The President settles it

President Maithripala Sirisena’s firm assertion at the second year anniversary of his inauguration that the Unity Government will run its full course until 2020 and that those planning to topple the government before this was only day dreaming has driven the point home that the Joint Opposition project to claw back to power with Mahinda Rajapaksa at the helm is doomed from the very outset. The President’s observation that he is quite happy with the present government led by the UNP, and implying in the process that he can well do without a government led by the SLFP at this juncture, is also revealing .Garrulous SLFP MPs such as Dilan Perera has been clamouring for a SLFP led government, once the pact forged with the UNP for a Unity Government comes to an end this August, though how he proposes to do this has not been revealed.

Equally, JO stalwart Kumara Welgama who is still a Central Committee member of the SLFP has also advocated a SLFP led government by severing ties with the UNP as a condition for the Joint Opposition returning to the fold of the mainstream SLFP. Gampaha District UPFA and JO front runner Prasanna Ranatunga has gone a step further. He has asked President Sirisena to take Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe by his ear and throw him out of the Unity Government and form a regime led by the SLFP, pledging their full support for such a move. President Sirisena, by rejecting all these calls and deciding to stick with the UNP led Unity Government, is sending a clear message to the JO that he is quite satisfied with the way things are proceeding under the current dispensation and is a declaration of the trust placed in the ability of the UNP to steer the ship of state out of the current economic storm into tranquil harbours.

The President in the process has read the riot act to those planning to topple the government by a head count in parliament. He said even for a headcount to triumph it has to have the concurrence of both himself as the President and also the Speaker. He showed how the impeachment motion against the President Premadasa came a cropper once both the President and the Speaker joined forces.

Now that President Sirisena has shown the impossibility of constitutionally toppling the government it is time that the present administration got down to business in earnest and redeem all its pledges made to the people before the end of its term. No doubt it will have herculean task getting the country out of the present debt trap and more hardships to the people cannot be ruled out. But the government has to draw the line somewhere. It cannot remain in perennial debt and be branded as a failed state. There is no reason to doubt Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s claim that he would leave a debt free country to the next generation by the end of the first term of the Yahapalanaya government. It is important that the UNP be given a free hand to run the economy of the country. The Grand Old Party, after all, is known to be well equipped to handle the macro economy. The SLFP, while holding firm to its core values, should not strive to rock the boat at this stage by making unreasonable demands or putting forward impractical proposals.

There is no indication yet if the SLFP will fight the upcoming LG elections in coalition with the UNP or go it alone. It is reasonable to expect it to make some noises in favour of populist measures, in the case of the latter. But with the President now firmly indicating he is happy to continue with the present government (led by the UNP), the SLFP members in the government should temper their demands and work as a unit to take the country in one direction.

Gota must spill the beans

Former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa in a newspaper interview says that the government has got the wrong end of the stick with regard to the murder of Sunday Leader founder editor Lasantha Wickrematunge and that it is questioning the wrong persons on purpose. This clearly shows that Rajapaksa is privy to certain information. Hence it behoves the former Defence Secretary to come out in the open and provide whatever secret knowledge he possess pertaining to the assassination. By doing this he would not only win the kudos of the journalistic fraternity, particularly, those who were close to Lasantha but ease the anguish, at least to some degree, of the family members of Wickrematunge, who have been crying out for justice for the last eight years. Wickrematunge was assassinated in a high security zone under constant surveillance when Gota was Defence Secretary and there is no doubt he must be privy to some knowledge as to who the assassins were or under whose directions it was carried out, to make such a statement of the interviewer. 


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