good move by the so-called Joint Opposition has turned out to be something that had been done without proper understanding about the subject as well as without the consent of many members of the group.
The 50 member Shadow Cabinet they had announced last Thursday had flopped within a day, with the Prime Minister and Religious Affairs, Buddha Sasana and Defence Minister of that cabinet, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa distancing himself from it and several other ministers of it also expressing reservations of the concept itself.
Mr. Rajapaksa, responding to a question on the matter by a journalist after a religious ceremony in Wennappuwa, had first told that now that the Government was planning to bring in the Westminster mode of Governance by abolishing the Executive Presidency, the Joint Opposition also had to prepare for the situation.
He also had said that the appointment of the Shadow Cabinet was an extension of the group’s assignment of subjects for its MPs during the last budget debate. Then in the same breath he had told that since the prime minister of the Shadow Cabinet had resigned the Shadow Cabinet too stood dissolved. He had reportedly accused those who named the Shadow Cabinet for stooping him to the level of former Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne.
"All these remarks point to the fact that the move had been ill- conceived and not unanimous among the group. "
Rajapaksa’s son Namal who had been assigned the subject of Foreign Affairs in the Shadow Cabinet had later said that this was not a Cabinet, in spite of the fact that the statement issued to the media by the Joint Opposition on the matter had been titled “Shadow Cabinet.”
However, he rightly said that this was a move to monitor the subjects that were handled by the Government Ministers.
Dallas Alahapperuma, the Education Minister of the Shadow Cabinet and one of the closest allies of the former President is said to be the architect of
After Mr. Rajapaksa’s resignation from the Shadow Cabinet he had described the move as a training programme for the members of the group. Lohan Ratwatte, who had been assigned the subjects assigned to Minister Rauff Hakeem in the Government, had told this was not the need of the hour. Former Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wikramanayake’s son Vidura Wikramanayake also had ridiculed the move.
All these remarks point to the fact that the move had been ill- conceived and not unanimous among the group.
Also it raises the question as to whether most of the members of the group had understood the concept which was not new to many countries in the world.
Even presently there are Shadow cabinets in many countries. The concept was first mooted by Opposition Leader of the United Kingdom Hugh Gaitskell in 1950s.
The idea, mostly implemented in countries with the Westminster system of governance, was to monitor the activities of the ministries of the incumbent Government, not only to find fault with them and use them against the Government as the Sri Lankan Opposition parties did, but also to put forward alternative solutions to the problems faced by the people and the country.
Once a particular subject is assigned to a particular member of the Opposition according to his educational and other backgrounds under this concept, he or she would be able to thoroughly and deeply study the Government’s activities under that subject and guide the Government. If the Government accepts his or her criticisms and proposals and successfully solves the problems it would be good for the country, though the ruling party would score credit for the success.
If the Government fails to implement them, then the Opposition can go to the people. On the other hand this would strengthen the Opposition, which is good for democracy in the country.
In fact, the Shadow Cabinet is not a training programme as Alahapperuma suggested since there was no assurance that all the members of the Shadow Cabinet would return to the next Parliament, where the present Opposition is supposed to form the Government. It is indeed a good strategy to streamline the Opposition’s campaign with which, if implemented with its due seriousness, the country would be benefitted.