A wise decision | Daily News

A wise decision

All impediments to holding the local polls have been removed now, with the withdrawal of petitions against the delimitation gazette. The focus will now be on the inevitable political machinations and manoeuvres which is par for the course in our elections. One of the most intensely debated topics in this debate was whether the SLFP and the Joint Opposition (JO), in the guise of the Sri Lanka Podujana Party (SLPP) would reach an agreement on contesting jointly. It was reported that both sides were insisting on several conditions for this to happen. A major condition from the JO was that the SLFP should leave the Unity Government.

The SLFP has reportedly rejected the demand of the JO to quit the Government as a condition for reunification. This was intimated to JO member of the committee tasked with rapprochement talks, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena by the SLFP committee member appointed for the same purpose, Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, according to media reports.

Abeywardena had been insistent that the SLFP leaves the Government, if the JO was to consider proposals to fight the upcoming LG election jointly, with the SLFP. Minister Yapa had deferred with his onetime Cabinet colleague, saying the time was not opportune for such a move right now, but they would give it a thought on another day.

The SLFP ministers have valid reasons for not ditching the Government at this stage. President Maithripala Sirisena has declared that the Unity Government will be taken forward for the benefit of the country. Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne is also on record stating that the President had assured him that he will continue the journey with the UNP. This, no doubt, would have been a strong message to the SLFP MPs in the alliance.

Perhaps, like Minister Yapa said, they would take the plunge on another occasion. SLFP spokesmen had been saying that the party would oppose the UNP at elections in 2020. Hence, the onetime arch rivals who have shed their differences to join hands in governance could revert to their earlier roles in the future. However, going by the statement of Minister Yapa, the party is not in the mood to take that decision now. Therefore, in all likelihood, the LG poll will see the SLFP fronting up to the UNP, as of old, but, debilitated by a major split.

The SLFP segment in the Unity Government, perhaps, may also have other valid reasons for not quitting. Many of its ministers holding important portfolios have already dished out largesse to their supporters in the form of jobs. One positive feature in the Unity Government was that no political victimization occurred with the change in Government. Instead there was a congenial atmosphere in workplaces with supporters of both parties working together. Any change in this arrangement will only result in the resurfacing of political rivalry at work places.

There is also the fact that the recent budget has generously served most of these SLFP ministers, under their Financial Heads. It would only be foolish to turn their backs on this gesture merely to join a political grouping to fight a Local Government election. Moreover, leaving the Government, sacrificing all ministerial perks and privileges to fight a Local Government election does not make sense. What stake will they have in the whole matter even if the JO was to win 75% of the local councils, as Prof. G.L. Peiris brags? They would simply be cast adrift sans any power to wield, which they did as Cabinet Ministers. Besides, their prospects of re-election too would be bleak. Depending on the perspective of the voters, they will not forgive them for consorting with the enemy, so to speak.

It should also not be forgotten that some of the SLFP ministers were taken from the back door to Parliament via the National List, after losing at the 2015 General Election. Things can only get worse for them if they quit the Government now as they will be left in the cold with their political future ruined.

Besides, any SLFP ministers who leave the Government will have to cool their heels until the next General Election, which is not due until 2020. There is also the very likelihood of disciplinary action taken against them by the SLFP High Command, which will see them exit Parliament. Then they can kiss goodbye to receiving nominations from the party at the next General Election. The JO too is not going to take too kindly to those whom they consider renegades and offer them nominations at the expense of JO stalwarts. Worse, should the Pohottuwa fare badly at the LG polls, these worthies will be left to regret their move.

The only other question at this stage is whether the election would be held under the old PR or the new mixed electoral system, which gives pride of place to the electorate. Regardless of the method, we hope all parties will give nominations to 25 percent women, which is mandatory under the new system. This will usher in a new political culture. 


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