|Wednesday, 28 April 2004|
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UNP must opt for cooperation
The public is bound to have looked askance at the sight of Speaker-elect W. J. M. Lokubandara paying homage to the Sacred Tooth Relic at Sri Dalada Maligawa in the presence of none other than some bigwigs of the UNP. Where is the political neutrality, much expected of the new Speaker? If he is to measure up to the ideals of an effective Speaker, the Speaker-elect would need to prove at all times that he is untainted by partisan political loyalties.
We hope he would keep this principle in mind in the days ahead. As the Speaker of Parliament he is the head and representative of all Members of Parliament, regardless of their party identities. This standard would be compromised if the Speaker continues to maintain close relations with his former party colleagues.
In fact the recent gruelling election of Speaker in Parliament was a violation of tradition. Usually, the Speaker is elected consensually with little or no acrimonious, partisan contention entering the picture.
This was the case in December 2001, when the UNP enjoyed a majority in Parliament and its choice of Speaker was accepted by the rest of the House. However, this time round, the UNP chose to field its own candidate for Speaker, despite having resoundingly lost to the UPFA at the April 2 poll. Why did it enter into this confrontational course with the UPFA when the latter had scored an overwhelming victory at the poll?
Obviously, the UNP is seeking to bring a mood of stormy contention and political rivalry into Parliament and thereby undermine the working of Parliament.
All this it seeks to do in the teeth of incontrovertible proof that the UPFA has won a clear and overwhelming mandate to rule. Thanks to the distortions of the present electoral system, the UNP has managed to gain 82 seats in Parliament. Under the first-past-the post system of former times it would have ended up with less than 20 seats.
On the other hand, the UPFA would have clinched 160 seats under the former electoral order. It also garnered 4.22 million of the popular vote - a major vote of confidence by the people. However, by seeking to engage the Government in confrontational politics, the UNP is displaying utter contempt for the popular, overwhelming mandate the UPFA has received to rule.
This is an exceedingly sad scenario. Rather than engage in destructive politics, it is the duty of the UNP to respect the mandate the UPFA has received and allow it to govern.
Rather than foster division and contention, the UNP is obliged to cooperate with the Government in implementing its program of legislation. Among the upcoming reforms is one pertaining to the electoral system. The Government hopes to do away with the current distortive Proportional Representation system of elections and replace it with an amalgam of the first-past-the-post system and the PR system.
There is also the Constituent Assembly plan to be implemented. Therefore, rather than exploit the distortions in the PR system to erode governance, we call on the UNP to cooperate with the Government in passing progressive legislation.
There is a good deal of neglected work that is crying out to be accomplished. The President has acted swiftly and put her shoulders to the wheel, as our lead story yesterday pointed out. A number of infrastructure projects which remained incomplete from UNP times - on account of some former Ministers reportedly hankering after kickbacks - are now being implemented under the President's guidance.
All this and more pro-people projects are waiting to be implemented. Instead of scuttling the progress of the country we call on the UNP to help launch a new political culture of compromise and cooperation.
Produced by Lake House