The Opposition's role
We will only be stating the obvious by saying that
this country hardly has a political Opposition worth speaking
of. The recent wild scenes at the UNP headquarters, Sirikotha,
highlighted most graphically the furiously divided house which
is the UNP. Obviously, the 'Grand Old Party' would need to get
its act together, unless it wants history to write it off as a
thoroughly spent force which is beyond revival.
While the majority of the UNP's political enemies are very
likely to enjoy the spectacle of the party descending from bad
to worse, in terms of unity and inner cohesion, seen from a
national interest viewpoint, the dismemberment of the main
Opposition political party is not something to be gloated over.
No less a person than President Mahinda Rajapaksa expressed
concern over the implosion of what the majority of political
constituents consider the country's main Opposition political
party and called on it to reorganize itself for the purpose of
carrying out the legitimate functions expected of it.
It is not only the bizarre happenings at Sirikotha that drove
home to the public that the UNP is now dismembered beyond
recognition. Even during the budget debate it could be seen that
the party lacked a true centre on account of the fact very
little constructive criticisms were made by it of the proposals,
besides it not having been at full strength in the House on some
occasions. As the President explained in Parliament on
Wednesday, in the course of his winding-up address, personal
ambition had got the better of some of the UNP leaders.
Now that a party leader has been elected by the UNP's
decision-making bodies, the party could not have any excuses for
not living up to the role expected of it. President Rajapaksa
has taken an enlightened view of the Opposition's role in
democratic politics and it should be amply clear to well meaning
and reflective sections that a strong Opposition is a boon
rather than a bane to a democracy.
The democratic system is deeply intertwined with this
country's national interest and it would be in keeping with the
legitimate aspirations of the people to ensure the continuity
and vitality of the democratic system of government. Come what
may, democracy has to emerge the winner and it is for this
reason that the political Opposition in democracies must be in a
state of vibrancy and not allow itself to disintegrate into
oblivion, as nearly happened in the case of the UNP.
As exemplified by the President, the more enlightened of our
politicians consider it to be in the country's interests to have
a vibrant and constructively- oriented Opposition. For, it is
plain to see that it is an alert Opposition that could have a
government on its toes, as it were. It is only a vibrant and
indefatigable Opposition that could ensure that governance is
being carried out in keeping with the mandate the governing
party has received. It is only a vigilant Opposition that could
ensure that the rulers of the day are not dissipating themselves
by enjoying excessive power, but are working towards the
legitimate interests of the people. In a sense, therefore, a
democracy's Opposition too is a watchdog of representative
governance and its cardinal values.
Needless to say, this country's Opposition, for the most
part, has veered away from the ideals expected of it. Whereas
what is needed is constructive criticism of day-to-day
governance, the Opposition has considered it fit to engage in
destructive criticism of the state. Thus, nothing good is seen
in anything the government does. All policies and practices of
the state are seen as deeply flawed, although just the opposite
could be the case.
This negative mindset of the Opposition would not help in
achieving the national interest because no constructive
criticisms have been offered to the governance process.
Opposition viewpoints should act as correctives to excesses and
distortions of governance. If this is not happening
satisfactorily, it is the democratic system which would suffer