Elections: Way out of the impasse?
The governments proposals for an Interim Administration or what has been termed a North-East Provincial Administrative Councilaccording to unofficial reportshas been handed over to the LTTE. If this unofficial version is correct, it is likely to be opposed tooth and nail by the biggest Opposition Party, the Peoples Alliance. Thus, the so-called Peace Process that has been tossed about in very stormy political seas for the past many weeks will be subject to increased hostile weather.
The consequences will be very grave for the nation both economically and politically.
The country has been in this state of extreme political and economic instability since the emergence of President Kumaratunga and her government in 1994 with no clear parliamentary majority. The powers of the executive presidency enabled her to govern a full six years but when the term ended, the nation was in a very bad way with the military in a precarious position in the Jaffna peninsula and the economy wrecked recording a negative growth for the first time in our post-Independence history.
The emergence of the UNF government headed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe made matters worse with a two-headed government of President Kumaratunga and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe pulling in opposite directions, coming into being.
Now, once again on this all-important issue of the proposed Administrative Council for the North and East, the two parties are very likely to clash head-on. A PA spokesman was quoted in The Island yesterday saying: "It is even ridiculous to consider PA representatives in the proposed administration because the UNP-led government did not even bother to discuss the latest proposals with President Kumaratunga." Indeed the PA has a very valid excuse for not going along with this Peace Process because President Chandrika Kumaratunga was not consulted when the Memorandum of Understanding was signed. The president was presented with the agreement after Prabhakaran and Ranil Wickremesinghe had signed it. The UNPs probable excuse would be that had it been presented to her earlier she would have sabotaged it.
Whether the LTTE accepts the new proposals of the government is another matter. Most probably they will want more, as usual. The inability of the two main political parties to reach consensus on this all-important issue will provide the LTTE a very valid excuse to laugh off this whole exercise. On the other hand had the PA and the UNP been able to reach consensus it would have presented a very serious challenge to the LTTE and its fellow travellers.
Certainly, this broad outline to administer the north and east with the LTTE being given the whiphand, needs very serious and close scrutiny. It is an organisation that has not given up terrorism in word and deed. It is continuing terrorism in the rawest and most despicable forms. There has to be reciprocity on the part of the terrorists, particularly if they are to be given charge of the administration of two entire provinces and vast sums of funds, particularly foreign donations, to handle.
Besides, whatever administration is set up, it has to be within the parameters of the constitution. Granting the administration of two provinces to a terrorist organisation not bound by any constitutional provisions, with there own laws and concepts of justice, own law courts etc. is a total surrender to anarchy. We await the official release of the proposals to see whether the proposed administration will be in accordance with the law as stated by the prime minister at Polonnaruwa during the weekend.
The country has been going through this pinch and punch show of Chandrika and Ranil for over seven and a half years. The recipients of these pinches and punches have not been them but the people. This show cannot go on for long. The Peace Process will not and cannot succeed under these circumstances even if the terrorists recover their sanity, the economy cannot recover in the way it should nor can law and order in this country be restored. A way out has to be thought of now.
The question of holding fresh elections for the people to take the vital decisions because the two leaders obviously cannot make the required decisions has to be immediately considered. Let the two parties present their proposals in their manifestos on vital issues such as a unitary state or federal states, amalgamation of the Northern and Eastern Provinces as well as constitutional changes on proportional representation and the executive presidency.
An election may produce another hung parliament as before but yet it could be a way out of this impasse. If not, can the nation survive this near state of anarchy?
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