If a momentous chapter in Sri Lanka’s history began on January 8 this year, then a golden page was written yesterday when the two main political parties decided to rise beyond self-centred party politics and form a National Government for the first time since Independence 67 years ago.
Much credit for this memorable achievement needs to go to the three leaders who are virtually running the country today—President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga.
Until yesterday the new administration—though it was working towards good governance, democracy and social justice—was lop-sided and overloaded. Sri Lanka had a government which was dominated by the United National Party though it had less than 45 seats in the 225 member Parliament while the main opposition Sri Lanka Freedom Party has about 130 seats. Compounding the paradox or the strange equation was the role of President Sirisena who was elected on January 8 largely on the UNP vote base while a week later he was elected as leader of the SLFP.
Yesterday evening 11 senior SLFP MPs were sworn in as Cabinet Ministers, 5 as Ministers of State and 10 as Deputy Minsters. Hopefully the two main parties will now work together with other opposition parties including the main Tamil party the Tamil National Alliance, the main Muslim party the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, the Jathika Hela Urumaya and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna.
The first and foremost priority of the new National Government will be the draft 19th Amendment which was gazetted last week and is to be taken up for debate in Parliament early next month. Though there are some differences of opinion on this landmark amendment to the Constitution, leaders of all parties have expressed optimism they could reach a consensus through consultation and compromise and the amendment is likely to be passed with much more than a two-thirds majority, possibly even something close to a unanimous vote. This is a great and wonderful sign for the rebuilding of a new Sri Lanka where there will be multi-party, multi-religious and multi-racial unity in diversity. Most importantly political leaders including ministers, MPs and provincial or local council members will rise, or be obliged to rise, above selfish desires for personal gain or party glory. They will work, or will have no option but to work, for the common good of Sri Lanka, the welfare and well-being of all people of all races and religions. This will be a new political culture where anyone and all coming into politics will be morally bound by an oath to work for the people and the country instead of trying to grab and plunder the wealth and resources of mother Lanka. Essentially the principle will be country first not in just words but by deeds. The sovereign people will no longer allow hypocrisy or sanctimonious humbugging of the type indulged in so often before by some leaders for whom, as Churchill said patriotism became the last refuge of a scoundrel or a person without values and principles.
Until January 8 politics or party politics had degenerated into a multi-million dollar business for politicians ranging from the top to the bottom. The latest of hundreds of shocking disclosures of the unchecked or even unbelievable plunder and pillage of public resources were made over the weekend. Two former VIPs are alleged to have stacked up a staggering 530 million US dollars and 516 million US dollars in secret accounts of a leading bank in Dubai. The details of these accounts of the two former VIPs were handed over by the new government to the World Bank’s Stolen Assets Recovery Initiative (StAR) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. It is also alleged that Sri Lanka’s former Ambassador to the Russian Federation—former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s nephew Udayanga Weeratunga -- had been accused by the Ukraine government of selling arms to separatist rebels in Eastern Ukraine. Details of these scandalous deals have been given but the Ambassador is missing.
The people of Sri Lanka would hope that the formation of the national government would not be abused by anyone to cover up multi-million dollar acts of corruption which have bled Sri Lanka dry and left it destitute. Hopefully the principles of good governance, accountability and transparency will prevail for the VIP rogues who had abused power and thus taken enough rope to hang themselves.
At last some maturity by politicians. We need to rise above party politics and focus on the future of the nation. The government should dry soundly put forward the plan for this nation to the people ...
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