COLOMBO: Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s UNP won the secret ballot in parliament on Tuesday for the deputy speaker’s position left vacant by the resignation of Thilanga Sumathipala, a loyalist of President Maithripala Sirisena.
UNP nominee Ananda Kumarasiri was elected deputy speaker with 97 for and 53 against in the 225-member assembly while 25 members were absent from the house. Kumarasiri’s defeated rival Sudarshani Fernandopulle is another Sirisena loyalist.
Sumathipala and 15 other Sirisena loyalists had walked out of the government in April after they voted against Wickremesinghe in a no-trust vote.
“We have gone on the basis that two for the government and one for the opposition in parliamentary positions. We want to retain that position,” Wickremesinghe said referring to an argument by R Sampanthan, the main opposition leader, that Sirisena loyalists should be appointed for the vacancy by consensus.
The group of 16 Sirisena loyalists now align with former president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s joint opposition. However all three Rajapaksas – Mahinda, brother Chamal and son Namal – were not present in the house when the secret vote was taken.
The parliamentary competition between Sirisena loyalists and the president’s unity government partner UNP followed last week’s anti-UNP outburst from Sirisena who blamed the UNP for bungling in governance.