Fresh impetus for Unity Government | Daily News

Fresh impetus for Unity Government

It must be cause for comfort, indeed, for all those who worked towards the January 8 revolution, with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe pledging to continue with the Unity Government for the rest of its term. Addressing an Ifthar breakfast ceremony at Temple Trees on Tuesday, the Premier, while admitting that there were issues to be resolved with President Maithripala Sirisena, nevertheless, pledged to continue with the present arrangement until the life of the current parliament runs out in August 2020, to realise the pledges given to the people at the last Presidential and Parliamentary elections. “We will perform our duties with the support of all constituent members of the National Government and the people of all races and religions,” an English daily quoted the PM as having said.

True, relations between the two constituent parties of the Unity Government is not what it was at the beginning of honeymoon period. At the time, both parties were getting on like a house on fire, with President Sirisena even attending UNP functions held at Sirikotha, the first time a SLFP leader had done so since S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike left the Greens in 1951. There was also much camaraderie between members of both sides, with SLFP ministers even defending the UNP actions, in parliament against the criticisms of the Joint Opposition.

However, with the passage of time, relations soured, chiefly due to the policy differences between the parties, with the SLFP not seeing eye to eye with the UNP's way of doing things and went public with their opposition. Things came to a head with the bond issue, with both sides pointing fingers at each other. The February 10 Local Government election results exacerbated matters that eventually led to 16 SLFP ministers and state/deputy ministers leaving the government, following the abortive No Confidence Motion against Premier Wickremesinghe.

Without doubt, all those who put their shoulders to the wheel to bring to fruition the late Ven. Maduluwave Sobitha thera's efforts to rid the country of the authoritarian regime of Mahinda Rajapaksa will welcome the sentiments expressed by the Prime Minister. For all the recriminations, even the President, from all appearances, has not shown any signs of parting ways, which augurs well for the country. With another two years for the completion of its term, the Unity Government cannot at this point of time afford to jettison all it has worked for, to put the country back on track.

There are many achievements for which the Unity Government can be proud of. It has settled much of the mountainous foreign debts accumulated under the Rajapaksas, to make the country a debt free one for the future generations. Development work is going on apace though not manifested clearly to the public. However, its major achievement, without doubt, is the restoration of the lost rights of the people under an autocratic regime. There is an air of freedom and a sense of independence collectively enjoyed by the people today. The judiciary is no longer under the thumb of the executive, as in the past, and the Prime Minister no less appeared before a Presidential Commission at a time relations between the President and the PM were very much on the level. On all fronts, there is a sense of freedom, justice and fair play which, alas, the people are yet to fully appreciate.

Besides, there is much to be achieved in the remainder of the period of the Unity Government. Hence, the importance of maintaining the status quo. Like the Premier indicated, much of the pledges have to be fulfilled during a short period. On the reconciliation front, some advances have been made, though, things are moving at snail's pace at present. With a joint UNP-SLFP government in place, it will present an ideal opportunity for the national question to be resolved collectively, by both parties, who did not see eye to eye on the ethnic question in the past.

The exit of the 16 SLFP members from the government also augurs well for a smooth run for the President and the Prime Minister in attaining their objectives. It was no secret that it is the renegades who were the main stumbling block towards success of the present arrangement with their loyalties clearly with the Rajapaksa camp. Their departure, certainly, would clear the decks for the President and the PM to continue with the task at hand unhindered.

Time, though, is running out and the duo should get about the business of working towards honouring the pledges made to the public without delay. There is much frustration among the public at the failure to punish the crooks of the last government. With the special courts now all set to function, it is hoped that things would get moving at a faster pace and all those responsible made to pay.

All efforts, in the meantime, should be diverted to ease the living costs of the people, taking into consideration the disenchantment that was given expression to, on Feb 10. Ideally, a road map should be set for the next two years through which the Unity Government could aspire to reach its targets.


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