Kurunegala District UNP parliamentarian Indunil Thushara is a much aggrieved man. He laments that although he had striven hard for the victory of President Maithripala Sirisena he had been overlooked for Ministerial office. He said three individuals from Kurunegala who worked against President Sirisena's victory were today Ministers. He also said that people were wondering why the government had so far not nabbed any rogues.
The MP is not alone in his predicament. Many UNP parliamentarians, some of whom even risked their lives working for the President, at the last Presidential election, have the same grievance. They are justified to a great extent. Having been in the Opposition for the last two decades they would naturally like to savour the fruits of office. To add insult to injury, some UNP MPs have even been forced to serve as deputy ministers or state ministers under SLFP ministers who themselves worked against the President. One such minister who insulted the President at a personal level during the election campaign is today an important minister while another who vilified former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga in a most degrading manner too is a minister. On the other hand the UNP MPs who braved all odds to enthrone the Common Candidate are forced to take a backseat in the government.
However galling as it may be, the UNP MPs who sacrificed a lot, but received little or nothing for their trouble, should learn to grin and bear and accept the consequences of a Unity Government. They should also bear in mind that the move was the brainchild of their own leader Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. The UNP won the general election by a razor thin majority and there was the very real possibility of Mahinda Rajapaksa buying over some MPs from the minority parties to form a government of his own and stake the claim for the Premiership. In such an eventuality all would have been lost to those MPs who are now harbouring grievances. Besides, the constitutionally prescribed numerical limit for ministers has already been reached and there is no way that the President could add to the exiting numbers. This is one of the reasons that has even stalled some of the Joint Opposition MPs from crossing over to the government. There is also the question of a bloated Cabinet.
Be that as it may, the disgruntled UNP MPs should take to heart from the fact that they have a government led by their party after over two decades and make a meaningful contribution towards taking the country forward. Besides, a government jointly formed by the once arch foes is a good thing that has happened to the country, putting paid to the contentious and vituperative politics we have been witnessing right all along. Since Independence the trend had always been for the victor at an election to call a halt to the projects and proposals of the departing regime and commence their own thing, with the vicious cycle continuing, stifling development and progress. Now for the first time both major parties are working together in unison, which indeed is a refreshing experience and redounds to the good of the country. With both parties agreeing to extend their cooperation for the duration of the present government one can hope for positive developments, unlike before, when rancorous politics retarded progress.
Of course there are certain SLFP MPs who are trying to rock the boat and make statements and remarks that could cause damage to this unity. Such elements should be reined in by the President, if the present arrangement is to proceed unhindered. This is also sometimes seized upon by members of the Joint Opposition to make the public believe that cracks are emerging within the Unity Government. True, there could naturally be differences, when, once arch rivals happen to work together, as in the present instance. Besides, the policies and ideology of the UNP and SLFP differ, although it must be stated that the gulf in the economic policies of the two parties have narrowed considerably, thanks to the course correction made by CBK when she was President. However these factors should not be allowed to stand in the way of unity.
Be that as it may, the President should appreciate the contribution made by the UNP towards his victory, when a majority of the SLFPers now in government were solidly behind Mahinda Rajapaksa. Hence any move to sideline UNP MPs would not only seem ungracious but will have other consequences. A disgruntled set of MPs in the government is bound to affect its forward march. Many are the times recently when groups of UNP MPs were seen summoning press conferences to voice their grievances over the utterances of certain SLFP MPs which no doubt would have been sweet music to the members of the JO. MP Thushara's lamentation is a reflection of this frustration being harboured by a section of the UNP MPs. It would be wise for both the President and Prime Minister to discuss matters with these UNP backbenchers and alley their concerns, without letting things to fester within and cause disharmony in the Unity Government.