June is likely to be a crucial month for Sri Lanka and the new Yahapalanaya Government which was elected to office on January 8 through the people’s electoral verdict, stunned the Rajapaksa regime.
"President Sirisena and Premier Wickremesinghe are confidant of getting a fresh mandate from the people for the new era of good governance, democracy and social justice"
The new Government headed by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is facing its biggest challenge from what Government leaders describe as ‘counter-revolutionary forces’ led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and those loyal to him. They argue that the United National Party, which has less than 50 members in the 225–member Parliament, has no right to govern the country. But Premier Wickremesinghe counters this, pointing out that President Sirisena in his election manifesto had clearly stated that if he was elected, Mr. Wickremesinghe would be the Prime Minister. Government leaders also say with some validity that more than 80% of those who voted for President Sirisena were UNP supporters while the Rajapaksa loyalists had bitterly attacked Mr. Sirisena during the election campaign. The Prime Minister has also challenged those who questioned his appointment to come before the people and seek their verdict at a general election.
Yesterday a special parliamentary sitting was called mainly to approve the appointment of at least seven of the 13-member Constitutional Council (CC). They included three non-parliamentary personalities who have been nominated - Sarvodaya leader A. T. Ariyaratne, international human rights activist Radhika Coomaraswamy and former judge A. W. A. Salaam. However, there were disputes over these nominations and Mahajana Eksath Peramuna leader Dinesh Gunawardena again brought up a question on the appointment of Arjuna Mahendran as the Chairman of the Central Bank. The Prime Minister strongly countered the move against Mr. Mahendran while the Leader of the House and Senior Minister Lakshman Kiriella called for a vote to dissolve Parliament. Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa then called on those who supported the dissolution to stand and a large number including Sri Lanka Freedom Party members did stand. Amid further disputes it was later announced that the Speaker had adjourned Parliament till next Tuesday following a request by the Prime Minister, asking time to arrive at a written agreement among party leaders on the appointments of the CC members.
In terms of the 19th Amendment, which was approved in a landmark vote on April 28, President Sirisena has nominated Minister Champika Ranawaka as his representative on the CC. Last week Mr. Ranawaka called for a special session of Parliament to approve the appointment of at least seven members, so that the CC would have a legal quorum to immediately appoint an independent Elections Commission so that the upcoming general election could be held in a free, fair and just manner without the abuse of public funds, public servants or the people’s resources.
Last week JHU frontliner Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thera also urged that the 20th Amendment containing electoral reforms be approved by Parliament before the House is dissolved. He said most provisions, such as the delimitation of electorates, needed time and could be implemented at the 2020 general election. But he said he believed it was vital for the 20th Amendment to be passed as it was one of the new Government’s main promises at the January 8th presidential election. The JHU leader also appealed that provision be made for the National Executive Council to continue with legal status. This also could be done through the 20th Amendment.
What is ironic is that both the UNP and the Rajapaksa loyalists are urging President Sirisena to dissolve Parliament and the President seems to be caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Therefore analysts believe Parliament is likely to be dissolved soon after the 20th Amendment is passed. President Sirisena and Premier Wickremesinghe are confidant of getting a fresh mandate from the people for the new era of good governance, democracy and social justice.