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Government Gazette

Finally, finally, wedded bliss?

The touted shotgun marriage between the SLFP and UNP could yield more jibes on cohabitation than it does in terms of results. Elsewhere in these pages we carry a regular columnist Rajan Phillips' opinion that a six-point marriage might not necessarily solve all of the problems of the country.

Somebody might turn around to say to him, with all due respect, we never thought it would. Cautious optimism should not necessarily blind us to the opportunities that are available to us, if what looks like a real national effort this time, is not stillborn. If this goes the way of Liam Fox and a myriad of other shotgun agreements before it, then it's another matter.

But signs are that there is a tide in the affairs of governance this side of the Palk Straits these days. As it is when there is a tide in the affairs of men, this tide, when taken at the flood, seems to be leading to unforeseen fortune. Fortune here is the opportunity to strike a deal that would get the opposition and the government to agree on a formula that would be a viable solution to the national question.

When that's done, the opposition could go back to doing its duty - - which is to oppose. If the opposition doesn't revert to that role, it could perhaps stoke some of our worse anxieties - - which is that whereas in the past one political party used to be a watchdog on the other, they would now, in their state of cohabitation, get together and rob us the people in tandem.

This could be said only half in jest, considering that both parties have on previous occasions been corrupt when in government. But there is the flip side to it especially in our Asian context in which one party states have been touted as nostrums of sorts, for better governance.

This is why Singapore has been for decades paraded before our eyes as the finest exemplar of governance for and on behalf of rapid economic gain at the expense of democracy and human rights.

But that would be a narrow way of looking at the issues that concern the Democracy Debate, considering that most liberal democracies of today went through phases of shamocracy before they fleshed out as pristine (..or is it five-star?) democracies. What else was America but a quasi free-state for instance, as, before the emancipation of the slaves it was nominally a democracy but in fact not one.

Which country that countenances the owning of slaves could be characterized as fully emancipated? So the one party state may be a precursor to the fortune that awaits us at the end of this tide. None of this could detract from the fact that these are exciting times.

Apart from the fact that all this could peter out to be a Liam Fox type of a stillborn effort, there is all reason to be sanguine if not cautiously hopeful. It's almost a modern Sri Lankan truism that good things could come out of debacles.

It was thought that the ceasefire agreement was a debacle and to a great extent it was one from a Sri Lankan state point of view - - but it yielded the advantage of showing up the fault lines in the LTTE.

The creation of the Karuna- movement resulted, with the rest being history now.

It might be a little ghoulish to say that the electoral debacle of the UNP yielded the current situation in which the two major parties have come together in the wider national interest. The UNP went into a nosedive, and the national government was a way out of the quagmire for the party.

But now that there has been pair bonding, the philosophizing could wait, and the polity could get down to the task of getting what it can out of this union of tendentious forces. A principled statement declaring agreement does not mean that the parties concerned are going to be principled on the real issues at crunch time. Take the national question for instance which has been notoriously intractable.

Bringing the UNP into the fold could - - hypothetically at least - - present a situation that confounds analyst and observer alike, if say for example, it turns out to be a situation in which the government had brought the horse to the water but couldn't make it drink.

But if there is a tide in the affairs of men, there is a tide in the affairs of governments. Is this the tide that would lead the Rajapaksa administration - - and in turn the fortunes of the country to greater heights?

It could be, but having seen false dawns before, there could be a reason to be very cautiously optimistic.

That shouldn't crowd out a celebration. Maybe the UNP and the SLFP could get together and throw a big party at the Temple Trees, but even if they don't get a glass of spirits to cheer them up, the people are wishing that this union will not be like the ones that preceded it nasty brutish and short.

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Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
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