JO alleges UNP strategy caused irreversible split


By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Joint Opposition (JO), yesterday, accused the UNP of causing an irreparable rift between the Sinhala and Muslim communities by forcing all Muslim lawmakers to give up portfolios to save Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, accused of complicity in the Easter Sunday carnage.

Former Media Minister and JO spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella questioned why Ministers Rauff Hakeem, Kabir Hashim, Amir Ali, Sihabdeen and Abdul Haleem, Deputy Minister Abdullah Maharoof and State Ministers H.M.M. Hareez and Ali Zahair Moulana had quit their portfolios because JO handed over a no-confidence motion (NCM) against only a single individual––Vanni District MP Bathiudeen.

Addressing the media at the Opposition Leader’s Office, Colombo, the Kandy District MP emphasised that their move was aimed at making matters difficult for law enforcement authorities inquiring into the Easter Sunday carnage.

Accusing UNP leader and Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe, Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella and Speaker Karu Jayasuriya of what he called a despicable project to save Bathiudeen, lawmaker Rambukwella said that the UNP had unashamedly forced even its own Chairman Kabir Hashim to risk his political career for the sake of Bathiudeen.

Referring to Minister Abdul Haleem’s controversial statement that swords had been procured to cut grass at cemeteries, MP Rambukwella said that the minister had swiftly clarified the matter.

Those who resigned their portfolios represented the UNP, the SLMC and the ACMC (All Ceylon Makkal Congress). The SLMC and ACMC parliamentary groups consist of seven and five lawmakers, respectively.

MP Ranbukwella said that senior Muslim politicians should have resisted top UNP leadership’s move to defend Bathiudeen at the expense of them.

The JO spokesman also strongly condemned SLMC leader MP Hakeem’s declaration at Monday’s press conference at Temple Trees that they expected the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to complete the inquiry within one month.

Rambukwella asked the media whether they had ever heard a politician setting a deadline for the police to finalise such a high profile investigation.

T At the onset of the JO briefing, Rambukwella described the current situation as extremely complicated with the UNP government still pursuing a politically motivated agenda.

Alleging that the negligence on the part of the government at the highest levels had led to the Easter Sunday suicide bombings, MP Rambukwella flayed the government for shielding those responsible for promoting and sponsoring extremism and terrorism in the country.

Ratnapura District MP Pavitradevi Wanniarachchi urged President Sirisena and PM Wickremesinghe not to play politics with national security. Yahapalana leaders’ efforts to retain political power had caused a political turmoil and uncertainty, Wanniarachchi alleged.

Rambukwella explained how the UNP and President Sirisena had struggled to cope up with the crisis caused by the Easter Sunday carnage. The ongoing Parliament Select Committee (PSC) probing April 21 attacks was meant to find fault with President Sirisena, MP Rambukwella said, adding that both parties couldn’t absolve themselves of the responsibility for death and destruction caused due to their negligence.

Recalling how the Rajapaksa government had brought the war to a successful conclusion a decade back, MP Rambukwella said that terrorism had struck again at a time the public felt secure. The people had lost faith in the government due to prevalent uncertainty, the former Defence Spokesman said, alleging that the current dispensation’s response to terrorism had caused serious concern among armed force and law enforcement agencies.

The JO spokesperson paid a glowing tribute to Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith for having prevented a backlash in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday carnage.

Nearly 260 perished and about 500 were wounded in the coordinated bombing campaign.

MP Rambukwella alleged that Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella had made a desperate bid to scuttle the NCM against Bathiudeen. The JO MP lambasted the UNP for not giving an early date for the NCM on Bathiudeen. Although the JO pushed for a two-day debate on June 6 and 7, the government delayed it to June 18 and 19.

Asked by The Island whether it would have been far more advantageous to the JO, if a vote on NCM had been held as scheduled instead of it (NCM) being ended up in dustbin due to Bathiudden on his own giving up portfolios, MP Rambukwella said that JO done its duty by moving NCM. The former minister refrained from commenting on the circumstances leading to the NCM being withheld due to Bathiudeen losing his ministerial portfolios.


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