shock, 900 Muslim houses were damaged-these took place while law enforcement idly stood by.”
Both the Muslim MPs and the main Tamil party appear to have decided to vote for the government, to avoid giving the Rajapaksa camp in opposition an advantage.
Addressing the House, TNA Leader R. Sampanthan said the minorities had a reason to vote the way they did in the 2015 election, in which former President Rajapaksa was defeated.
“The efforts of this government may not be to our complete satisfaction, but they are certainly better than the former regime,” he said.
Further, raising questions about the policy that an alternative government would adopt, Mr. Sampanthan said: “Minorities suffered immensely under the Rajapaksa regime. While voting, we have to be conscious of the fact that we don’t know what their policy might be if the government were to change.”