- The 19-A has saved this Govt. from the fate of the UNP’s co-habitation Govt. under CBK
- This Govt. has been paralyzed by divided loyalties -- keeping one foot here, the other in Carlton House
Prime Minister RanilWickremesinghe is facing a no-confidence motion submitted by the Joint Opposition and signed by some of the ministers in his own government. He may survive the vote, but the wrangling between the UNP and SLFP in the unity government would continue till the remainder of its term, or more likely till the President gets his chance to dissolve the government. That would be one and a half years from now, by when the current Parliament completes four and a half years. (According to the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, the President cannot dissolve Parliament until four and a half years into its term unless a resolution is passed with two third majority in Parliament for its dissolution.)
The joint opposition and the SLFP Ministers who cherish the memories of the good old days of the Rajapaksa regime would escalate political destabilization during the next 18 odd months, so that it would be easier for the President to dissolve Parliament and hand himself into the Rajapaksa cronies as part of a usual behind the curtain deal.
The problem with cohabitation governments in this country is that politicians have little desire to cohabitate. Such arrangements are usually a pretext for binding time for the opportune moment. This government has so far been saved from the fate of UNP’s co-habitation government with President Chandrika Kumaratunga thanks to the 19th Amendment. However, constitutional provisions cannot save the country from all acts of political opportunism.
Earlier, the President insisted that Mr. Wickremesinghe resign as the Prime Minister. Since that failed to materialize, he has been sending couriers to the Rajapaksa camp and making calls to Basil Rajapaksa, who has intentionally kept away from picking the phone. The latest initiative of a no-confidence motion is unlikely to have taken place without the president’s blessing. He is either condoning or turning a blind eye.
From the very outset, this government has been paralyzed by the divided loyalties of those who keep one foot in the government, and the other in Carlton house.
On his part, Mr. Wickremesinghe himself is having troubles with his own party. The UNP’s suppressed discontent to his manifold failures, and his preference to the Royal College club burst into surface whenever the prime minister is forced to a corner. As much as he seems to think it is the duty of the voters to elect him to power, he also tends to believe that the UNP cannot survive without him. He has not designated a successor, which may be a well thought out move, because, had there been one, the disgruntled UNP MPs and the functionaries would have rallied behind him and ousted Mr. Wickremesinghe in no time. He has tried to nurture some young leaders, but those who held a promise, soon fell out with him, majority of others who remain as his trusted lieutenants unfortunately do not have a national appeal. They will be gone, when Mr. Wickremesinghe leaves.
Economy will also be the main victim of an aggravated political instability in the country. Yahapalanaya got off on the wrong foot, suspending foreign-funded development projects, distributing unaffordable economic dole outs and salary hikes to win the parliamentary election, and sending mix signals on economic policy. Since then, the economy has not recovered, economic growth has plummeted to just four per cent a year for three consecutive years. There seems to be no sense of urgency. Development projects that can really create growth and jobs, such as the Hambantota industrial zone are held back by usual bureaucratic lethargy. One positive thing this government can learn from the former regime is economic pro-activeness, without which, all other self- righteous pretense of democracy and freedom is in vain.
Mr. Rajapaksa would be the only winner. However, even if he runs for the next election, he will be quite old by then and will be in the league of his old friend Yoweri Museveni, the president of Uganda. Old age may compel him to expedite his dynastic project and fast track Namal’s accession to the leadership. Others like the folks who signed the no-confidence motion would get the crumbs. Sri Lankans as a whole will lose one more time, this time pretty badly.
The only way out from a looming calamity is for the President to exercise his powers and not to instigate SLFP ministers against the UNP, but to keep them in line with the basic concept of the UNP-SLFP agreement
The only way out from a looming calamity is for the President to exercise his powers and not to instigate SLFP ministers against the UNP, but to keep them in line with the basic concept of the UNP-SLFP agreement. He cannot win by destabilizing his own government. His ministers will soon jump the ship at the opportune moment. The President has also squandered another opportunity to catch the crooks of the former regime, and do so in a way that it appears that the government is really mean it, by refusing to appoint Sarath Fonseka. Instead, he chose to heed to the same lot of SLFPers who is plotting to bring down the government. If he chose Fonseka, it would be the joint opposition that would be sending emissaries to him.
The government will have to devise some means to revive the doomed anti-corruption campaign. It also has to infuse a sense of urgency into economic development, and mobilize whatever power at its disposal to take off at least one major development project, that can create jobs. That would make people feel at least something is being done. And last but not least, the president and the UNP could agree to cooperate on what is in mutual interest, i.e. to keep Rajapaksas out of power.
Mr. Wickremesinghe may survive the no-confidence vote. But, if nothing is done, both the UNP and the president will be out of power in 18 months.