A justifiable statement | Daily News

A justifiable statement

President Ranil Wickremesinghe has left no one in doubt as to how he is going to deal with those who plan to topple his Government by way of an Aragalaya (Struggle). Winding up the Budget Second Reading Debate on the Heads of the President, President Wickremesinghe said any attempts at creating another Aragalaya will not be allowed. “The military will be deployed and Emergency Laws enforced. An Aragalaya will not be allowed. I will not let Dinh Diems rule the country,” he stressed, referring to the controversial Vietnamese politician.

The President also hit out at the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) accusing the outfit of being the force behind the rampaging violence that saw a Member of Parliament (MP) being killed on the road. “These MPs’ did not fall from the sky. There are good and bad MPs and 196 of them were elected by the people. They need to be protected.”

Referring to the call to bar former Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa from Parliament on account of being a Dual Citizen, the President asked how the FSP could be against dual citizenship when its own leader Kumar Gunaratnam is a Dual Citizen of Sri Lanka and Australia. He asked how the FSP was going to govern the country when it had even threatened the Most Ven. Mahanayakes and violated the Constitution that affords protection to the Buddha Sasana.

The FSP, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), Trade Unions and anti-Government agitators predictably and immediately went on overdrive after the President's address, coming out strongly in defiance at the statement. However the Aragalayites should realize that the President is obliged to uphold Constitutional Governance at all times. Any action that contravenes the Constitution therefore has to be resisted.

In 1971, Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike did not hesitate to clamp down on an attempt to overthrow a Government elected in terms of the Constitution by calling in the Security Forces. President Premadasa took similar action in 1989 when there was a threat to undermine the Constitution. President Wickremesinghe is only following the norm.

The FSP and Aragalaya agitators may say that President Wickremesinghe does not have a people's mandate to rule. But one must not lose sight of the fact that his appointment as the Head of State followed the constitutionally laid down legal and Parliamentary procedure.

Besides, the President has not called for a total halt to protests – just that they should be carried out following the legal procedures. He said protesters should not block traffic and obstruct people on the roads. They can carry out any protest after obtaining a Police permit, he told the Opposition.

The Aragalaya claims to echo the voice of those people who are burdened and oppressed by the present economic hardships. However, violent street protests or laying siege to Government buildings is not going to improve things. Only a turnaround in the economy will achieve this and an Aragalaya can only reverse the efforts currently being made for such a recovery.

Street agitations, protest marches and civil disobedience may not be the ideal backdrop to draw foreign investors and could also thwart assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which wants a guarantee that we are a creditworthy nation. Agitations and unrest almost on a daily basis are not going to speak well for foreign donor contributions and would only close the door to other avenues of assistance.

Hence, it should be the duty of all to bide their time from protests and other forms of agitations until things improve on the economic front. President Wickremesinghe has also ruled out a General Election (GE) until such time the economy improves. Staging Aragalayas has not offered a solution to overcome the present crisis and asking President Wickremesinghe to quit office would not only derail all steps currently being taken to mend the economy and the people too will be thrown into a No Man’s Land.

They would certainly be in a much worse plight than now and the country would be thrown into a state of drift. President Wickremesinghe is being supported by his one-time Opponents with a clear understanding that it is only he who has the skills, acumen and international standing to pull the country out of the present mire.

This thinking was given air to by SJB MP Kumara Welgama who said President Wickremesinghe was the only leader who could successfully effect a turnaround and called on the people to halt all Aragalayas for at least two years. Welgama was also harsh on the Aragalayites warning that the tourism sector which was picking up gradually would once again collapse if frequent Aragalayas are allowed to continue.

It is time that saner counsel prevailed and all those sharpening their knives for battle think about the future of the country. In this respect, the SJB as a responsible Opposition has a major duty thrust upon it as the Government-in- waiting not to rock the boat at this stage. After all, it would not want to be heir to a legacy of a bankrupt economy if and when it is enthroned in the seats of power some day.


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