- Are the loyalists of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who call themselves the Joint Opposition (JO) playing into the hands of the Government?
- JO had thought it fit to fight over Weerawansa, rather than agitating against the paddy black marketers!
Are the loyalists of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who call themselves the Joint Opposition (JO) playing into the hands of the Government by fighting for the demand made by Wimal Weerawansa’s National Freedom Front (NFF) to recognise it as a separate party in the Parliament?
Wittingly or unwittingly, they have totally diverted the focus of the masses from skyrocketing cost of living and many other burning problems by this agitation.
Soon after the Parliamentary elections in August, 2015 they also demanded the post of Opposition Leader be given to one of them without being recognised as a separate group in the House.
However, it was rejected by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya on technical grounds that no party had contested at the Parliamentary elections under the name of Joint Opposition.
Nevertheless they had the moral right to claim the post as the second biggest group in the House, craving for power.
Fresh from the humiliating defeat at the just concluded general elections, the JO did not continue its struggle for the Opposition Leader position, which went for the second time in the Sri Lankan history to a Tamil leader, Rajavarothayam Sampanthan.
However, they continued with their demand that they be accepted as a separate group in the Parliament independent of the UPFA under, which they contested at the General Elections.
In order to support their claim they argued that they did not join the UNP led Government as the other members contested under the UPFA did. True enough, in a practical sense they are the real traditional Opposition in Parliament and outside of it as it follows the tradition of opposing everything that Government does.
The UNP leadership this time agreed to accept JO senior member MP Dinesh Gunawardane as the JO group leader in Parliament, not on the capacity of MEP leader but as the leader of the JO.
Most probably UNP’s strategy was to let the UPFA’s simmering infighting between Maithripala and Mahinda groups to intensify by strengthening the JO, which would ultimately lead to the split of the UPFA.
UPFA functioning under President Maithripala Sirisena too on its part agreed to apportion time for the JO group from the time allocated to it for Parliamentary debates.
This amounted to the Government wittingly or unwittingly accepting the existence of a separate group called JO in Parliament. Nevertheless the JO did not seem to be keen to lay claim to the Opposition Leader post again.
Then the group acted as a separate political party holding separate daily press briefings, public meetings and borrowed Sri Lanka Podujana Party, a registered political party and appointed former minister Professor G.L. Peiris as its Chairman.
All in all, the JO is now very clearly a political grouping independent of President Sirisena’s UPFA and SLFP.
It was against this backdrop NFF leader Wimal Weerawansa requested the Speaker to recognise his party also as a separate party. He was even prepared to risk the four seats his party had got at the last general elections by heeding to a request by UPFA General Secretary and Minister Mahinda Amaraweera to give in writing that his party had severed links with the UPFA.
UNP leader and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe attempted to portray Weerawansa’s move as a divorce by the latter’s party from JO’s godfather-former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
He said that he was pleased to see Weerawansa breaking away from Rajapaksa.
However, the entire JO including Rajapaksa supported Weerawansa’s demand.
Rajapaksa openly stated that Wimal’s move was a ploy within the overall strategy of the JO, in spite of the fact that ploys, tricks, and maneuvers being not disclosed by those employ them.
The Prime Minister knew that there was no rift between the NFF and the other JO partners. But he attempted to mislead the supporters of the JO and the NFF and pit them against each other.
In fact, Wimal’s move was aimed at gaining time and other privileges provided to party leaders in the Parliament.
There is no public interest involved in it. It is not a matter to fight for forgetting the problems of the masses or diverting the attention of the masses from their own problems.
But the JO spent almost a whole week’s business of Parliament by agitating within
Ultimately MEP leader Dinesh Gunawardane was suspended from Parliament for a week over Weerawansa issue.
During the week, when the JO was fighting for Weerawansa’s party, the Tamil media totally centered its focus on the UNHRC session that was underway in Geneva.
Tamil leaders and the media exerted maximum pressure on the Government using the meetings held on the sidelines of the main session of the world’s Human Rights body to implement the recommendations of the resolution adopted in the Human Rights Council in 2015.
The Government had requested two more years to implement them but the Tamil diaspora groups opposed it. The JO failed to considerably contribute in the debate during the week they fought for Weerawansa.
Prices of essential items are soaring in the market. The Government had to import rice amidst a mounting controversy over the local rice price hike, which had unprecedentedly surpassed Rs. 130 a kilo.
Farmer organisations are accusing that millers with political patronage had created an artificial rice scarcity by not releasing the rice they possess to the market in order to jack up the prices.
But the JO, the largest grouping in the Opposition had thought it fit to fight over Weerawansa, rather than agitating against the paddy black marketers!
An investigation into the Central Bank bond scam, possibly the largest ever corruption occurred in the country, is underway and most of the details transpired during the proceedings seem to need explanation for the ordinary people.
In the meantime Government Ministers are waxing eloquent to justify their lack of will and capacity to keep the promises, including action against corruption, given to the people during the last Presidential and Parliamentary elections.
Indifferent to all these, the JO is playing politics in order to gain short term political mileage.