Party currently holding internal discussions for selecting nominee

Ball in the Governor’s court

Last Wednesday (14) Chief Minister of the Northern Province, retired Supreme Court Judge, Justice C.V. Wigneswaran ordering two of the four Provincial Ministers, the Ministers in charge of the portfolios and subjects of agriculture (P. Ayngaranesan) and education (T. Kurukularajah) to resign and those responsible for health (P. Sathiyalingam) and fisheries (B. Deniswaran) to take a month’s compulsory leave of absence, the latter until further inquiries are concluded. Wigneswaran has also decided to temporarily take over these four portfolios. Wigneswaran’s decision came in the wake of a report put out by a three-member panel (composed of two retired Jaffna High Court Judges and a retired Government servant of the public administration of Jaffna) appointed by him, finding two Ministers guilty (Ayngaranesan on 10 charges and Kurukularajah on nine charges) and exonerating two (Sathiyalingam on five charges and Deniswaran on four charges), and recommending that the two found guilty be removed. The Opposition of the Northern Provincial Council has criticized Wigneswaran’s decisions in this regard. Meanwhile, the latest situation is that a group of 21 members of the Council (17 councilors from the Illankai Tamil Arasu Katchi and four from the Opposition), forming a majority within the Council (of the 38 councilors in the Council, 30 are from the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).  Seven are from the United People’s Freedom Alliance and one is from the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress), have since handed over a no confidence motion against Wigneswaran to the Governor of the Northern Province, Reginald Cooray while 16 members have signed a pledge and petition in support of Wigneswaran which they have also handed over to the Governor. Cooray has subsequently stated that he would inform Wigneswaran to prove the majority within the Council.

Meanwhile, harthal campaigns with the participation of political, civil society and communal organizations, lecturers and undergraduates, in the North have been held in support of Wigneswaran demanding the withdrawal of the non confidence motion brought against him for his removal from the post of the Chief Minister. TNA MP President’s Counsel M.A. Sumanthiran spoke to the Nation regarding the matter and what decisions and moves the ruling Party, which is the TNA, was considering on taking in this regard. 

Q : How would you sum up the present state of affairs in the Council at present?

This week, the majority of the councilors cum members of the Council handed over a no-confidence motion against Wigneswaran to the Governor. Wigneswaran can no longer act in his present capacity as the Chief Minister as he no longer enjoys the confidence of the Council. The Governor is also not bound to listen to him.

Q : How did things unfold this way?

The matter all started with allegations against one Minister. The Council passed a resolution calling for an inquiry to be conducted into the allegations against the said Minister. Wigneswaran didn’t do it at the time and instead appointed a committee of inquiry to look into corruption allegations against all the Ministers even though there were no allegations against the other three. He picked the inquiry panel members.

He then published advertisements in the newspapers calling on the public to make allegations against the Ministers. In the subsequent inquiry report, the committee found one Minister guilty of nine or 10 charges of corruption, another Minister of circumventing administrative regulations and exonerated the other two. The committee recommended the removal of the two found guilty. All he had to do was implement the recommendations.

Yet, he kept the matter hidden for two weeks and only once the media made certain revelations that he came out with a statement in this regard and decided to take action against all four Ministers, when two were clearly found guilty and two were not. We advised him not to take action against all four but only two.

He has since asked the two found guilty to resign and he has suspended the other two. He has taken action against all four. All five Ministerial portfolios are now brought under him. We advised him to not dilute the findings of his own inquiry panel. It was left to the Chief Minister to act on the advice of the Council, yet he has chosen his own path. This is why the members of the Council protested against him.

He is trying to cover up the wrongdoing of the two found guilty by attempting to take all four out. Since they were all appointed by him, he has a moral responsibility to step down. The TNA’s Party leadership has communicated to him that he must step down. He didn’t listen to our advice or the Council’s and has instead acted actively against all in a contrary manner and fashion.

Q : What happens now?

It is up to the Governor to appoint a new Chief Minister

Q : Should a vote be held?

In my opinion no vote is necessary. There are affidavits from 21 members, who form a majority within the Council. However, it depends on the Governor. If he wishes to have one he can call for the said motion to be put for a vote.

Q : What is the process with regard to appointing a Chief Minister?

The Governor has to consult the ruling Party regarding the nominee. We must nominate our nominee who is a member of the Council who holds the confidence of the majority.

Q : Has the TNA selected a nominee?

We are conducting internal discussions within the Party with regard to nominating a member of the Council as the next Chief Minister.

Q :  What will happen to Wigneswaran?

He will be a member of the Council, not the Chief Minister.