Political marriages of convenience
This is the time to kiss and make up. It was reported yesterday that the SLFP Central Committee, presided over by Chandrika Kumaratunga, decided to form a SLFP-JVP political alliance. There has been much bickering between various factions of the SLFP about this proposed alliance but their leader had apparently decided in favour of uniting the two parties. The SLFP-JVP alliances date back to the 1970 elections, and a year later the JVP staged its first bloody insurrection against the SLFP-led government of Sirima Bandaranaike. It resulted in the massacre of thousands of youth. This love-hate relationship continues and the number of SLFPers who were killed by the JVP in their second insurrection of 1988-’90 have not been estimated. Even though prominent Vijaya Kumaratunga was killed by the JVP an alliance with the JVP is passe.
The only clear objective of this union now seems to be the defeat of the UNP. And that perhaps is what matters to leaders of both factions right now, although this union could result in the SLFP vote bank being eaten into by the JVP.
Paradoxically, while this anti-UNP alliance is being forged there is the SLFP-UNP alliance being worked out by UNP merchant princes and SLFP palace courtiers. This is a move that can truly be said to be globally hailed - by the world’s big powers as well as the man-on-the-street. On paper it is fine but chances of coalition sticking together rather than blowing up are one to a million. This coalition is no doubt the last chance for democracy, law and order but the odds are very much against it because of the temperaments of the two leaders, particularly the volatile SLFP leader.
It will be considered ‘unbecoming’ and ‘anti-peace’ right now to ask how these diametrically opposed political forces are to pull through. Right now, there is a political consensus across the political spectrum to avoid dissolution of parliament and holding a general election. The reasons are: Firstly, politicians and political parties cannot afford an election and want to enjoy political office for another four years and secondly elections may result in the same kind of hung parliament.
Thus, this kiss and make up mood and possibility of a political honeymoon appears to be like a marriage of convenience in adversity rather than one of love and passion.
For this kind of marriages of convenience to take off, there must be a solid agreement on the vital issue concerning the nation: the north-east conflict. The UNP and SLFP’s political agendas are basically the same and so is it concerning the vital issue but when it comes to fine tuning before being presented to the people, the strategies go up in flames.
Chandrika Kumaratunga, the peace dove of the mid nineties turned hawk in recent months and took over the Defence Ministry and two other ministries in the name of national security. Now with Prime Minister Wickremasinghe appearing to be resigned to her constitutional coup, particularly on the take over of the Defence Ministry, the question is being posed: Will she live up to her hawkish posture? She thundered against the Trincomalee port being ringed by LTTE camps and the threats posed to national security and also the impudent way in which the LTTE was acting such as construction of a camp at Manirasakulam in a government controlled area. Was all that sabre rattling mere bluster for a political coup or genuine concern for national security? Those who cried out in support of her recent moves like the Sinhala Urumaya and perhaps the JVP too, will naturally be asking hard questions on how different she will be from Mr. Tilak Marapone.
The peace brigades who are ecstatic of the LTTE presenting it proposals in public after suspending negotiations, do not seem to be concerned about the contents of the proposals! What they fail to admit is that this is a complete reversal of what the peace negotiations were all about. The political settlement was supposed to be based on the Oslo Declaration which was based in the principles of federalism and a united Sri Lanka. The consensus even among LTTE fellow travellers is that these proposals are a blue print for a separate state in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. When Chandrika Kumaratunga says that these proposals could be a ‘basis for talks’, as she had said in an interview with an Indian journal, does it mean forgetting about all what has been agreed in the so called peace negotiations and going back to the Thimpu negotiations?
Political marriages of convenience and honeymoons will not last for long unless based on genuine consensus and solid commitments.
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