by Saman Indrajith
Government leaders are all out to secure 113 votes to ensure the passage of a motion to remove Janaka Ratnayake from the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL), which he currently heads.The vote is scheduled to be taken on Wednesday (24) evening after a full-day debate from 10.30 a.m. to 5.00 p.m.
“In accordance with Sri Lanka Public Utilities Commission Act No. 35 of 2002 on Wednesday the 24th of May from 10.30 am to 5.00 pm the address for the removal of Mr. J. W. M. J.P. K Ratnayake, the incumbent Chairman and the member of the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka, from the membership of the said Commission in terms of Section 7 of the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka Act is also scheduled to be taken up for debate,” Parliament has said in a media statement.
The government claims to have 120 MPs on its side in the 225-member House but 10 of them are currently overseas. President Ranil Wickremesinghe has ordered that none of the MPs leave the country and those who are overseas return in time for Wednesday’s vote.
The government has approached the TNA for support, according to sources.SLPP General Secretary MP Sagara Kariyawasam, last Thursday, said that SLPP did not approve of Ratnanayke’s conduct and would support the motion.
Party sources however said that some 20 SLPP MPs had met with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and MP Namal Rajapaksa and expressed their opposition to voting against Ratnayake, appointed by former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. They said Ratnayake had opposed power tariff increases and public opinion would turn against the government in case of his removal.
The government has sought Basil Rajapaksa’s help to muster enough votes to remove Ratnayake. Basil is currently in Dubai.The SJB and JVP have already announced that they will vote against the government’s move.
Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District SJB MP Lakshman Kiriella, addressing the media at the Opposition Leader’s Office in Colombo, said the SLPP had announced its readiness to vote in favour of the proposal presented to Parliament to remove Ratnayake from the PUCSL. He said the main Opposition group would back Ratnayake, who had resisted attempts to increase electricity tariff unfairly. The motion to remove Ratnayake was similar to the one that was used to sack former Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake, Kiriella said.
The JVP-led NPP announced, on Saturday, its decision to vote against the government’s plans to remove Ratnayake from the PUCSL.
Addressing the media at the party headquarters in Pelawatte, JVP Propaganda Secretary MP Vijitha Herath said: “We won’t protect any individual as such. We support the position Ratnayake has taken vis-a-vis the government’s plans to increase electricity tariff. The government attempted to increase electricity tariffs going by the IMF conditions. That was very unfair. The PUCSL chairman opposed it. The government could pressure the other members of the PUCSL to toe its line. Now, it is only this chairman who is standing between the government and its plans to increase the electricity prices unfairly. Therefore, the government is trying to remove him by passing a motion to that effect in Parliament. We will go all out to defeat this move.”
PUCSL Chairman Ratanayake has written to General Secretary of Parliament Dhammika Dassanayake seeking the latter’s approval to watch the debate from the public gallery. He has said: “I request you to allow me and my two sons to witness the proceedings of Parliament from the gallery on 24th May 2023, as the debate in relation to the removal of me from the position of Public Utilities Commission is scheduled to be taken up on that date.”