The wide gulf in the relations between President Maithripala Sirisena and the UNP gives some sort of credibility to news reports that an alternative Government is in the offing - (Picture AFP)
One thing was certain when President Maithripala Sirisena derided Inspector General of Police (IGP) Pujith Jayasundara and the entire police service at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting. That is that resentment between the President and the United National Party (UNP) has climaxed to a point of no return.
The President is reported to have said that the police service had deteriorated to such low ebbs that it needed urgent reforms to forge ahead. In the Government, there appears to be two power centres- the UNP and the President – by all means and on all accounts. The police service is in the hands of the UNP and the IGP is believed to be a lackey of that party. The President’s tirade has to be viewed in such a context only.
- Renewed efforts are now underway to bring about an understanding between the President and his predecessor
- The economic crisis has now taken an acute proportion with the rupee value dwindling against the US dollar
- It was then only that the President had intervened. He even called the IGP ‘a joker’
In fact, at the Cabinet meeting, it is Higher Education Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe who started criticising the police in reference to the rising crime wave. At the moment, Law and Order Minister Ranjith Madduma Bandara tried to quash Rajapakshe’s remarks by saying that the crime rate had dropped instead in keeping with statistics. Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera supported this position by saying that only the media had hyped the current criminal activities to portray the Government in bad light.
It was then only that the President had intervened. He even called the IGP ‘a joker’. Such a wide gulf arising in connection with the relations between the President and the UNP gives some sort of credibility to news reports that an alternative Government was in the offing. That is by casting aside the UNP.
Efforts underway for an alternative Govt.
Of course, renewed efforts are now underway to bring about an understanding between the President and his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa. On behalf of the President, MPs S.B. Dissanayake, Dilan Perera, Thilanga Sumathipala and Lakshman Wasantha Perera had undertaken the project. They serve as the go-betweens in this exercise.
Actually, there is scope for political observers to believe that it is going to happen under the current political and economic crises brewing in the country. According to sources close to the Rajapaksa camp, any move to patch up with President Sirisena was scorned by their rank and file in the past. However, the economic crisis has now taken an acute proportion with the rupee value dwindling against the US dollar. Also, the President and the Prime Minister do not see eye to eye regarding most issues. In fact, the two leaders do not attend state functions together in some instances. Against the backdrop, the possibility of the current President and the former President joining hands prevails in politics.
Come what may, if anything happens, it will be an interim Government formed on the model of the Probationary Government formed between the People Alliance (PA) led by former President Chandrika Kumaratunga and the Janatha Vimkukthi Peramuna (JVP) in 2000
Vasu to request President to form new Govt
Commenting on the situation, MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara, who is close to Rajapaksa, said that he sought a meeting with President Sirisena to request him to form an alternate Government immediately.
“There is a severe economic crisis. Also, we have a political crisis. It has reached an epic proportion. I am going to request the President to take steps to form an alternative Government at least for an interim period to tide over the crisis situation,” he told the Daily Mirror. He said he sought an appointment with the President before he left for the UN. “I am yet to get it. I urge the President to abrogate the agreement signed for the National Unity Government,” he said.
Skepticism regarding new Govt.
Despite overtures being made, much skepticism prevails in this respect. Some in the Joint Opposition or in other termsthe Rajapaksa camp are not ready to take what the President says seriously. They believe that the President does not often stick to his words, and therefore they prefer to keep their fingers crossed.
Alongside, there is a political group within the Joint Opposition, which is averse to any political link with the President. Come what may, if anything happens, it will be an interim Government formed on the model of the Probationary Government formed between the People Alliance (PA) led by former President Chandrika Kumaratunga and the Janatha Vimkukthi Peramuna (JVP) in 2000. Nothing can be said with certainty as of now. Yet, efforts are being made.
PC polls and Sajith striking a note of caution
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe proposed at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting that the Government should take a political decision to conduct the elections to the provincial councils. He informed the Cabinet that most parties including the Joint Opposition would like to revert back to the old system of proportional representation to have the polls. To conduct polls under whatever system, he said that parliamentary approval was needed.
Transport Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, who spoke on behalf of the SLFP, said that his party even supported the 19th Amendment to the Constitution on the promise that a new electoral system would be introduced soon.
Therefore, he was against the conduct of polls under the old system.
In what appeared to be a note of caution, Housing and Construction Minister Sajith Premadasa said the conduct of elections should not be the Government’s priority at this juncture. Instead, he said that funding should be allocated more and more on development work at the grassroots level. “Then, everything will follow,” he said.
Jayathma accompanies Guterres to meet Sirisena
President Maithripala Sirisena who was in New York to address the UN General Assembly met with UN Secretary General António Guterres on the sidelines of the event. Interestingly, Guterres was accompanied by UN Envoy on Youth Jayathma Wickramanayake who is from Sri Lanka.
Guterres asks about archaelogical remains
During the confab, Guterres referred to his visit to Sri Lanka back in 1978. Forty years later now, he said he believed that the archaeological remains in Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa remained intact at the moment. When mentioning Polonnaruwa, the President hurried to remark to the UN Secretary General that it was nothing, but his hometown.
SL Ministers in UN endures security arrangements
Some Sri Lankan delegates including the Ministers were in for a rude shock in New York during the UN sessions this time because they had to endure tight security arrangements. It happened because they all stayed at the hotel which was also reserved for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. For him, a tight security blanket had been laid by the US authorities. As such, other guests were also subjected to thorough security checkups.
This annoyed some VIP delegates from Sri Lanka. It is learned that the Sri Lankan Foreign Affairs Ministry raised it with the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI).