|Lets set up an interim government
Dark clouds are gathering in the Sri Lankan firmament..... some of the darkest since independence. There is a prospect of hung Parliaments even after elections leading to continuous political instability as in France before the accession of president de Gaulle. Neither the planned no confidence motion nor the proposed referendum nor the elections in October this year are likely to deliver a government with a sufficient majority to rule the country effectively. Political instability is sure to make it impossible to solve the intractable problems facing the country, such as the ethnic conflict, poor governance, the alarming breakdown in law and order, economic stagnation and worsening poverty.
Mercifully, however, a silver lining is discernible in the dark clouds. The present impasse in Parliament is definitely offering a never to be missed opportunity to solve our problems. It is none other than the formation of an interim government between the PA, the UNP and the other political parties. It is only such a union, which could wield a 2/3rds majority, which is essential to perform the sacred duty of forming a new constitution or passing laws to deal effectively with the problems mentioned above. Undeniably a new constitution or laws are essential to change the election methodology in order to avoid hung parliaments, to set up the independent commissions to improve governance and to undertake economic reforms to enhance GDP growth to eliminate poverty. Above all, it is only such a majority, which could persuade the Sinhala community, that it is in their own greater interest to negotiate a political solution to the ethnic conflict by creating lasting trust among the various communities and offering generous concessions. What is important is to achieve a majority consensus on the issues at stake. Hung Parliaments and minority governments will never be able to take bold decisions of this nature, as most political parties and extremist elements placed in such a situation will invariably try to frustrate even nationally beneficial measures for short term political gain. This situation is not going to change even if a referendum is held.
It is technically possible to hold a referendum, obtain the approval of the people for a new constitution, set up a constituent assembly, draw up a constitution and get it approved at another referendum. It is a long, tedious and expensive path fraught with dangers, the most serious of which are the inability and the incapacity to government and the people to give due attention to the security of the nation as well as the management of the economy. Additionally, the need for a new constitution is widely accepted and has been endorsed by the people at several elections. So why go ahead with it?
However, the problem with such an interim government is that it needs statesmanship, leadership and sacrifice of a very high order. Could the President and the Leader of the Opposition rise up to the occasion like Mandela and Botha of South Africa and move swiftly to build consensus, forgetting minor questions such as, who should be the Prime Minister and the loss of jobs for some ministers? First the Head of State has to create an atmosphere necessary to build consensus by resorting to motivation rather than confrontation. The opposition parties have to respond positively without stooping to divisive politics and confrontational acts such as impeachments and hartals. Death and destruction has to be avoided at all costs by all parties concerned. The people of Sri Lanka too have a role to play. They should press the two leaders to be constructive rather than being destructive and above all to form the interim government necessary to draw up a new constitution and the related laws. If they do so, they would invariably be able to reap a bountiful harvest of economic and other benefits, that law, order and peace could offer.
However, there is a danger, that such a government once entrenched in power could become a sort of dictatorship and ignore the common mans needs and those of the minorities. An interim government therefore has to be an interim arrangement only to complete the agenda mentioned above.
A permanent government preferably with an uniform set of policies (not a coalition or a
national government with self destructive fissiparous tendencies) endorsed by a majority
of people in the country has to be installed in power after an election on political party
lines for the normal purposes of governing the country on the basis of the new
constitution/laws/rules formulated by the said interim government.
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