History has clearly shown that one of the vital factors for a vibrant democracy is a strong Opposition which plays not only an active but a pro-active role, so that the people could make an informed choice at presidential, parliamentary or local elections.
The results of last Saturday’s elections to the Central and North-Western Provinces underline the time-tested fact that those who are united will be strong, and those divided will fail.
The United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) Government is a patch-work coalition of more than 10 parties, but when it comes to elections most of them campaign together. Though the alliance parties may have major differences of opinion on vital issues -the latest being the elections to the Northern Provincial Council-President Mahinda Rajapaksa has skillfully used the fine art of politics to keep them together. At times the different opinions are expressed strongly and publicly, but the President has often said nothing, knowing that silence is not only golden but also good for personal gain or glory. He knows that some of the coalition parties, though they speak out against the policies of the Rajapaksa regime on vital issues, also do not have the courage of their convictions to give up their high-sounding posts with a host of privileges and perks which they get at public expense and often abuse.
"The main parties including the United National Party, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna and Sarath Fonseka’s Democratic Party need to come together under a common leader"
For instance the Lanka Sama Samaja Party and the Communist Party keep on saying they disagree with the Rajapaksa regime on vital issues including the ethnic crisis and the globalised capitalist market economic policy, but their ministers in the Cabinet say they are remaining in the UPFA because they could do more from within the Government to bring about a just political solution to the ethnic conflict and social justice for all the people through a more equitable distribution of the country’s wealth and resources. But most independent political analysts say they believe the stand taken by socialist ministers including Tissa Vitharana, Vasudewa Nanayakkara and D.E.W. Gunasekera gives little or no honour to the memory of visionaries and luminaries like S.A. Wickremasinghe and Pieter Keuneman, N.M. Perera and Colvin R. de Silva. Leaders of the LSSP and the CP resigned from Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s United Front Government when it sidelined or undermined the policy on the ceiling on land and houses.
If the Opposition wishes to bring about a change of administration at the next presidential election which may come next year, then the main parties including the United National Party, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna and Sarath Fonseka’s Democratic Party need to come together under a common leader. They may have differences of opinion as the parties in the UPFA do. But the common goal of abolishing the executive presidential system and restoring parliamentary democracy with checks and balances could bring them together. This has been repeatedly proposed by the National Socialist Movement’s leader the Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Nayake Thera and the main Opposition parties need to act on this fast, so that the people will have a credible alternative to turn around from authoritarianism to democracy, accountability, good governance and transparency, an independent judiciary and a free media.