Poll option gaining currency | Daily News

Poll option gaining currency

There are calls from the SLFP/UPFA pohottuwa membership and also other groups affiliated to the Government that President Maithripala Sirisena should go for a referendum on the question of holding a General Election, should the Supreme Court holds the dissolution of Parliament invalid. The most vocal on this score has been Convenor of Federation of National Organizations Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera who in a media briefing contended that referring the matter to the people was wiser than making a judge decide. Reports also indicated that the UPFA membership at a meeting with the President had urged him to declare a referendum on holding a General Election if the Court ruling goes against the dissolution of Parliament.

A daily newspaper in its main story also reported that discussions were underway between several political parties on the possibility of providing the required two thirds majority in Parliament to hold a General Election should the dissolution be declared invalid by the Supreme Court. The report also stated that the President and Speaker Karu Jayasuriya had been holding formal and informal meetings to seek a way to end the present crisis.

It is not clear if the UNP was involved in these discussions with the President. However most feel that the most appropriate course to follow under the present circumstances is to opt for a General Election. This is because the stalemate is bound to continue even in the event of the court ruling permitting the present Parliament to continue. In such an event the crisis could only prolong leading to not just an anarchic state but the complete breakdown of the political system which could also pose a threat to democracy itself.

True, a referendum is a costly exercise and if a General Election were to follow it will be a severe drain on the country’s scarce finances. A General Election is also bound to exacerbate the already extreme political heat between the contending factions leading to unprecedented violence. In addition, should a GE throw up a hung Parliament there will be more problems. Also, there is bound to be a time gap before a referendum is held- if that is what it will come down to- should the court ruling, which will out anytime soon, goes against the dissolution. How things will pan out, given the pending Supreme Court ruling on the Writ matter challenging the appointment of Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister and the Cabinet, is anybody’s guess.

Then there will also be another interval before a General Election will be held if a ‘yes’ vote is cast at the referendum. In the meantime, the country will be without a budget for the ensuing year though the Government could go for a Vote on Account in the event an election is declared.

It appears that we are, in any event, heading for a General Election, whatever may be the Supreme Court verdict. It is not that General Elections had not taken place in this country mid way through an administration. The last occasion we had a premature General Election was in 2001 when CBK terminated her own Government following a rash of crossovers to the UNP. This time too the President would be terminating his own Government i.e if it is contended that the Government he appointed on October 26 is a legal one. The UNP and its supporters contend otherwise, while the SLFP/UPFA pohottuwa combine still say that their Government is intact and that what the Court of Appeal ruling did was only to restrain the functioning of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.

In the meantime, the UNP is to move a Confidence Motion on leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and through this means intends to force the hand of the President to restore the status quo prior to October 26. The President for his part is firm that he won’t have Ranil as Prime Minister but would not object to an alternative should the UNP manages to show a majority in Parliament. This amidst the stubborn insistence of the Greens that it will be RW and no one else.

Assuming that the Court rules the dissolution invalid and the President yet decides not to go for a referendum leaving the prevailing status quo drag on where would this take the country?

Yesterday we advocated in these spaces on the prudence of some neutral party acting as interlocutor to bring about a settlement to the crisis. We proposed the intervention of religious leaders of all faiths with the hope that the warring parties would be amenable to the sober advice emanating from such exalted quarters. We also called for the toning down of the violent political rhetoric that is now on display on both sides.

Hopefully, saner counsel prevails and the country pulled out from the precipice it is waiting to plunge into due to the uncompromising attitudes by the political leaders. We reiterate that both President Sirisena and former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe spare a thought for the country and decide to end the impasse. After all pride should be sacrificed on all fronts when it comes to rescuing the country from peril.


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