The National New Year is being observed this week-end in the aftermath of the biggest political crisis since the historic presidential election of January 8, 2015. The no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe -- submitted by the joint opposition and supported by 16 SLFP members including ministers, deputy and state ministers -- brought the shaky national unity government to breaking point. Fortunately the turn of events last Wednesday restored trust and stability to a large extent with the Prime Minister now in an unassailable position and the Unity Government likely to continue till the end of its term.
When Maithripala Sirisena was elected President in January 2015, the all-party rainbow-coalition pledged to uphold the rule of law and judicial independence, to take legal action against the former regime’s corrupt politicians and take comprehensive steps to restore reconciliation between the Sinhala and Tamil people.
We hope the Unity Government will work urgently and efficiently to achieve these targets and that it will also work with honesty and integrity, selflessly, sincerely and with commitment for the well-being of the people. The ministers and MPs need to remember they are the servants of the people and it is a grave political crime to indulge in large-scale bribery and corruption, frauds or other ways in which the people’s money is plundered.
After going round in circles, President Maithripala Sirisena finds himself in the position he was during the January 2015 presidential election where only three SLFP MPs supported him though former president Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge -- who played a key role in the dramatic crossover that changed Sri Lanka’s history -- claimed that 30 to 40 SLFP MPs would support Mr. Sirisena. So at the January 8 presidential election all but three of the SLFP and UPFA MPs supported former president Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Even at the August 2015 general election, though Mr. Sirisena was the President of the SLFP, most members wanted Mr. Rajapaksa to lead the campaign. The President did not take part in the campaign, but most analysts say he issued a key statement which may have had a significant effect on the election. The President said even if the SLFP-led UPFA won the election, he would not appoint Mr. Rajapaksa as Prime Minister. Analysts believe this paved the way for the UNP-led United National Front comprising several minority parties to win the general election.
In a New Year gift to the Tamil people of the North, the Army announced it was releasing another 650 acres of land to the original owners and the military together with Northern and Eastern Province officials is also expected to grant more concessions to the Tamil people in a meaningful effort to bring about reconciliation. Fertilizer subsidies, water supply and other facilities are also to be given to thousands of northern families to restore their dignity as human beings.
To address key issues, Sri Lanka needs religious and ethnic unity in diversity, just as in the world all religions and races are coming together to find solutions to three priority issues -- poverty alleviation, climate change and the campaign to ban nuclear weapons.
We hope this National New Year season will go beyond the sharing of meals and festivities and we will see policies and plans to build a new Sri Lanka where there is a peaceful, just and all-inclusive society.