A majority of the opposition parties in Parliament have announced they would oppose the Government’s motion to oust the Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) Janaka Ratnayake, at the crucial vote in Parliament today.
Taking the lead, the main opposition party the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) said they would support Ratnayake in Parliament and vote against his removal. According to the party, their decision is based on the fact the chairman merely worked to protect the country’s consumers. “There are no allegations of corruption or fraud against him,” Chief Government Whip Lakshman Kiriella said announcing his party’s decision.
The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) led National People’s Power (NPP) party is expected to follow suit. NPP MP Vijitha Herath said his party has decided to vote against the Government motion. “We won’t protect any individual. But we support the position Ratnayake has taken vis-a-vis the government’s plans to increase electricity tariff,” he said.
Earlier this week the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) MPs who were voted into parliament from the SLPP ticket announced they too will not support the SLPP-led Government in its attempts to remove Ratnayake. According to the General Secretary of the party, Dayasiri Jayasekara, the vote would be a clear divide between those who stand for the people of the country and those who simply do not.
A SLPP breakaway faction, the Freedom People’s Congress led by Dullas Alahapperuma will also oppose the motion. “We have decided to very strongly oppose this motion,” FPC member Prof. G.L. Peiris said. Peiris said his group is not standing up on behalf of a person but instead for a principle. According to him, Ratnayake has discharged his duties adopting a sympathetic attitude to the basic needs of the people of our country.
Yet another SLPP dissident group, the Supreme Lanka Coalition will also join fellow parties of the opposition to stand against the ousting of Ratnayake. Its member Udaya Gammanpila yesterday called on all MPs in parliament to oppose the motion and stand against the Government’s attempt to silence officials who are carrying out their duties.
However, it is anticipated that the ruling party, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), along with its aligned parties, will be fully represented in parliament during the vote on the motion targeting the Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) Janaka Ratnayake. It is reported that instructions have been issued to MPs representing the Government that it is mandatory for them to be present for the vote.
According to Chief Government Whip Prasanna Ranatunge, Ratnayake must be removed as he attempted to dabble in politics. “It is true we appointed him. However, we cannot allow him to play politics while in the role. Therefore he must be removed,” he said.
The Government is determined to secure 113 votes to ensure Ratnayake’s removal through the passage of the motion presented by Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekara.
The motion by Wijesekara came after several months of public spats and disagreements between the Minister and Ratnayake over power cuts, electricity tariff hikes and other key decisions. Ratnayake was seen vehemently opposing and challenging decisions taken by the Minister in this regard.
The motion was presented in accordance with clause 7 of the Public Utilities Commission Act and was tabled in parliament by Chief Government Whip Prasanna Ranatunga. Prior to the motion being tabled in parliament, a charge sheet signed by President Ranil Wickremesinghe was also reportedly sent to Ratnayake on 22 March.
In January this year, Wijesekara announced his decision to remove Ratnayake from the post after weeks of clashes between the duo. The motion was presented just a day after the Commission led by Ratnayake demanded an immediate 20% reduction in electricity tariff citing a drop in demand, lower exchange rate and fuel prices as compelling and justifiable reasons for such a move.
Meanwhile, Ratnayake has also expressed his intentions to contest the 2024 Presidential election. He has promised to present a set of policies that would revolutionise the economy and address the current crisis situation. Ratnayake has claimed he will contest as an independent candidate.