Challenges before the new government

A very significant outcome of last week’s general election was the surprising performance of the JVP, securing 6 percent of the total national vote and winning ten seats in parliament. Earlier its best performance has been under the leadership of the founder of the party, Rohana Wijeweera but the votes polled did not amount to five percent of the national vote. For a party that was physically decimated after the abortive insurrection of 1989-90 and with a virtually unknown leadership, it was a creditable performance.

It was indeed significant in that had this 6 percent of votes been secured by the PA they would have been able to form a government of their own, without depending on the assistance of minority parties.

Political punditry is not called for to determine the reasons for the rise of the JVP. It was a clear rejection of the two main political parties by the youth of the underclass. The UNP and the PA polled fewer votes than they did at the presidential elections and this could be accounted for the votes polled by the JVP and other smaller parties such as the Sihala Urumaya and the NUA.

The JVP has once again opted for the democratic process and we hope they would remain so. But whether they opt for democracy or revolution, leaders of both the UNP and the PA should recognise that the writing is on the wall once again.

It is being argued that the PA emerging as the party that polled the largest number of votes is an endorsement by the people of its political and economic policies. But the narrow margin of victory as well as the drop in the vote bank run contrary to the statistics of the Central Bank.

The new government has to face many challenges such as resolving the terrorist problem. Despite all the hopes and wishes of those who want a negotiated settlement, Velupillai Prabakaran, delivered a message in his style – a suicide bomber while the cabinet was being sworn in. The message to foreign governments, foreign investors and other well- wishers is that this government will be beset with the same problem of terrorism as with previous governments.

Reports across the Palk Strait about the Sandalwood brigand Veerappan holding an Indian politician and his family hostage have revealed that the LTTE has struck deep roots in Tamil Nadu and Prabakaran’s Eelam is not only confined to Sri Lanka but also to Tamil Nadu, the motherland of all Tamils. Those peace activists who scream at the Sri Lankan government for the current situation tend to ignore the implication of Prabakaran’s global ambitions. It is apparent that the military option seem inevitable. It would mean heavy defence spending at the cost of economic growth.

To keep the economy ticking despite the constraint of defence spending will be the challenge to President Kumaratunga. She cannot solely depend on the private sector. There are public sector investments called for in vital areas such as highways, railways, agriculture and exploitation of natural reserves. Projects of national interests have to be given priority and not to pandering of coalition partners on petty political interests.

During a recent TV debate the correct perspective was well projected by the JVP Poltical Secretary Mr. Wimal Weerawansa when SLMC’s Mr Rauff Hakeem said that his party was asking for allocation of a number of diplomatic appointments as well as government appointments for those who had suffered on behalf of his party. Mr Weerawansa’s reply was that those appointments were not to satiate political parties but that they should be made in accordance with the interests of the nation.

Scarce resources have to be utilised on projects that bring results. They cannot be squandered for political interests.

The new cabinet has a few time-tested veterans such as Lakshman Kadirgamar, G. L. Peiris and Ronnie De Mel. There are only one or two bright sparks that we can spot out among the new faces. President Kumaratunga will have to use the powers of the much-reviled executive presidency to build up a robust economy along with the few capable ministers she has.

Foot in the Mouth

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease, a sickness affecting children is spreading in Sri Lanka, it has been reported. We do not want to be facetious about the suffering of unfortunate children but it does make us reflect on a similar sounding name affecting our politicians and cattle: Foot and Mouth Disease, also called Hoof and Mouth.

How many of our dear representatives and their panjandrums will now be nursing their feet having put them firmly in their mouth in recent times? Foot in the mouth is of course a common affliction of the political tribe everywhere. Many after the swearing in of the cabinet would have realised that they had been guilty of foot in the mouth act, without realising it

We can cite many such instances but this is not the opportune time-the time when a new government is settling in. Perhaps, the foot in the mouth act of a sports ministry panjandrum at Sydney would suffice. He had said that Susanthika would not even make it to the semi finals. Irrepressible Susanthika must not only be laughing her head off at this official but will also be doing so at others, who now must be realising that they too had committed this folly.

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