It is still puzzling for many in political circles whether the government will opt for a referendum on the proposed new Constitution or conduct the elections to the local authorities first. What will come first? That is the question being asked by many in this regard.
Actions of the political parties and remarks of their leaders also cause such confusions in the minds of people. Already, the government ministers have spelled out in clear-cut terms that it has identified January 20, 2018 as the tentative date for the local government elections already overdue for more than two and-a-half years.
It is up to the Election Commission to declare the day of polling. Its Chairman Mahinda Desapriya was not pleased in the past when the government talked about the day of polling before him. He is yet to respond to the government ministers who are talking about the day of polling even before the declaration of elections in terms of the Act concerned these days.
Nonetheless, the government and the opposition have beefed up their political activities in view of the possible elections in January, next year. The United National Party (UNP), as the key ally of the government, has undertaken to address the party branches at grassroots level to mobilize support to win the local government elections. In fact, the key party officials including leader Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe were in Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa during the last weekend addressing the rank and file in these areas.
- Political parties and their leaders’ remarks cause confusions in people’s minds
- LG polls already overdue for more than two and-a-half years
- Govt., Opposition beefed up political activities
- No ODIs, Test match only; Will govern till 2025 - Kabir Hashim
- Govt. intended to enact new Constitution early next year - Kiriella
- Food production shortage; not weather alone, birds and animals devour 20% of harvest
People are not that pleased with the performance of the government. In the run up to the last Presidential and Parliamentary Elections, people’s expectations were raised to such high levels. People pinned high hopes on the government to deliver. Against the backdrop, it is noteworthy to throw some light on remarks made by UNP General Secretary and Public Enterprise Development Minister Kabir Hashim. In an address to party supporters in Talawa, Anuradhapura, he said, “Recently, a party supporter approached me and asked for a favour as soon as possible. I asked him why he was in such a hurry to get his favour done.
Then, he said he feared whether there would be a change of government leaving party men in the lurch. I told him categorically. We came here not to play one-day game of cricket but a Test match. There is nothing to worry. We will govern till 2025 or even beyond.”
Disappointment of party men is obvious here. Yet, he tried to assure that the government would last till 2025. The next parliamentary election is due in 2020. However, Mr. Hashim is confident that the government would forge ahead till 2025. Is he that confident of winning the election next time? Or else, is there any plan to postpone the parliamentary election? These are the logical questions raised in the minds of politically savvy people.
Probably, Minister Hashim would have said it as a tactic to instil confidence in the minds of party men who would otherwise stay away from political activities in anticipation of the downfall of the government. Alongside, there is yet another reason for him to say so. The Ministers representing Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) speaks of forming a government of their own in 2020 under President Maithripala Sirisena. This would have irked the UNPers. The party, calling the shots in the central administration, naturally has advantage at local elections as per Sri Lanka’s political culture. Mr. Hashim would have intended to counter the SLFP as well in this exercise.
The pro-LTTE Tamil Diaspora, going by their recent activities, is in favour of a referendum. These groups believe Tamils in the north and the east would participate in a referendum on a clearly defined line for extensive power sharing. This particular stand, they believe, could be used as a platform to advance their political struggle to the next level
In the meantime, it is learnt from political sources that the government contemplates a referendum on the new Constitution. Already, an interim report containing proposals for the new Constitution has been worked out. According to Leader of the House Minister Lakshman Kiriella the government intended to enact the new Constitution early next year. He said the government was getting ready for a referendum to get people’s approval for it.
Here comes uncertainty. It is puzzling for people to decide what will be conducted first - the local authorities’ election or referendum. None of the government leaders articulate it.
In the government, there are some, like Mr. Kiriella, who believe that they could secure the support of people at a referendum with the backing of the parties such as the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and SLFP. Alongside, there are others who believe that the government would be at a disadvantage at a referendum as its popularity had waned in the south. Also, the parties such as the TNA have reportedly advised the government to go for a referendum.
With the en bloc support of the Tamils and Muslims in the north and the east, they believe, the government could edge out the opposition in the country as a whole. However, some, within the government, are of the view that the government would fare badly outside the north and the east, and therefore any en bloc support from these two provinces would be of no use to alter the final result in their favour.
The pro-LTTE Tamil Diaspora, going by their recent activities, is in favour of a referendum. These groups believe Tamils in the north and the east would participate in a referendum on a clearly defined line for extensive power sharing. This particular stand, they believe, could be used as a platform to advance their political struggle to the next level come what may the final outcome of the entire country at a referendum.
Sampanthan makes passionate appeal to GL
The TNA , which is the main opposition of Parliament, is so keen to have the Constitution enacted. Having called it a unique opportunity, party leader R. Sampanthan appealed to all concerned to support the exercise. In fact, Mr. Sampanthan, SLMC leader Minister Rauff Hakeem and former Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris happened to meet at a dinner reception hosted by Bangladeshi High Commissioner Riyaz Hamidullah in view of Bangladeshi Speaker being in town. At the dinner table, it is learnt Mr. Sampanthan made a passionate appeal to Prof. Peiris to support the constitution-making process.
Prof. Peiris, who represents the Joint Opposition, said there were features that his side could not accept in the proposed Constitution.
Cabinet discusses ‘Monkey Business’
Sri Lanka’s food production was hard hit by inclement weather conditions this year. The average harvest has been reduced by 40% because of drought conditions in the main cultivating areas. Let alone, it transpired at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting that another menace had destroyed crops to a certain extent. That is the damage caused by wild animals marauding in agriculture lands. Destruction caused by wild elephants is mostly highlighted. However, it was brought to notice of the Cabinet that animals such as monkeys and peacocks also feast on crops. In some areas, it is so perturbing that 20% of harvest is devoured by these animals.
The Cabinet was informed that there were as many as 78,000 monkeys living in the wilds of the Kegalle district. These marauding monkeys invade agriculture lands and feast on harvests, even destroying plants.
Social Empowerment Minister S.B. Dissanayake stressed the need for some mechanism to curb the menace. Minister of Rural Economy P. Harrison also backed such a position.
Megapolis and Western Development Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka related how he took steps to expel stray cattle herds from the streets of Colombo and nearby areas. There are as many as 600,000 stray dogs in the country.
President Sirisena, in his casual remarks, said, “If this continues, there will be more animals than humans in Sri Lanka.’