Hard time for Government

22 November 2018 12:00 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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SLMC’s Rauf Hakeem has insisted that President Sirisena should attend the next session in parliament and be seated next to the Prime Minister with the view of finding a solution to the political cisis (Photo Reuters)

When sanity prevailed among legislators last Friday (November 16), most people assumed that the dust had settled and  the country would wriggle out of the current imbroglio. Actually, it looked calm only in the relative sense.  In absolute sense, the crisis is still simmering, but manifesting in different forms, unlike the rowdy scenes that broke out inside the Chamber of Parliament the previous days. 

The passing of two no- confidence motions in Parliament amid violent protests did not serve the intended purpose of getting the current Cabinet dissolved because President Maithripala Sirisena declined, in clear- cut     terms, to accept it on the basis that the due procedure was not adhered to.  Also, he drove home the point during his meetings with the movers of the no confidence motion that United National Party (UNP) Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe would not be reappointed as the Prime Minister. 

The UNP, backed by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), will not consider yet another no- confidence motion. It has taken up the position that such a motion has already been adopted, and therefore the present Cabinet stands dissolved.  Speaker Karu Jayasuriya has accepted this position, but President Sirisena does not.  Now, the Executive and the Legislature are at loggerheads with each other triggering the crisis to snowball in a different form. 

Whatever the court ruling might be, the political parties are getting ready for elections.  Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) led by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, during its meeting on Tuesday, decided to hold demonstrations throughout the country demanding elections

First, the UNP, backed by the like-minded parties, handed over a motion to cut off financial allocations to the Office of Prime Minister. Parliament will take it up for debate later.  It is to be followed by similar motions to stop such allocations to the Cabinet Ministers step by step.  Accordingly, trouble is brewing, and the Government would definitely have a hard time in the discharge of its functions. 

At a recent party leaders’ meeting, former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake proposed to move a single motion seeking to cease   allocations to the entire Cabinet at once.  Nevertheless, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) Leader Rauff Hakeem insisted that the whole country would be disrupted in the event of such curtailment of financial allocations to the entire Government. Instead, he asked to do it gradually.   So, it will be moved against the Office of Prime Minister first. 

Deadlock to continue 

There is reason for the current deadlock to remain, or even to exacerbate. Either side cannot back down from its current standings since such an act would be deemed a defeat. No side is ready to accede to defeat ahead of possible elections.  

Apparently, the UNP, together with the TNA and the JVP, has the numerical strength in the House. Therefore, it tries to steamroll its way   to topple the Government with the overt and covert support of Speaker Karu Jayasuriya. 

Besides, the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) tries to hold on to power only questioning the validity of the UNP’s actions with the citations of the Standing Orders and the Constitutions. The UPFA is batting on a bad wicket because it does not have the numbers to face any motion. Also, it faces a problem in retaining some of its MPs who wish to join other sides for electoral gains, in the future.

To cling on to power under such circumstances will be an arduous task for the UPFA as a result. Alongside, pressure is applied from all quarters on the UPFA and the President to accede to the Speaker’s ruling no matter what.   

TNA asks international community to pressurize Govt

As part of efforts to exert pressure on the Government, the TNA, as the main opposition, engaged with the representatives of 15 diplomatic missions in Colombo on Tuesday.  India and the United States sent their low level representatives, but most western countries including European Union sent the Heads of their missions. 

TNA Leader R. Sampanthan briefed them that his party supported the no confidence on the basis that the Government was unlawful.  He requested the foreign envoys, particularly from the western countries, to prevail upon the President to accept the Speaker’s position to restore democracy in the country. 

First, the UNP, backed by the like-minded parties, handed over a motion to cut off financial allocations to the Office of Prime Minister. Parliament will take it up for debate later

In this manner, international pressure will build on the Government in addition to hardships in Parliament from a numerically superior opposition. 

The UPFA sees elections as a viable option to break the deadlock. For that, the Supreme Court has to rule on the matter. The court ruling will be announced on December 7.  

Whatever the court ruling might be, the political parties are getting ready for elections.  Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) led by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, during its meeting on Tuesday, decided to hold demonstrations throughout the country demanding elections. Also, it will have public meetings to discuss the current political matters. 

Likewise, the UNP is to form a broad alliance with the like-minded parties.  It had a meeting on Tuesday to discuss formalities for the registration of this alliance as a new entity.   

The parties that will join hands with it straightway are SLMC, JHU, Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA) and All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC). 

UNP MP Jayampathi Wickramaratne, the architect of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, has been assigned to draft the constitution of the new alliance. SLMC General Secretary Nizam Kariapper and former MP M. Salman are the other two members involved with him in drafting this Constitution. 

It is to be controlled by a leadership council instead, not by a single individual as the leader. 

The current crisis would drive the country towards a snap General Election at one point. Some parties welcome elections, but others don’t. But, no party can oppose an election openly.  The UNP fears to go for an election under the present Government. Therefore, the UNP seeks to unseat the Government before elections. Its priority is to topple the Government first and then strike some compromise with the other parties for a general election.  

Hakeem requested from the President at last Sunday’s meeting to attend Parliament and help resolve issues at hand. 

The President declined to do so citing his inability to preside over sittings.

“I can preside over a ceremonial sitting only,” he said. 

To cling on to power under such circumstances will be an arduous task for the UPFA as a result. Alongside, pressure is applied from all quarters on the UPFA and the President

But, Hakeem insisted that the President should attend the next session to be seated next to the Prime Minister.    

Also, at this meeting, UNP MP Lakshman Kiriella had another message for Prime Minister Rajapaksa.

“You are a popular politician. It is bad for you to cling on to power without a parliamentary majority. It is better for you to accede to the defeat and step down,” he told Rajapaksa.  

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