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Protect, promote and celebrate diversity - EDITORIAL

23 August 2015 06:30 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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resident Maithripala Sirisena and newly elected Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe are working closely together with a similar vision and goals to form a national government comprising the United National Party-led alliance and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. Reports say the cabinet is to be sworn in tomorrow, with 33 ministers from the UNP led alliance and 18 from the SLFP. The number of deputy ministers or ministers of state is likely to be 40 -- made up of 20 from the UNP, 18 from the SLFP and two from smaller parties.




The 19th Amendment, one of the most progressive pieces of legislation passed after the Yahapalanaya administration took office with the people’s revolution on January 8, allows a bigger Cabinet than the stipulated 30 when a national government is formed. Yet, 51 ministers and 40 deputies cannot excape the charge of a jumbo-size -- one of the main allegations made against the former Rajapaksa regime. We hope the President and the Prime Minister with the heartfelt consent of the ministers and the deputies would agree to a slashing of their allowances and privileges because the people would be paying to maintain this giant cabinet. One of the long-term cost reduction methods could be a review of the pension scheme for MPs. The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, which fell far below its expectations though it has some excellent policies in its manifesto, has proposed that the MPs pension scheme be withdrawn. The party, which analysts believe should consider the possibility of joining the national government instead of only supporting it on issues where it agrees, has pointed out that an MP who retires or is removed after 10 years get a pension of up to Rs.28,000 a month while a school principal has to work hard for 30 years to get such a pension. Travelling and fuel allowances of ministers, deputies and MPs also need to be reduced while the rule of law which was applied in an effective way during the election campaign, needs to be enforced strictly so that no legislator was allowed to indulge in corruption, fraud and bribery or the criminal plunder of public resources as we saw in recent years. As proposed in the January 8 election manifesto, legislation needs to be introduced soon for a code of conduct and ethics for MPs and anyone violating it, whatever his or her position, should be sacked.




While the once bitterly divided UNP is now perhaps united more than ever before -- thanks largely to the perseverance, patience and other virtues of Ranil Wickremesinghe -- the SLFP and the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) appear to be split down the middle. Reports say that though a memorandum of understanding was signed between the UNP and the SLFP soon after Mr. Wickremesnghe was sworn in last Friday, only about 40 SLFP MPs have so far expressed willingness to join and sincerely work with the government.    
The position of about 45 other SLFP MPs was not clear up to yesterday as was that of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa who led the UPFA election campaign. Mr. Rajapaksa who was present at Friday’s ceremony for the swearing in of Mr. Wickremesinghe, told reporters he would not vie for the post of Leader of the Opposition but would remain as a backbencher. Meanwhile the leaders of more than 10 parties in the UPFA, other than the SLFP, were due to meet yesterday to decide whether to continue their alliance which was formed 11 years ago to form a new alliance or work as separate parties. Most analysts believe the UPFA has thrown itself into a crisis where it has few options largely because it sowed the wind and now is reaping the whirlwind after having supported policies and laws which led to a breakdown of the rule of law, judicial independence and other virtues of democracy, the notorious 18th Amendment and the criminal plunder of public resources. 




Former president Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge now playing a key role in the formation of the national government and heading the presidential task force on national unity and reconciliation, believes that Tamil National Alliance also should become a partner in the national government.
The election results showed that national unity cannot be built on asbestos and amnesia but on equality and sincere respect for Sri Lanka’s plurality and diversity so that the people of all races and religions would have an equal place and access to an equal share of national resources. Such deep unity in diversity needs to be protected, promoted and celebrated as we move towards building a new Sri Lanka.
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