The two parties are playing into the hands of the former President Rajapaksa
President’s outburst seems to be a resurgence of the bickering
The President accused monkeys for the price hike of coconuts
President Maithripala Sirisena has been making startling revelations since lately. He expressed hopes in mid-May that the GDP would rise by about 2 or 3 per cent if the rain continued, while the people living on the banks of several rivers in the country were anxious about a devastating flood.
He said this despite his Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has attributed the country’s current economic recession, after their Local Government Elections defeat to the floods in the Kelani Valley in 2016, among other factors.
Then on May 30, he surprised the entire country including those who toiled to make him the President with a question as to who compiled the 100-Day-Programme on which his entire campaign for the 2015 Presidential Election was based.
He said this in a tone that rejected that programme as an unrealistic strategy.
The President made another statement this week blaming the monkeys for the price hike of coconuts and said that people, who should blame the monkeys, were blaming the Government.
He was explaining how one-third of the crops in the country was being destroyed by monkeys and other wild animals. However, his claims cannot be totally denied by anybody in spite of them sometimes seeming inappropriate and sometimes surprising.
The action against the TNL transmission centre in Polgahawela also might be an extension of the strife
Most baffling among these statements was the one about the famous 100-Day-Programme and the occasion it was made also interesting as it was the 76th Birth Anniversary commemoration of the late Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera, who laid the ideological foundation for his ascension to the high post of Presidency. It is unlikely that people except for a few of his close associates would have believed what he said about the 100-Day-Programme at the function held at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute.
He said that with only 47 United National Party (UNP) MPs in Parliament, a programme had been prepared in a calendar form to be implemented within 100 days while asserting that the right thing that should have been done was to dissolve Parliament on the very next day after he was sworn in.
He implied that he was not only unaware as to who prepared the 100-Day-Programme and was not in agreement with it during his election campaign. And he at the same time grabbed the credit for certain achievements of the Government under that programme, such as the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, pointing out that without the support of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party led by him they would not have seen the light of the day.
One can argue that the President was in the dark about the programme when it was prepared as he was deeply involved with his election campaign. The common candidate of the Opposition who had just left the Government and almost the entire SLFP, except for a few MPs and a segment of the party at the grassroots level, was with the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The burden of organising and implementing the common candidate’s campaign was left to the main party of the Opposition, the UNP.
The burden of organising and implementing the common candidate’s campaign was left to the main party of the Opposition, the UNP
The UNP might have prepared the programme without the knowledge and consent of their common candidate, but in the belief that there was no reason for him to oppose it.
And it can be further argued that the candidate might have seen the programme and its impracticability in the middle of the campaign, but put up with it since it was not a time for the parties teamed up to oust Rajapaksa to fight each other.
And also the programme was readily accepted by the civil society groups that had joined hands with Mr Sirisena due to its reformist nature.
However, it is unlikely that the people including most of the close associates of the President might have accepted his claim on the programme as he had not shown an iota of a sign of his views on it for the past three and a half years.
And the programme seemed to have had his blessings and the support of the SLFP group that broke away from former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s leadership along with him, throughout the 100 days, when some of the 100 points of it were implemented.
The President rightly but by implication argues that it was absurd to put forward such a programme by the UNP at a time when the party had only 47 MPs in Parliament.
He also rightly boasts that it was he who gave the necessary Parliamentary support as the new leader of the SLFP, to give effect to the main items of the 100-Day-Programme such as the 19th Amendment to the Constitution that was passed in Parliament in April 2015 and the Right to Information Bill (RTI).
It is the very support he gave the UNP to pass these legislative pieces in Parliament that now stands against him when he attempts to convince the country that he was sidelined when the 100-Day-Programme was compiled.
On November 21, 2014, the day Maithripala Sirisena announced his candidature at the Presidential Election that was to be held in January 2015, he also declared that he would appoint UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe his Prime Minister once he assumed duties.
He kept that promise. Yet, the question remains as to why he did so, without doing the “right thing” - dissolving the Parliament.
Did he intend to appoint a Prime Minister without a programme – 100-Day-Programme or something else- to be implemented?
In fact, had he dissolved Parliament on January 10, 2015 it would have been the “right thing” as his team, though led by the UNP, would have swept the electorate, since it was a time when they were fresh from an incredible Presidential Election victory, which had demoralized the Rajapaksa camp and there would have at least been a stable Government now.
The President’s outburst seems to be a resurgence of the bickering between the two main parties that form the Government, the UNP and the SLFP, that has been fluctuating for the past two years.
The action against the TNL transmission centre in Polgahawela also might be an extension of the strife.
The infighting had come to a peak after the humiliating defeat of the UNP and the SLFP at the February 10 Local Government Elections with the President reportedly seeking the opinion of the Attorney General to sack the Prime Minister.
After exploring so many options by both sides, such as instituting a Government by the SLFP with the support of the Joint Opposition and forming a Government by the UNP on its own, both sides had decided recently to put up with each other.
The defeats at the Local Government elections of the two parties in the Government was attributed to the Government’s inaction towards the development of the country in general, and immediate welfare measures in particular.
It is clear that with the new wave of fighting the two parties are playing into the hands of the former President Rajapaksa, who recently said that President Sirisena performed the duty of the Opposition.