Needed a Coup de Foudre

The United National Front government has decided to call for the dissolution of parliament if some of the principal demands made by them are not conceded by President Kumaratunga. Some of the demands listed are curbing of her executive powers, establishment of a system of government by executive committees and the backing for a bill to enable MPs to vote according to their conscience rather than be directed by their respective parties.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe sounded this threat of dissolution last week and it has been ratified at a meeting of UNF District Organisers held at Temple Trees on Sunday. The reason obviously is that the so-called ‘co-habitation’ between President Kumaratunga of the People's Alliance and the government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe is simply not working.

While Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe may be disgusted with the slow progress his government has been able to make because of confrontations with the executive president, there are several reasons for him to pull back from this line of thinking.

Firstly, this government is only eight months old and the people expected it to bring about changes promised rather than go in for another election which could result in further political chaos. Secondly, as the prime minister himself has explained, the government has taken over a bankrupt Treasury and the country simply cannot afford to go in for another election. Thirdly, the election may not bring about the desired result expected by Mr. Wickremasinghe — a clear cut majority to govern the country by removing an obstructionist president who will still remain as president till 2006.

However, dissolution of parliament is at the discretion of the executive president and parliament will have to appeal to the president for dissolution, which she may well refuse.

There are many other reasons against dissolution. The government within its period in office seems to be pulling the country out of the lowest depths this economy has fallen to at the time it took office. The political stability that has ensued resulted in the building up of confidence in financial circles and in the stock market and if this continues the prospects of foreign investments trickling in are good. Besides the Ceasefire Agreement has held so far and Mr. Wickremasinghe has put, if not all — most of his eggs — in the peace basket.

On the other hand, it is incumbent on President Kumaratunga to co-operate with the UNF government despite her personal feelings and attitudes. It will be recalled that she was one of the harshest critics of the powers vested in the executive presidency, and in 1994 vowed that she would abolish the executive system of presidency when she was returned to power. She maintains that she has not given up this pledge and it was the obstructionist attitude of the UNP in Opposition that prevented her from keeping to her prime pledge. It will be her responsibility to prevent the country from plunging into further political and economic crises.

We have pointed out, time and again, that the main economic and political policies of the PA and the UNP do not differ very much. Both have worked within the framework of a market economy and on the main political issue, the North-East conflict both are for a political settlement through negotiations. What is called for are mature consensual politics and shelving of personal animosities. Most leaders of the community have called for consensual bi-partisan politics which the leaders of the two parties have failed to achieve.

In the past few weeks, the confrontation between the president and the UNF government escalated to unprecedented heights over the issue of the ‘luxury armoured cars’ purchased for the presidential secretariat and the controversial handbag alleged to have been purchased by the Presidential Security Division at great cost for the president.

More fuel to fire was added during the weekend over reports that the PA had planned a ‘coup’ to replace the prime minister and the cabinet of ministers with PA leaders and MPs with some UNPers crossing over. This ‘coup’ though it is claimed could be proved with written documents, no such proof has been forthcoming. On the other hand, since the UNF took over the government, the rumour has been that the UNP would stage a ‘coup’ by makimg many MPs of the PA to cross-over to their side in order to get the required majority to impeach the president. The logic behind the 'Conscience Bill' is to enable PA MPs to cross-over to the UNP.

As an article on this page points out, this country is said to have had many ‘coups’ plotted since the 1960s, but which failed to materialise. There was the alleged Coup d’etat of the armed services and police, the ‘Lavatory Coup’ in the 1960s and many other minor coups that did not go before judicial tribunals. What this ‘coup’ is about is hard to say. It could be a Coup de Main — a sudden surprise attack or a Coup de Maitre — a master stroke as some of the weekend reports indicated. It could well be a Coup de Theatre — a successful theatrical production, since President Kumaratunga two weeks ago claimed that all politicians are actors and she is the best actor in the world. What this country could hope for is a Coup de Foudre — a sudden unforeseen event, especially falling in love. As said in these days, we need love not war, even among politicians, if not at first sight even after long and bitter years of political quarrelling.

The country does not need dissolution of parliament or any kind of coup other than a Coup de Foudre after which all people and, more particularly, politicians can live in peace, love and amity.

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