Though April jokingly begins with the feast of all fools, April 2015 may turn out to be one of the most important months in the history of independent Sri Lanka. Next week the 19th Amendment is to be taken up for debate in Parliament. Despite several petitions to the Supreme Court even by the National Government’s allies such as the Jathika Hela Urumaya, most political analysts believe this vital amendment will be passed with more than a two thirds majority in Parliament.
With the formation of a National Government on March 15, the two main parties—the United National Party and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party - appear to be moving towards clear and common goals though they are going through stormy seas and sideline shows by the remnants of the Rajapaksa regime. According to insiders, the 20th Amendment providing for a new package of electoral reforms is also likely to be passed this month.
This will pave the way for the dissolution of Parliament possibly soon after Vesak with the next general elections likely to be held on June 27. The UNP and the SLFP will contest the elections separately but are likely to come together after the polls to form a National Government on a better foundation than on what they have been since March 15, with some SLFPers being in the Cabinet, another being the leader of the Opposition and others supporting former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge—the main pilots in today’s political control room though there is nothing like what we saw on Germanwings flight 9295—are reported to be planning to have a fully pledged National Government after the general election.
The National Democratic Front (coalition) which led the people to a silent rainbow revolution and a miraculous victory on January 8 had made three main election promises. The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration promised it would abolish the Executive Presidency or drastically devolve powers from it, introduce a more voter-friendly electoral package and take tough legal action against former political VIPs and top officials who had plundered billions from the country’s wealth and resources.
Most people would now be satisfied that the first two promises are being implemented though some parties are not happy with some provisions. In a democracy, just as a government cannot fool all the people all the time, it cannot also please all the people all the time. As for the third promise, the dissatisfaction is more widespread, with some parties or civic action groups even fearing that some backroom deals are continuing to cover up for some of those involved in multimillion dollar corruption.
Dr. Harsha De Silva, the Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs and Plan Implementation said on a television interview on Tuesday that he believed the National Government was steadily on course in its mission to bring about good governance, democracy and social justice with a new political culture where politicians would give to the country and sincerely serve it without grabbing or indulging in political business. He pointed out that legal action had been taken against the former political strongman and Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa, other MPs and top officials on charges of fraud and corruption. But Dr. De Silva also acknowledged there was valid public concern over what most people see as undue delays in dealing with the heroin mafia, with the case involving Wele Suda, politicians and racketeers linked to him dragging on for almost three months now. Dr. De Silva, known to be playing a key role in policy making and implementation, also said the February 27 Treasury Bond issue had created unnecessary problems but assured a full probe was being carried out and Parliament would exercise its supremacy by taking a final decision.
So with the dawn of April and the national New Year – which traditionally is a festival of unity – we hope Sri Lanka also would take a major step into a new era where the sovereignty of the people will not just be preached but practiced to carry our country towards lasting peace and sustainable development.