Deposed Mendis fights to get back his post
By Santhush Fernando
Deposed Western Provincial Council (WPC) Chief Minister Nandana Mendis has sought the green light from the SLFP leadership to challenge Governor Alavi Moulana’s decision to replace him with former Chief Minister Reginald Cooray.
Former Chief Minister Mendis had not received any reply to his letter and was awaiting authorization from SLFP General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena to question the validity of the re-appointment of beleaguered Chief Minister Cooray, while Mr. Mendis was in office, The Sunday Times learns.

The aggrieved Mr. Mendis who held office for less than two weeks was reportedly asked by an Additional Secretary of President Chandrika Kumaratunga to step down on July 2 (Saturday), to pave the way for Mr. Cooray to be sworn in the following day.

Mr. Mendis would seek redress by filing applications of Writs in the Court of Appeal questioning the validity of appointment of another Chief Minister by Governor Moulana while the Chief Minister’s office was not vacant. After the swearing-in, the Council sessions had been chaotic with both main parties- SLFP and UNP, being in disarray and divided over Mr. Cooray’s appointment.

When contacted WPC UNP Spokesperson Sujeewa Senasinghe told The Sunday Times that the UNP came to an agreement with Mr. Cooray not to take up the charges against him and in return adequate grants would be made to UNP Councillors through the decentralized funds.

The controversy in the WPC deepened with the JVP group leader Waruna Rajapakse appealing to WPC President (equivalent to the Speaker in Parliament) Jagath Angage, to appoint him as the Opposition Leader, which matter was later referred to the Attorney General whose ruling is due tomorrow.

The JVP group leader, who had earlier threatened to vote against Chief Minister Cooray in an UNP sponsored no-confidence motion, appealed to the WPC President to appoint him as the lawful Opposition Leader, as the present holder of that office from the UNP had expressed his support and confidence for Mr. Cooray and had according to the JVP’s view become a part of the government.

During a hastily arranged Party Leaders’ meeting convened on July 1, Governor Moulana announced that Mr. Cooray will be sworn in as the Chief Minister on July 3, following the request of the Opposition Leader UNP Councillor Lakshman Kahatapitiya who pledged to submit affidavits in support of him.

The UNP submitted 27 affidavits, while 26 were submitted by the ruling party - the SLFP. With the SLMC, Democratic Unity Alliance and Western Province People’s Party (WPPP) following with 4, 1 and 1 respectively, Mr. Cooray had the support of 61 members from a total of 104 members.

However 12 of the 39 SLFP members had not pledged their support charging that some members had been lead to believe that Nandana Mendis had arrived at an agreement with the JVP while others had been made to believe that it had been on a request of President Kumaratunga.

Still 10 UNPers had refrained from submitting affidavits charging that Opposition Leader Kahatapitiya and several others prominent in lobbying for Mr. Cooray had accepted monetary incitements from the ex-CM. Mr. Mendis told The Sunday Times that the re-appointment was neither informed to nor endorsed by the Party leadership and as such he would be compelled to seek redress through courts.

JVP Group Leader Waruna Rajapakse told The Sunday Times that the JVP wished to remain silent on the issue but would not budge from the original stance that Chief Minister Cooray had to go.

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