In a dramatic turn of events, Ranjith Siyambalapitiya, who resigned from the post of Deputy Speaker after the SLFP decided to be independent in Parliament, was re-elected to the post yesterday (5), following a secret vote.
Independent MP Nimal Siripala de Silva nominated Siyambalapitiya for the post and Susil Premajayantha seconded. The SLPP supported Siyambalapitiya’s nomination.
Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Ranjith Maddumabandara nominated Imtiaz Bakeer Marker, while Lakshman Kiriella, Chief Opposition Whip, seconded.
Since two names were nominated, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena announced that a vote would have to be taken. The Speaker said the MPs have to put their signature on the ballot paper.
At this juncture, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa said if the MPs have to sign the ballot paper, the secrecy of the vote would be lost.
“Many Government MPs are ready to vote for our candidate. This would not be a secret vote, if the MPs have to sign the ballot paper,” he said.
However, the Speaker said MPs should sign the ballot paper according to Standing Orders.
Siyambalapitiya received 148 votes while Bakeer Marker received only 65 votes. Three votes were rejected while eight MPs including Independent MP Wimal Weerawansa, Illankai Tamil Arasu Katch (ITAK) MP R. Sampanthan, SJB MP Mayantha Dissanayake and Thamil Makkal Thesiya Kuttani (TMTK) MP C.V. Wigneswaran were absent during the vote.
After the results were announced, UNP MP Ranil Wickremesinghe said Siyambalapitiya’s re-election shows the divisions in Parliament.
Wickremsinghe urged the House to work together and solve the pressing issues in the country, warning that otherwise the public will reject Parliament in its entirety.
Leader of the House Dinesh Gunawardena said that it does not matter which party Siyambalapitiya belongs to.
“Siyambalapitiya’s re-election can be accepted by everyone despite their parties. The people today request us to get united for the sake of the country. So do us. We have proven that by re-electing Siyambalapitiya, who can be accepted by everyone despite party differences,” he said.
There are both wins and losses in Parliament. If we accept the democracy of an election, we have to accept both victory and defeat. Therefore, if the consent of the majority is sought, the consent of the majority will be won. Those who have fewer people on their side will be defeated, whether we like it or not, he noted.
Siyambalapitiya announced he resigned from Deputy Speaker post in early April following the SLFP’s decision to be independent in Parliament. However, delivering a special statement in the House on 8 April, Siyambalapitiya said he would remain in his position only until 30 April as per the President’s request. The President had accepted his resignation on 3 May.
BY Gagani Weerakoon and Methmalie Dissanayake