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The status quo will prevail

The SLFP faction of the Unity Government are on overdrive these days attempting to distance themselves from the UNP. Various statements are being made by SLFP ministers of the government to portray the Greens in poor light. Very often we hear of SLFP personages referring to the bond issue, throwing a clear hint as to who the guilty party is while others speak of leaving the Unity Government, come December 31, when the joint agreement is due for renewal, or, allowed to expire, as the case may be. Pro-Rajapaksa media have also seized on a recent statement made by the President, to suggest that he (President) was due to exit from the UNP led government and go his own way.

True, the SLFP is in direct competition with the UNP at the upcoming poll and minister Nimal Siripala de Silva is already talking about defeating the ‘common enemy'. The President too, it should be noted, was addressing SLFP candidates, and, therefore, is bound to make comments that would bolster their morale and create the impression of the UNP being their ‘common enemy’, although allied with his government, as per the agreement, and that they should go all out to win. It is only then will they (candidates) enter the contest in earnest.

Besides, there is a lot riding on the President to come on top at this poll, which is the first to be held since his election to office, and, as the leader of the SLFP. Hence, as already mentioned, the comments made by the SLFP stalwarts in the Unity Government, no doubt, is a clear attempt at galvanizing the grassroots support of the SLFP, by distancing the party from the UNP in the context of an election. It may also be a bid at drawing in the support from among the undecided pohottuwites.

However, the sober reality is quite different and these SLFPers will, no doubt, be more circumspect before they make these utterances, particularly the one about quitting the government, once the election is done with.

To begin with, the SLFP on its own cannot form a government. The arithmetic simply does not provide for this. The UNP, though failing to reach the magical figure of 113 MPs for an absolute majority nevertheless has a commanding lead, securing 107 seats as against the UPFAs (including the Mahinda faction) 93 members. It is unrealistic for the UPFA to think of engineering as many as 15 defections from the Greens. The four JVP members will certainly not side with the UPFA as the rathu sahodarayas did when CBK lost her majority in 2001, to form the pariwaasa aanduwa. TNA will be more inclined to team up with the UNP in forming a government, on the other hand.

Hence, this talk of exiting the government, as threatened by some SLFP ministers, is merely for public consumption, mostly targeting the party's rank and file. It is certain that once the election is over unity will prevail between the two camps. The UNP too should take things in that spirit. There cannot be a parting of ways at this juncture when the government is not even halfway through its full term. A lot still needs to be done. There is the unfinished business of brining to book the corrupt elements of the Rajapaksa regime as also with the other promises that are yet to be fulfilled.

Above all, the President cannot sack this UNP led government, until the present parliament completes four and half years (it is only just over two-years-old). President Sirisena too, for all his posturings, would not be looking forward to such a prospect. He has on more than one occasion expressed his gratitude to the UNP for backing his candidature and installing him in the office of President with the vast bulk of UNP votes. It would seem the height of ingratitude to kick the ladder that help him climb to the highest office of the land, and, what is more, embrace, among others, his enemies, at whose hands, he had already claimed, he would have been six feet under terra firma, had the results been different on January 8.

True, as they say, there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies in politics. But it is difficult to envision President Sirisena, essentially a grassroots politician, who was brought up in the village tradition and imbibed of the values of the village, turning his back on the UNP, for political expediency. The SLFP too, for all the talk of defeating the ‘common enemy’, cannot see for itself a journey sans the UNP in the present context. For the first time in the post independence history the arch political rivals have come together to work for the common good of the country. The President, no less, has often alluded to this refreshing development and spoken in positive terms on continuing with the unity government arrangement.

Hence, whatever the outcome of the LG election there is little doubt that the status quo will prevail where it really matters. 


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