UNP MP Sajith Premadasa termed the decision not to give UNP government officials voting rights a “travesty of justice.”
He argued that equal treatment should be meted out to every member of the party, noting particularly the conduct of fellow MP Abdul Cader. Cader has openly expressed his distaste for the current state of party affairs, by voting for the Government side in Parliament sessions. Most recently, Cader voted for the budget and expressed his support for it. Prior to that, he cast his vote in favour of continuing the Emergency Regulations, amidst loud applause from the Government. Following this, it was announced that disciplinary action would be taken against Cader. Yet despite the open acts of dissent, Cader is still a Member of Parliament.
There are over a thousand government officials, and it is reported that a hundred or so have switched allegiance to the Government. MP Lakshman Kiriella explained that to allow all the officials voting rights would also mean that the hundred defectors would be allowed to vote for an Opposition Leader as well. This was shortly before it was announced that the hundred were to be suspended.
Yet Premadasa continues to insist that a policy be implemented which allows those members who have not crossed over, to cast their vote. “Those members who worked so hard and stuck with the party deserve to have a voice,” he said.
Former Opposition members deciding to switch allegiance is hardly a new problem. As years passed and the UNP continuously fell short at elections, several members crossed to the Government side, some MPs claimed with the inducement of money or portfolios. And while the loyal Opposition MPs frequently castigate the defectors during Parliamentary sessions, the fact remains that a situation has been created.
A situation in which the Government holds a near two-thirds majority. A situation which makes it possible for a President to extend his term for the duration of his life. A situation resulting in finger pointing amongst former friends. A situation in which an MP in disgust will stand and vote against his fellow party members. And go, to date, unpunished.