The country must thank, apart from the National Elections Commission (NEC), the outgoing President Maithripala Sirisena who handled the Defence and Law and Order portfolios for maintaining peace during the month-long Presidential election campaign. And also it is pertinent to commend the leaders of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), especially President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa for ensuring the continuity of that peaceful environment after the election when the constituency had frustratingly divided on ethnic lines.
Besides, anybody would appreciate and commend some of the statements made immediately after the official declaration of results of Saturday’s Presidential election by the new President, the Opposition Leader and Minister Sajith Premadasa who unsuccessfully challenged Mr Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Presidential race.
Unlike on some occasions after Presidential Elections in the past, Mr Premadasa, though defeated at the Saturday’s Presidential election had the courage and courtesy to face the audience at the ceremony where Mr Gotabaya Rajapaksa was declared elected as President on Sunday and had the civility to congratulate the new President.
Also, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, contrary to the common attitude of most of the Sri Lankans, stressed after he was declared elected by NEC Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya that he was the President of those who did not vote for him as well as those who did.
He reiterated that point at his swearing-in ceremony at the historic Ruwanweli Seya premises. It was encouraging at a time when the nation was badly divided along political party lines and ethnic lines.
Also despite the controversial remark, the Opposition Leader made on the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in a special statement issued after the election results were officially announced, nobody would contest the point he made in the same statement on the usage of race and religion by politicians for political gains.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who led the party that worked to thwart Mr Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s victory also participated in the latter’s swearing-in ceremony in the premises of the Ruwanweli Seya. These are commendable measures in building a good political culture.
However, now that the pleasantries are over in such a cultured manner, the new President is tasked to carry the country forward. The present United National Party (UNP)-led government with which he has to reconcile for the moment is a minority government and the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) which is supportive of the new President is even weaker in the Parliament and cannot replace the incumbent ruling party.
On the other hand, the 19th Amendment of the Constitution prevents the President from dissolving Parliament immediately in order to make an attempt to form a stable government.
In addition to this instability in the legislature, the new President has to work with a government hostile to his party. In light of the power-hungry political culture prevailing in the country, one cannot expect the pleasantries to continue.
Sri Lanka has twice witnessed two-party administrations where the President belonged to one party while the government did to another and both governments brought turmoil in
the political arena.
On the first occasion, a UNP government led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was dissolved in about two years by President Chandrika Kumaratunga who was also the leader of the UPFA as the government locked horns with her. The current UNP government was also at odds with President Maithripala Sirisena, the leader of the UPFA/Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).
Besides, the President cannot do anything without the recommendation or the approval of the Constitutional Council or the Prime Minister, except assigning subjects to the ministers, under the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. What the country realized especially during the past two years was that a power struggle between the Executive and the Legislature is disastrous in terms of development and there is a threat of that situation leading to unconstitutional measures by one or both parties of the conflict.
The country cannot afford such a situation as it has suffered enough due to two wranglings between the Executive and the Legislature.
It is high time the new President, incumbent Opposition Leader and Prime Minister put their heads together and draw a plan to get the country out of this messy situation, without harming the existing democratic institutions.