Nearly one-and-a-half years has rolled by after the formation of the National Unity Government between the United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is underway in this regard. The timeline, stipulated for governing together, will lapse in September making way for the two parties to take stock of things and decide on the next course of action.
With just six months ahead of the deadline, fissures within the government manifest in all fronts. President Maithripala Sirisena, as the leader of SLFP, directs criticism at actions obviously by Foreign Affairs Minister Mangala Samaraweera representing the UNP over the issue facing at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
He reasserted that Foreign Judges would not be allowed in hearing accountability issues in local courts. Also, he affirmed that he was not ready to act according to the interests of NGO eunuchs. He said he would allow the members of the security forces to be hauled up before any inquiry over their role in the decimation of terrorism. In political circles, these are interpreted as criticism directed towards the manner in which Foreign Affairs are handled, particularly in relation to the UNHRC resolution.
Alongside, the SLFP has found ground to oppose the move to hand over a stake of the Hambantota Port to a Chinese Company, a proposal made by the UNP. The committee, appointed by the government, has found that it is unlawful to hand over a port with majority shares to a foreign company as ownership should remain with the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) in conformity with the Act concerned. The UPFA has emphasised that it will not allow the agreement to be signed in its current format.
With differences getting widened, it is learnt from the SLFP sources that the party is contemplating to quit the govt. after September. After that, the UNP, as the single largest party, will be left alone. It still enjoys the chance to govern with the backing of a few from the other side in such an eventuality. Nevertheless, some SLFPers in the govt. believe that it is advisable for them to leave the ruling side to opt for alternative arrangements to face the next election.
Parliament has four more years to complete its term. By now, nearly two years has elapsed.
However, there are provisions in the 19th Amendment to the Constitution that enables the President to dissolve it prematurely after four years upon a resolution by Parliament. An SLFP source says the party will look at that option at the end of the term of the current Parliament.
Split threaten Unity Govt.
Mangala at centre of criticism over UNHRC session
SLFP opposes H’tota port stakes handed to China
TNA rift widens over military presence, Foreign Judges
SLPP gives green light to Welgama
PC polls face procrastination?
TNA rift widens; calls for urgent meeting
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) appeared to have been distraught with President Sirisena’s assertion that he would not allow military personnel to be victimized at any cost
The President made such remarks in his address to the members of the security forces stationed in the Palali Military Base. Alongside, the President also incurred the displeasure of the TNA when he reaffirmed his position that Foreign Judges would not be allowed in any local courts. This development coincided with initiatives by the government of Sri Lanka to seek a two-year extension for the implementation of the provisions of the UNHRC resolution adopted in 2015. The process is currently underway at the UNHRC in Geneva. It has already received positive signals from the western countries that mainly sponsored the resolution. The countries such as the USA and the UK have already assured their support to this resolution to be moved later this month.
The support of the European Union for such an extension became apparent when its envoy in Sri Lanka Tung-Lai MARGUE said in an interview with the Daily Mirror that the initial timeline granted to Sri Lanka for the implementation of the resolution was overambitious. He even said that Sri Lanka did not have sufficient time to do all that was required.
Be that as it may, the TNA insists on speedy action on ensuring what the previous resolution terms’ transitional justice’ without any delay. Incensed by the move to extend a timeline specified for it, 10 TNA MPs signed a letter addressed to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and emailed it to him against the move. However, it did not enjoy the support of the TNA leadership and five other MPs including stalwarts like M.A. Sumanthiran and Mavai Senathirajah. They, like others of the TNA, believe in the implementation of the provisions of the resolution without any alteration. Let alone, they are not supportive of engaging the UNHRC against giving an extended timeline for implementation.
There has been much wrangling within the TNA over approaches to address issues concerning them. This bickering has come to a head now with its allies openly taking on each other. The TNA is in fact a grouping of four Tamil parties that have united purely for electoral purposes. Otherwise, they do not see eye to eye on most of the matters. The chasm is widening within the TNA indicating signs of possible splits later on.
Against current developments, the TNA decided to call for a meeting with all its parliamentarians and members of the Northern and Eastern Provincial Councils in Vavuniya on Saturday. On behalf of the TNA, MP Senathirajah informed all these members yesterday over the phone in this regard. The meeting is slated to discuss a slew of issues with emphasis on current political developments.
Welgama gets blessings from supporters to join new party
Joint Opposition MP Kumara Welgama, the only SLFP executive member to oppose a joint government with the UNP at the beginning, participated in a function in his constituency in the Kalutara district. It has been organized to felicitate him for being with SLFP for 35 years. In his address to the gathering, he asked for permission to join a new party if the situation demanded it.
The crowd roared back in approval of his wish. He, then, turned to Prof. G.L. Peiris, the Chairman of the new party named ‘Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). “Today, the leader of the new party is also present. I can even ask him,” he said. Finally, he said he would be the first MP to get the SLPP membership at one point. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa attended the event. Alongside, his elder brother MP Chamal Rajapaksa also participated at the event, and it attracted attention because of rumours that he would break ranks with the JO and join hands with the SLFP section in the government. His participation in the SLFP executive committee meeting the other day gave rise to such rumours.
MR has chitchat with Western Provincial Councilors
Meanwhile, the former President met with some Western Provincial Council members at a funeral recently. “How is the work at the PC now?” he asked.
“We were planning a strategy to take control of the Council. We did not proceed as you advised against it,” replied member Ananda Harishchandra. It was a light conversation on the move by some members to sit independently in the Council. Then, the former President explained to them as to why he did not encourage it. He said the members should in a manner that would not give even an iota of advantage to the UNP at this hour. Yet, member Harishchandra brought to the notice of MR that a few UPFA MPs had met with the UNP and discussed ways of contesting the next election together.
Will PC polls be postponed?
The government is postponing the local government election citing different excuses. Alongside, it is rumoured in political circles that the government is even planning to postpone the PC elections due this year. The terms of the North-Central, Eastern and Sabaragamuwa PCs would end by August this year, warranting elections to them.