Apr 10, Colombo: The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) ministers who abstained from voting for the no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will not leave the unity government with the United national party (UNP) even if the 16 ministers who voted in favor of the motion leave the government, UPFA General Secretary Minister Mahinda Amaraweera says.
Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Mahinda Amaraweera said that although the ministers representing the SLFP are not to attend the cabinet meeting this week, they will decide whether to attend future Cabinet meetings or not through discussions.
Speaking to the BBC Sinhala service, the Minister said he decided not to join the cabinet meeting this week since the party needs to act as a team.
"We have come to a final conclusion - no one will take part in the cabinet meeting this week. We will discuss whether to take part in future cabinet meetings," the Minister said.
Expressing his views on the announcement made by the 16 SLFP ministers, deputy and state ministers who voted for the motion, that they would resign their posts and sit in the opposition in parliament, the Minister said it is their right to do so.
However, the Minister said his stance is that he cannot agree with the statements made by some UNP sections that they cannot sit together with the 16 SLFP ministers who voted against the Prime Minister.
"If those who voted for the motion leave the government that is a separate problem. It is not a problem for us. That is their right, even I can leave the government if I want to. However we will not agree with the suggestions and schemes to remove them from the government," he said.
"It is in this backdrop we decided not to attend the cabinet meeting this week," Minister Amaraweera said.
The UNP members say the 16 SLFP ministers have no moral right to stay in their posts in the national government after they voted against the Prime Minister and the government.
When the BBC asked the Minister whether the group who voted for the NCM presents a problem for the group abstained from voting, Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said "there is no such a problem".
"No, we do not have any problems, we were invited, but we are trying not to send out our other team, but to keep our own people inside the government, even if we do not get posts, to keep our group in the SLFP. We did not attend the cabinet meeting today to create that situation," he said.
The Minister reiterated that the 16 SLFP ministers who voted for the no confidence motion against the Prime Minister should decide on their own whether to remain in the government or not and it is not up to the UNP to take a decision.
However, even if the group who voted for the no confidence motion left the government the non-voting team will continue to stay in the government, the Minister said.
He said their effort is to keep all 41 members representing the SLFP in the government together as a team.
Minister Amaraweera further said the procedure to remove a minister under the 19th Amendment to the constitution is not very clear.
The General Secretary of the United People's Freedom Alliance Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said the procedure for the removal of the president is clearly set out in the 19th Amendment to the Constitution but the process of removal of the prime minister is not clear. "We realized it this time," he said.