Today’s political crisis in the country is unprecedented. Never in Sri Lanka’s political history has a government in power plunged into crisis just because it was defeated at a local election. The crisis has stemmed from the notion that the joint government formed by the United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) has no moral right to continue after its defeat at the February 10 local government elections or the seeming unwillingness of the SLFP faction led by President Maithripala Sirisena to continue with the joint government with the UNP or both.
The hasty demand by the winning party at the local government elections, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) is not surprising as it is in a hurry to come back to power again. But its contention that the UNP and the SLFP have lost their mandate is not valid as the two main parties in the government had collectively secured more votes than the SLPP at the local elections. However, if the President’s SLFP refuses to continue being in the government with the UNP one has to admit that both main parties in the government have lost the mandate they received in 2015.
Even if a government is defeated at a local election, the law does not provide for or demands a government in the Centre to resign, but morality might do so. In fact this is not a matter of morality, but a matter of a power struggle with the SLPP demanding the government to step down before the cracks within the government became evident. The situation has come to a head and is leading all concerned to find alternative arrangements for the formation of a new government as President Maithripala Sirisena seems to be at odds with the UNP leadership and not prepared to continue with the present coalition in governance. If he is firm in doing so he shouldn’t have allowed various ideas and options for a realignment of parties in the government to float around, leading to the present crisis.
The continuation of the present impasse in making a clear alignment of political parties into ruling parties and Opposition parties has obviously made the activities of the government institutions and for some extent the economic activities standstill. It was against this backdrop the Mahanayake of the Malwatte Chapter, the Most Venerable Thibbotuwawe Sri Siddhrtha Sumangala Thera in a letter had urged President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to end the instability and confusion that had surfaced in the country following the local government elections.
The 19th Amendment to the Constitution adopted by the present government in 2015 does not allow the President to find a solution by dissolving Parliament, “until the expiration of a period of not less than four years and six months from the date appointed for its first meeting,” that is before February 2020. And finding “two-thirds of the whole number of members” of Parliament to make a request to dissolve Parliament is also not viable under the present circumstances. Hence all parties have been compelled to find a solution to the impasse within the present parliament.
It is clear that political parties have their own agendas which are not concerned about the stability of the country and unfortunately it is the people who are at the receiving end of the deadlock. Therefore, the President and the Prime Minister and the former president Mahinda Rajapaksa must take into account the Malwatte Mahanayake Thera’s advice seriously and act soon to end the instability and the confusion which has engulfed the country.