For a new beginning | Daily News

For a new beginning

The announcement made by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa that he would be appointing a new Prime Minister and a new Cabinet of Ministers within the coming hours is welcome news indeed, and would be the answer to the serious economic and political crisis which the nation is enmeshed in today.

In an address to the Nation on Wednesday night, the President said he would be appointing a Prime Minister acceptable to the people and who commands a majority in Parliament to douse the current political and economic crisis.

The President will name his choice as the Prime Minister among MPs who he believes will command the confidence of the House. The test will be on the floor where the candidate will have to show a majority.

The main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) appears to be blowing hot and cold as regards its leader Sajith Premadasa assuming the post. Premadasa and his close confidantes such as Lakshman Kiriella and SJB General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara insist that President Rajapaksa should quit for Premadasa to accept the post. Another school of thought within the SJB is willing to compromise. They want President Rajapaksa to accept a timeframe to leave office plus a guarantee that he would not interfere in the affairs of the new Government if Sajith is to take over the reins as Prime Minister. The SLPP group in Parliament who had turned independent and command the support of 53 members too had contemplated three nominees for the post of PM following inconclusive talks with the SJB on Sajith’s nomination as PM, while firebrand SJBer Harin Fernando had stated that he would take an independence stance following the “Aasai Bayai” (willing but scared) approach adopted by Premadasa.

Former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinge has emerged as the Dark Horse and according to media reports and general speculation had received the President’s nod for the Premiership.

The acid test will be on the floor of the House. But it is reasonable to assume that the President’s nominee will carry the day and that the chosen candidate will muster the required majority in Parliament. There is a precedent for this. When Maithripala Sirisena won the Presidency in 2015 his choice as Prime Minister was Ranil Wickremesinghe, although the UNP had only 43 Members in Parliament. However, the then President’s choice prevailed and Parliament voted overwhelmingly to endorse Wickremesinghe as PM. Hence, there is little doubt against repetition. Things have become more urgent and compelling than in January 2015. To begin with, given the dire state of the economy and anarchy into which the country had descended today, the MPs have no choice but to support stability. This has also been the refrain of all shades of opinion - the Maha Sangha, the Catholic Church, the professionals and intelligentsia. To go against popular opinion would spell doom not only to the MPs who are thinking on different lines but to the entire nation.

This is certainly not the time for political brinkmanship. Besides, the IMF and lending agencies have again insisted on political stability for negotiations to go ahead. Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe has also warned that he would leave his post if political stability is not restored in two weeks. The country is hemmed in from all fronts and this is no time to think of one’s political future as Sajith seems to fear should he assume the Premiership at this juncture with Gotabaya in the Presidential seat. The popular trend with most politicians, both Government and Opposition, is to pander to the whims of the Galle Face protestors and toe their line. However, it behoves on politicians of all shades to accept reality, tap their conscience and act with circumspection. The country is teetering on the brink and only a united effort can get the nation out of the morass.

Whoever assumes the post of PM should receive the support of all. True, most Government Members who had their homes burned down may not be in a state of mind to act with reason. They certainly have a grouse and their sentiments ought to be considered. At least one State Minister had already announced his exit from politics. Had the Police and Security Forces acted promptly before things turned ugly, a lot of damage could have been avoided. However, all the ugly scenes should be put behind. It is time to move on. The Defence Secretary had assured that all those responsible for the mayhem would be brought to book. It is doubly important that law and order is restored quickly and the country returned to normality in the shortest possible time if foreign investments are to come to the country and tourists start arriving, bringing in much-needed dollars.

The public once again will have to grapple with the soaring Cost of Living, chronic shortages of essential items such as LP Gas, fuel, milk powder etc. with the dust settling in on the mayhem. The first priority of the new Prime Minister and the new Government should be finding urgent solutions to these vexed issues.


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