Contradictions on causes of cross-overs

by S. J. Anthony Fernando
After nine PA MPs including senior Ministers crossed over to the opposition bringing the downfall of the PA government, the President and several stalwarts of PA were quick to label it as a conspiracy by those businessmen who owed huge sums of money to State banks during the past years particularly during the last UNP regime. They were perhaps emboldened to make the accusation in view of the stipulation in the PA-JVP Memorandum of Understanding barely a month ago to recover these loans granted to some big people.

Is it not seven years too late for the President and the PA personalities to make the accusation? What has the PA been doing all these years even after giving a pledge at the 1994 Presidential and General Elections to recover such huge sums from the ‘big bank defaulters’ which incidentally was one of the major political issues put forward by the PA at those elections.

After doing nothing on this matter is it not a shame for PA stalwarts now to say the PA government was defeated on this very same issue on which it had delayed to take action for seven years. On the other hand the mighty PA has quite unwittingly demeaned itself by admitting that it had been forced to implement some of its own election pledges given in 1994 at the behest of a small political party like the JVP similar to how the fabled Gulliver was tackled by Lilliputians.

What is also interesting to note is that Prof. G. L. Peiris, former Minister of Constitutional Affairs replying to this charge revealed the other day that he as a Minister had prevailed upon the President regarding the enactment of special legislation to recover such loans but to no avail. Is this not one of the many glaring instances of Government inaction and lethargy on implementation of its own policies and programmes which had been the bane of the PA administration. It also came to light that the PA during its seven year rule had given huge loans to some people through the State banks which are yet outstanding.

Another glaring contradiction the PA has committed in its rush to attack the dissident MPs who crossed over is the accusation made through state media that the ‘Business Mafia’ is behind the crossovers meaning that they were bribed by funds from businessmen. With the business community down in the dumps it is improbable that they can afford that kind of money.

But this theory has been contradicted in a story in the state controlled Daily News itself in its issue of 16th October 2001 under banner headlines "LTTE Funds UNP horse deal". The lead story of Daily News on this day states "The UNP was given 320 Million rupees by the LTTE to buy Members of Parliament from the PA so that a government favourable to the LTTE could be installed by passing a No Confidence Motion against the Government in Parliament?" This position has been taken up by another PA former senior minister Kingsley Wickremaratne, Treasurer of the SLFP, in contrast to Minister Mangala Samaraweera’s ‘Business Mafia’ label.

And Mr. Kingsley Wickremaratne is quoted in the Daily News story specifically rejecting the theory that business community funded the rebels Mr. Wickremaratne is quoted as stating: "Those who crossed over to the UNP from the Government had gambled with the preference votes cast to them by their supporters and most of those who crossed over were bought by the UNP. But the Sri Lanka business community had no such profits to give a sum like Rs. 320 million as none of the Sri Lankan business houses could afford such an expensive gamble."

Now whom are the people to believe when the several spokesmen of the PA send contradictory messages through the same state media. Perhaps it is akin to attempting to kill two birds with not one stone but several stones with all of them going completely off target. Mr. Mangala Samaraweera would like to do it through the ‘Business Mafia’ while Mr. Kingsley Wickremaratne prefers the LTTE to make use of the LTTE bogey once again to attack the UNP at election time, to make the people forget all other burdens of living caused due to bad governance. This is another instance of the erosion of credibility of PA promises and plans. At one time it wants to talk with LTTE but attacks others who advocate a dialogue with LTTE.

Cross-over is a legitimate right of an elected Member of Parliament in a democracy if he thinks that the party through which he is elected does not act according to the wishes of the people who elected him. It is practiced since the Parliamentary system was introduced among the notable cross-overs was when Late Mr. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike crossed over from the UNP to the Opposition and formed the SLFP through elected though UNP.

Since then many MPs have crossed over from UNP to SLFP and vice versa with accusations of betrayal and being bought over being flung around by aggrieved parties.

However, it is significant to note that under the existing constitution Mr. J. R. Jayewardene saw to it that the party in power has a hold on MPs of the party for sake of ensuring stability giving the power to the party to expel him from party and forfeit his seat in Parliament if he breaks party discipline or resigns from the Party. Despite this provision MPs have crossed over, in keeping with tradition, if they become disillusioned with the leadership and not doing enough for the people.

Judging by the pronouncements made by many PA Ministers and MPs who crossed over, their action stem from disillusionment over PA performance and lack of vision and purpose despite the rosy picture painted by the President and others which is not reflected on ground reality. Almost all dissidents are unanimous in their thinking finding common ground in faulting the style of governance of the President which had adverse effects on the lives of the people as the cause of their leaving the PA. Though the PA claims that it is now cleansed after the dissidents have left, the fact remains that there is evidence of seeping discontent. On the other hand many PA dissidents are known to be people of integrity and are well off financially. However if they are guilty of all the wrong doings the PA now says they have indulged in is it not a stinging indictment on the President and her party for keeping silent about it all these years.