JO's doomed project | Daily News

JO's doomed project

The whole country, or, at least the politically alive segments of the community are today all agog about speculation on the formation of a Caretaker/Interim Government to replace Yahapalanaya (Good Governance Government). This followed reports in certain weekend newspapers of a purported meeting between President Maithripala Sirisena and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa at a dinner hosted by SLFP rebel MP S. B. Dissanayake at his Battaramulla residence. The National List MP has since denied such a meeting took place at his residence, in a media release issued yesterday, and so did Rajapaksa himself.

However, the cat has been set among the pigeons and the UNP has taken up the gauntlet with its firebrand backbenchers daring the Joint Opposition (JO) to go ahead. What is more, these vociferous UNPers have expressed their readiness to form a Government of the Greens with the support of some SLFP ministers.

UNP backbencher Thushara Indunil, at a media briefing at Sirikotha on Monday said they were not in the least daunted by talks of forming a Caretaker Government since the party has 106 Members in Parliament and is assured of the support of at least six more SLFPers to secure a majority. He also challenged the JO to defeat the Government at the upcoming Budget if it is keen to topple the Government. The JO members were to meet yesterday at the residence of Pohottuwa Chairman Prof. G. L. Peiris, ostensibly to map out strategy in their quest for a Caretaker Government.

The formation of a Caretaker Government, with Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister, is apparently the brainchild of S. B. Dissanayake. It is this self same Dissanayake was took upon the task of assembling the numbers to oust Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in April this year. After the whole project came a cropper S. B. declared that since the Premier has the confidence of Parliament he should be allowed to continue in office for the rest of his term.

Now apparently he still wants the Prime Minister out before the completion of his term, contrary to his earlier stand. And this is an individual who lost his electorate at the last General Election and crept into Parliament from the backdoor, read the National List, thanks to the munificence of the President. Ditto for Dilan Perera who the other day forecast that Ranil Wickremesinghe will be history come April (Sinhala New Year) next year and the country will have a new Prime Minister in the form and shape of Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Both these personages have lost sight of the fact that Caretaker or Interim Governments cannot be formed without the dissolution of Parliament and no dissolution could take place until the present Parliament completes four years. Besides, the present Prime Minister cannot be changed according to the whims and fancies of the likes of S. B. Dissanayake and Dilan Perera. The only way for such an eventuality is when the Premier either resigns on his own accord, gets defeated in a No Confidence Motion, or the National Budget gets voted down.

Besides, the removal of the Prime Minister is a complex and convoluted process under the 19th Amendment, as the Joint Opposition was to learn when there was an outcry to oust Wickremesinghe following the February local polls.

On the other hand, the President has already put paid to the expectations of those clamouring for a General Election by stating in no uncertain terms that the Yahapalanaya Government would run its course. Hence, it could be safely assumed that the President wants the present composition of Parliament to remain intact. Whatever ills the country may be going through at present will not change overnight with the appointment of a Caretaker Government with Mahinda Rajapaksa et al.

Besides, the serious accusations made against the Rajapaksa family, the court cases pending against the former first family and their associates, the claim made by President Sirisena that he would have been six feet under terra firma had he lost the election, certainly would not be lost on the President. The formation of a caretaker Government with Rajapaksa as Prime Minister would also mean a discontinuation of all the ongoing court cases and an admission that all allegations could be false which would not be a prospect the President would entertain.

Be that as it may, all speculation of an impending regime change is not going to be the ideal recipe for a country that has to contend with a tumbling rupee and the attendant consequences to the economy. Besides, the entire administration and the state machinery is bound to collapse under a state of suspense where public servants will play the waiting game, not willing to stick their necks out for fear of repercussions in the event of a regime change or Caretaker Government. This is a fear they are bound to entertain whether or not they have any validity. We witnessed this state of affairs following the LG Polls. Hence it will be prudent if the President goes public and clears the air in this regard.


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