One month on | Daily News

One month on

With the new Government chalking up one month in office today (26), there will no doubt be stocktaking by many on the progress or otherwise of the country during this short period. Some positives were immediately felt with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa reducing the prices of certain essential consumer items and also doing away with the fuel price formula of the previous regime. This had an immediate impact with private buses and trishaws reducing their fares. There is no doubt that the burning issue of the Cost of Living made the previous Government extremely unpopular that led to the February 10 backlash at the polling booth. It is hoped that more relief will be forthcoming once political stability returns and the new Government finds its bearings.

The public might also weigh in the pros and cons of the decision taken by President Maithripala Sirisena on October 26, that has led to the present political imbroglio and the sense of uncertainty sweeping the length and breadth of the country. Supporters of the President’s move would certainly justify his action. To any person observing the passing scene President Sirisena and former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe did not hit it off so to speak. There was a wide gulf in the outlook and political vision between the duo. Wickremesinghe was wedded to the neo-liberal ethos and bred in the Western school of thought while the President is essentially a son of the soil and indigenous in his way of thinking and political outlook.

True, the SLFP, which he represents, has undergone almost a sea change in its policies, concepts and worldview of things since the Chandrika days and today has almost shed its socialist oriented political philosophy.

Even so, the conduct and actions of Wickremesinghe and the manner in which he pursued his neo liberal policies would no doubt have been too much to take for the President which eventually led to the former’s ouster. The massive corruption that was part and parcel of these policies that took place within the Government certainly would have influenced the President’s decision to a large extent. Of these, the Central Bank Treasury Bond scam that did monumental damage to the economy from which it is yet to recover was often the subject matter of blame directed at the Government by the President.

The irreconcilable differences apart, the moves by Wickremesinghe to usurp the powers of the Executive would also have hastened the hand of the President. As he (the President) stated in a newspaper interview, the former Premier paid scant regard to his directives and acted on his own accord. What was discussed and agreed upon at Cabinet meetings was observed in the breach, with Wickremesinghe and his cabal doing their own thing to the great detriment to the public well-being. The President claimed in that interview that the former Prime Minister was stubborn and arrogant and even when the people registered their warning on February 10 and he (President) asked the former to step down and nominate an alternative from the UNP, Wickremesinghe brushed aside the suggestion. Perhaps the last straw that broke the camel’s back was the plot to assassinate the President.

Under these circumstances there was no chance that the President could continue with the unity government which when looking at it now had certainly been a misnomer. There was not only a wide disparity between the partners in terms of policy but also chemistry of the two leaders. In this backdrop governance no doubt had been rendered impossible and the situation had to be salvaged if the country was not to suffer dire consequences as a result of the conflict. The President took the only available option in terms of the Constitution.

Be that as it may, a resolution of the present standoff should be given the utmost priority by the warring parties if the country is to be saved from peril. The intransigence on both sides has led to Sri Lanka acquiring a bad reputation vis-a-vis its democratic credentials. The President has offered a way out by suggesting that he was willing to accept as Prime Minister a member from the party that shows a majority in Parliament, provided that Standing Orders are adhered to.

All that the Speaker has to do is follow the correct procedure. The ball is now in the Speaker’s court. He will have to decide if he going to stick to his guns and prolong the agony or pull the country out of the current impasse. For all intents and purposes the battle is now between the President and the Speaker. The last thing the country needs is a head-on collision between the Executive and the Legislature.

Things could come to a head with plans by both the UNP and the Government to flex their muscles in the form of public demonstrations. This can lead to serious breaches of the law that could have dire consequences. It is time for some neutral party to intervene to break the gridlock and salvage the country from such an eventuality. 


 

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