Needed, a fresh start | Daily News

Needed, a fresh start

Finally it appears sanity has prevailed and the political uncertainty that griped the country for an entire week has been resolved though the aftershocks are bound to remain for sometime to come. The political tug of war left the country in suspense for one whole week and almost paralyzed the state apparatus. It should be the responsibility of all actors therefore to prevent this lingering uncertainty that is still hanging like a pall over the country’s political firmament and help usher in normalcy that will enable the administration to focus its undivided attention to the affairs of state.

Already, things are in a state of drift, the political gridlock taking a heavy toll on the day-to-day administration, with reports that even the salaries of government servants and pension payments have been delayed, paving the way for another crisis of major proportions.

It is in this backdrop that the Mahanayakes and the Catholic and Christian leaders have come out with fervent appeals to all concerned to help the President steer the ship of state without placing obstacles in his path.

Mahanayake of the Malwatte Chapter, the Most Ven. Thibbotuwawe Sri Sumangala Thera, in a letter, has cautioned the President and Prime Minister that the deadlock the country has fallen into following the local government elections may lead to the collapse of the economy and the public administration system. Addressing a media conference at Bishop’s House Colombo, Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith said; “Every citizen in the country is of the view that political groups should stop bickering for power.” His Eminence stressed that leaders of all political parties should put the people and country before all other things. Bishop of the Methodist Church Sri Lanka Rev. Asiri Perera, issuing a statement says; “It is our understanding that our beloved motherland has been plunged into a grave situation due to political uncertainty”.

This was a situation that could have been easily averted had the SLFP members of the Unity Government did not act precipitately, following the LG elections. After all, it was only a mini-election confined to the grassroots administration, and, as Minister Navin Dissanayake pointed out, in most democracies mid-term elections are unfavourable to the governments in power. In the United States, mid-term polls are almost always won by the other side. The result has never had any impact on the US administration and it is business as usual. Hence, it is unclear as to why the SLFP segment of the Unity Government threatened to quit and called for the resignation of the Prime Minister. This, after faring infinitely worse than the UNP at the LG poll. Was it to deflect from this humiliation, or, was it to make the PM the scapegoat?

Now, with the reversion to the status quo, it is incumbent on both parties in the alliance to work in unison to dispel all vestiges of uncertainty. The government can function unhindered for another two and half years (till August 2020) and there should not be any bickering, or, further attempts to undermine the authority of the PM, as was the norm before. Both sides have called for radical changes in the direction of the government and this could be worked out amicably without resorting to criticism and name calling.

True, there is a huge gulf between the policies of the UNP and the SLFP, the former favouring a market oriented economy, private enterprise and connectivity with the outside world, while the latter more oriented towards an indigenous outlook and reliance on a state guided economy. There is therefore bound to be continual clashes over policy. The President should intervene at such times and decide on the best course for the country by consulting experts. Above all the open displays of disunity should be avoided at all cost.

It is these open clashes on economic policy that sent a wrong message to the voters at the LG elections, where a sense of drift was observed in government.

Be that as it may, the Joint Opposition is attempting to substitute the outcome of the LG election results to parliament. Its spokesmen are once again calling for the appointment of Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Leader of the Opposition on the basis that the Unity Government is no more. However, with the re-establishment of the status quo, this demand can no longer be valid. The President has clearly given his blessings for the Unity Government to continue. A Cabinet re-shuffle too is being planned.

The question surrounding the Opposition Leader’s post has already been thrashed out and settled at the very inception. That is how the post went to R. Sampanthan. Speaking in parliament on Monday the TNA leader stressed that parliament is not constituted on the basis of local government election results. It is wrong to demand power in parliament on the basis of LG polls results. He said;’’ the Constitution and laws of this country cannot be subverted by claiming benefits of the Local Government elections to his advantage, in the way Mahinda Rajapaksa pleases”.

As a former President, twice over, it behoves MR to act with responsibility. 


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