Sri Lankan PM defeats vote of no confidence

COLOMBO • Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has survived a no-confidence vote in Parliament after a majority of legislators voted to support his coalition government, but the instability caused may damage its reform agenda.

The opposition, eyeing fractures within the ruling alliance, had sponsored the trust vote against Mr Wickremesinghe, blaming him for failing to prevent an alleged scam in the bond market and for failing to stop anti-Muslim riots that occurred last month.

Mr Wickremesinghe, who leads Sri Lanka's United National Party (UNP), won the support of 122 members of the 225-member Parliament, with 76 voting against him.

President Maithripala Sirisena's Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) was split over the vote, with only 16 of its 42 lawmakers who support the government voting for the Prime Minister.

"We can have a fresh start from tomorrow," Mr Harin Fernando, a minister with the UNP, told Parliament during the debate.

But many UNP legislators urged Mr Wickremesinghe to sack the SLFP ministers who had expressed no confidence in him - suggesting the unity of the coalition was fraying. Sacking the ministers would dent the government's stability in Parliament and affect the Prime Minister's plans to pass key laws aimed at drawing more foreign investment.

The SLFP and UNP agreed on a coalition government after the last parliamentary elections in August 2015. But the centre-left SLFP had opposed many liberal economic policy measures proposed by the centre-right UNP.

Mr Wickremesinghe has faced criticism for failing to deliver on economic growth, which slumped to a 16-year low of 3.1 per cent last year, its worst pace since a recession in 2001. The rupee is hovering at a record low.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 06, 2018, with the headline 'Sri Lankan PM defeats vote of no confidence'. Print Edition | Subscribe