With Britain still reeling financially and politically in the aftermath of the vote to quit the European Union (EU), Sri Lanka also needs to reflect on what happened in this once-mighty empire and take the right lessons from it.
According to most analysts, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron has put himself and his country in a difficult situation mainly because he made the fundamental blunder of putting the party before the country. For decades the ruling Conservative Party has been split down the middle on the EU issue. Mr. Cameron called for the June 23 referendum apparently to unite the party, but he ended up splitting the country.
Several million people have signed an online petition calling for a second referendum. In Scotland, where there was an overwhelming 62% vote to remain in the EU, nationalist leaders including Scotland’s Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon are pushing for a second referendum on whether Scotland should remain in the United Kingdom. Similar moves are being made in Northern Ireland which also voted to remain in the EU.
The splits within splits have also hit Britain’s Opposition Labour Party. Its leader, Jeremy Corbyan, known to be an Euro-sceptic, is facing a major revolt from more than 12 shadow ministers who believe he gave only half-hearted support to the remain campaign though it was the official policy of the Labour Party.
During the months-long campaign-which sometimes became as, vicious as the Presidential election campaign in the United States-the hard line extremists or white supremacists parties spoke mainly on the immigration issue. They claimed that in recent years Britain had allowed far too many immigrants, including nearly 1 million from Poland, to come to Britain. The Labour Party’s rising star Jo Cox who spoke out against such racist tendencies in a Britain which she saw as being large hearted and accommodative, paid for it with her life. One week before the referendum, the much-loved young lady politician was murdered by a self-confessed white supremacist.
Sri Lanka also needs to be cautious and prevent the emergence of extremism. The National Government headed by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has committed itself to unity in diversity.
President Sirisena, facing a split in the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), appears to have been compelled to give posts or privileges to senior party members. Some of those who lost at the general elections last year were brought in from the national list with the President saying he did it because the group loyal to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had thwarted their election by the people.
According to latest reports, the President is insisting that the executive presidency must be abolished when the new constitution is implemented sometime next year. This was one of the main pledges for the historic presidential election on January 8 last year, though some groups later insisted the executive presidency needs to be reclaimed with the powers reduced. Analysts say that in terms of the new constitution Mr. Sirisena is likely to remain as President till the next election. After that executive power will go to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.
We hope the National Government’s strategy of a sustainable eco-friendly and all-inclusive development progrmme will work out along with the principles of unity in diversity on the middle path. This will prevent the emergence of extremism in the North or the South, and we will be taking the right lessons from what is happening in Britain