The events that unfolded on 26 October have led the country towards an unprecedented chaos.
Almost a month later, we are still awaiting a firm interpretation of the decisions and the credibility of actions while pondering if all the sudden changes have been made in the best interest of the country and the people.
Senior UPFA Kalutara District Parliamentarian Kumara Welgama said that it was questionable for the UPFA to remain in the Government by force without the support of 113 members of the House. Speaking to the media, Welgama said the UPFA must leave the Government if it did not have the support of the majority members of the members.
“We are used to sitting in the Government as well as the Opposition. Then why should we stay in the Government by force?” he asked. Welgama was responding after lawmakers threw chilli powder and furniture at each other and disrupted the proceedings of Parliament for a second day on Friday, forcing Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to summon Police inside the House and adjourn the session until Monday.
The brawl occurred a day after the Speaker announced that there was no prime minister or government following a no confidence motion against disputed Sirisena-appointed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. Friday’s Parliamentary proceedings were to once again repeat the floor test which was disrupted on Thursday, but once again the attempt ended nowhere.
It is no secret that the shockwaves that went through the country on 26 October were immense. Usually, the appointment of a prime minister is a well-planned and an important event, but this one was like a couple running away from their parents in the middle of the night. It was a slap on the face of everyone who clearly worked tirelessly and made many sacrifices to get President Sirisena elected.
What led to this sudden appointment of a prime minister? According to statements made by the President, it was largely due to the differences he had with the UNP Leader; however his action may not be fully justified given the current situation we are in, while the UNP leadership is also somewhat responsible for the current stalemate.
More time and effort should have been put by both leaders to cement the SLFP-UNP working arrangement. Many of them entrusted with the job, however got lost in their ministerial trappings and lost sight of the reality. But the fundamental question that is asked from all quarters is whether there was justification coupled with moral, legal and ethical grounds on which the sudden decision was made.
Our society after 8 January has become more vibrant and vociferous and open. The impact of this is now seen through social media and on the streets. The chaos that followed the 26 October swearing-in has once again brought uncertainty to the country, which will have far-reaching consequences, if not addressed soon by the President.
Further, if this is dragged on, this crisis will acutely polarise along class, ethnic, religious, party and regional fault lines. The political developments over the last couple of weeks have unfortunately further hardened positions and heightened acrimony unnecessarily among all communities.
The decision by Moody’s to downgrade Sri Lankan Government’s foreign currency issuer and senior unsecured ratings from B1 (Negative) to B2 (Stable) does not properly reflect the country’s macroeconomic fundamentals, and is therefore unwarranted. But they have done it and it will have far-reaching consequences, starting with the tourism and financial sector.
The way out of this is to either honour the majority in Parliament or hold an early election. The earliest is a presidential or a parliamentary election. It is proposed by some, especially Ven. Rathana Thero, to have a small, all-party caretaker government led by a neutral prime minister selected from among existing parliamentary members. A person who inspires the confidence of all parties. However the UNP leader is not in agreement to this idea, given that he has a majority in the House.
The fact remains that at a time when our political establishment is in deep crisis, this nation’s religious, civil society and business leaders have an urgent responsibility to set aside their differences and prejudices, move beyond mere rhetoric and act courageously to find a way out of this predicament. We need to resolve this problem within a democratic framework. We Sri Lankans will have only ourselves to blame if we do nothing and our future generations will blame all of us for our irresponsibility, selfishness and short-sightedness.
In the final analysis, most Sri Lankan people, whether they are green, red or blue, all they want is for the country to do well without compromising on our democratic institutions and ideals, and simply in my view there nothing wrong in having that aspiration.
(The writer is a thought leader.)
By Dinesh Weerakkody