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Come September: It’s now or never - EDITORIAL

31 August 2015 05:12 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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As we usher in a new month tomorrow, it will be a special September with a fully-fledged National Government for the first time in Sri Lanka’s history -- hopefully laying the foundation for a new political culture and a homegrown democracy. 

Over the weekend, President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe – whom destiny has called upon to be the master builders of a new Sri Lanka – were finalising who should get what portfolio in the new National Government. According to latest reports, the new national unity Cabinet is likely to comprise 33 Ministers from the United National Party (UNP)- led Alliance and 12 from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). In addition, there will be 55 Ministers of State and Deputy Ministers. 

The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), which had hoped to become a major Opposition party but fell far short of expectations, is scheduled to move an adjournment motion in Parliament this week for a debate on what it sees as another jumbo Cabinet. Indeed it is so, but most analysts believe that Sri Lanka’s people need to understand that we are restructuring a foundation that has undermined and often retarded or shaken Sri Lanka’s growth and development. Essentially, as the President and the Prime Minister say, the transformation is from confrontational party politics to a new era of consensual and consultative politics. Practically, it is an internal liberative process where our leaders and lawmakers will hopefully be transformed from self-centered politics to other-centeredness where the country comes first, far and above the desire for personal gain or party glory. 

The new 225-member Parliament will meet tomorrow for the MPs to take their oaths and for the election of the widely respected senior Minister Karu Jayasuriya as the Speaker. In terms of the 19th Amendment, the Speaker from now on will have extra powers as an ex-officio member of the Constitutional Council. We hope Mr. Jayasuriya will live up to the lofty traditions of this high office and set an example for the new Parliamentary democracy that is expected to flourish on the principles of good governance, accountability and transparency with new laws and policies to bring about social justice. 

Tomorrow afternoon, President Sirisena – now playing a vital role as the Executive President and Leader of the SLFP – is scheduled to address Parliament. Reports say he will outline and emphasise the vision and the goals he and Premier Wickremesinghe have, to build a multi-religious and multi-racial Sri Lanka where plurality is respected and diversity is not only protected and promoted but also celebrated. 

On Wednesday, September 2 it will be an unscheduled day off for Parliament as SLFP members will be gathering in the President’s home-base of Polonnaruwa for the party’s annual national convention where near unanimous endorsement is expected for the principles of this new era and new political culture. Last Friday, the SLFP’s 54-member Central Committee unanimously decided to empower President Sirisena to work out the portfolios and the policies of the new National Government. It was a complete about-turn from the situation before the August 17 General Election where some 90 per cent of the MPs in the SLFP-led United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) had thrown their weight fully behind former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Now the UPFA has fallen apart and of the 95 MPs elected, about 70 have pledged unconditional loyalty to President Sirisena. While it may be a positive move, it also shows how fickle and self-centered human nature is. Those who proclaim hosannas most loudly could within a week betray, deny or call for the crucifixion of the same personality. 

On Thursday, September 3, which happens to be President Sirisena’s 64th birthday, Premier Wickremesinghe is scheduled to move a resolution in Parliament for the appointment of a National Government with a bigger Cabinet. The 19th Amendment stipulates that the number of Cabinet Ministers should be limited to 30, but allows a bigger Cabinet if a National Government is formed. With the approval of this motion, the swearing-in of the new Cabinet, delayed thrice, is scheduled for Friday. 

The August 17 General Election was peaceful, free and fair – with most analysts agreeing it was the best and most democratic election since Independence. The period of talking and promise-making has ended now. The time for hard and honest work, sincere, selfless and sacrificial service to the people has begun. We hope our leaders and lawmakers will not fail because if we are to build a new Sri Lanka the time may be now or never. 
 
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