President Sirisena must arrest SLFP’s retreat to the past


By Harim Peiris

President Maithripala Sirisena

The contours of a national unity government or a grand coalition government of the two major parties took on more definition a few days ago when over twenty SLFP seniors were inducted as cabinet ministers, state and deputy ministers in the Administration of President Maithripala Sirisena. The move is a vivid picture of what a post election national government would look like.

The reform process of 100 days

President Maithripala Sirisena and the National Democratic Front (NDF) coalition promised a new Sri Lanka in one hundred days. The biggest and most significant change of all was achieved by the people of Sri Lanka under the leadership of Maithripala Sirisena and the NDF when Mahinda Rajapaksa, his brothers, sons and cohorts were sent packing back to Medamulana on January 9 and with that the white vans, the corruption, the cronyism, the casinos, the ethanol abuse and lawlessness were also made a relic of the past. Consolidating and institutionalizing these gains is the objective of the one hundred day program and indeed of the subsequent and essential general election as well.

A section of the SLFP obstructing reform

A section of the SLFP, having lost the presidential election has now decided to try and run with the hare and hunt with the hound. Sitting in the government of President Sirisena, it is in fact trying to obstruct the reform process. How ridiculous for the Leader of the Opposition also from the SLFP, to be insisting that electoral reforms and constitutional reforms should both be enacted and implemented before parliament is dissolved and general elections held. Electoral reform can be passed and implemented later after delimitation. However, no one seems to have told Nimal Siripala Silva that his former leader and candidate for re-election lost the presidency and the candidate they opposed won and is now president. A defeated SLFP is trying to set the agenda, using its numbers in parliament. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe should insist on the general election as promised in the NDF manifesto and mandated by the people to President Sirisena.

The SLFP, which has spent close upon two decades in office, should have and could have implemented any reform it desired when in office. To be insisting on the impossible after losing is neither credible nor defensible. The SLFP is using its parliamentary numbers which are a phenomenon of the 2010 election and no longer reflect the mandate of the people expressed in January 2015. Given the divergent views expressed regarding constitutional reform, the best option for the Sirisena Administration is to pass a bare bones 19th amendment to the Constitution, which rescinds the 18th Amendment and reinstates the 17th Amendment, with some modification, thereby going back to the status quo ante and then have a general election when the parliament so elected becomes a constituent assembly for constitutional reform. The government formed after the general election should be a Grand National coalition government for the purpose of reform and Sri Lanka’s unfinished re-democratisation and national institutional building task that also seeks to resolve the issues of minority communities.

No rationale for a Rajapakse comeback

Meanwhile, some SLFP political lightweights led by the misguided Chief Minister of the Western Province are hankering to take the SLFP back to the past with a rather politically shortsighted nostalgia for a third Rajapaksa era, this time astoundingly as prime minister under President Sirisena.

What aspects of Rajapaksa rule, does Chief Minister Prasanna Ranatunga, who would really be better off trying to serve his constituents in the Western Province rather than dabbling in national politics above his political weight class want to impose on the people. Is it the massive corruption, the nepotism, the white vans, the assaults on the independence of the judiciary, the attacks on the free media, casinos, the ethanol abuse, kids in Lamborghinis; what is attractive about a Rajapaksa return? President Sirisena did not defeat Rajapaksa rule to let it raise its head in three months time. If the Grand National coalition of the UNP and the SLFP is mind-boggling to some, then the phenomena of a ‘coalition’ between Sirisena, Kumaratunga and Rajapaksa would only exist in the realm of the possible to someone not living on planet earth. As a first step perhaps Mahinda Rajapaksa should publicly apologise to President Sirisena for the slander carried out by the state electronic media during the campaign. As a former Chairman of Rupavahini Corporation, it was nauseating to watch the state electronic media during the elections.

Corruption in the mega deals and Chinese Port City

As President Sirisena is in China on a state visit much attention would be diverted to the mega Chinese port city project which has been stopped by the NDF Administration pending a full review. The basic and widespread belief and thesis is that the Rajapaksa’s were hugely ‘paid off’ or bribed to give the concessions or ‘sell out’ as many term it, to the Chinese semi government company.

The real issue is whether the Chinese who themselves are struggling with massive corruption, having convicted over two thousand Chinese officials themselves in 2014 alone for corruption, can give Sri Lanka any guarantees that the Rajapaksa’s and their cohorts were not bribed and corruption was not involved. Even if such assurances are given, what would be the credibility or the veracity of such assurance? President Sirisena’s state visit to China is important to reestablish Sri Lanka’s traditional friendship with the middle kingdom which emphasises traditional neutrality and avoids aberrations such as the docking of nuclear naval submarines and unsolicited mega deals at exorbitant interest rates. China misread Sri Lankan politics and went overboard with the Rajapaksa’s; a return to a more balanced relationship is required.

(The writer is the Chairman of the Resettlement Authority. However, the views expressed are strictly personal)

animated gif
Processing Request
Please Wait...