Stability will help usher in prosperity
The United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) opened a new
chapter in Sri Lanka’s election history when it registered a landslide
victory at the recent general election.
The UPFA, having secured a record 144 seats in the 225-member
legislature, was the first party to secure a thumping majority in the
32-year-old preferential voting system in the country. All earlier
governments elected under the controversial 1978 Constitution, had slim
majorities and this was the first occasion that a single party polled
such a commanding majority under the preferential voting system.
This is undoubtedly an added feather in President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s
political cap as the masses had pledged overwhelming support for the
people’s President and his novel policy statement - the Mahinda
Chinthana Idiri Dakma .
The stunning election victory of the UPFA reaffirmed the people’s
faith in the policies of President Rajapaksa who is determined to usher
in economic prosperity, having restored peace after three decades of
It is abundantly clear that the Government’s fertiliser subsidy and
its mega agricultural development drive have won the hearts of people in
far-flung areas. This was evident from the voting pattern of the masses
in rural areas where the majority farmer community in the North Central,
North Western, Central, Sabaragamuwa and Southern Provinces had given an
unprecedented mandate to the UPFA, mainly because of President
Rajapaksa’s far-sighted agricultural and economic policies which have
been formulated to protect farmers.
The UPFA, for the first time, is now represented in all 22 electoral
districts and among all ethnic and religious groups. It was, indeed,
most heartening to witness the election of the new Speaker Chamal
Rajapaksa, unanimously, as the UPFA’s proposal was seconded by the
United National Party (UNP). Compared to the ugly incidents at the
previous Parliament which marred the election of the Speaker, the new
development is a positive sign and a victory for democracy.
The President’s move to reduce his new Cabinet of Ministers to less
than 40 as promised is praiseworthy. In the past, he was obliged to
offer ministerial portfolios to Opposition parliamentarians who crossed
over to the Government side. Understandably, the President had to do so
to muster more support for the Government’s relentless battle against
terrorism. The President, however, accomplished that task too with the
help of UPFA parliamentarians and over 40 Opposition parliamentarians
who joined the Government during the last Parliament.
Now that Parliament has secured an absolute majority for the ruling
UPFA, Sri Lanka could look forward to political stability. This could
take the country towards new economic horizons. The time is now
opportune to sink petty political differences and work together to
develop the country.
The UNP, on the other hand, should even at this late stage, learn a
lesson after its ignominious defeat at the recent polls. Perhaps, its
leader Ranil Wickremesinghe could feel happy that he has achieved his
‘goal’ of retaining his position as the Leader of the Opposition after
making Sarath Fonseka a scapegoat at the last presidential election.
Wickremesinghe would have breathed a sigh of relief after surviving the
The UNP-led United National Front (UNF) suffered its worst defeat
since 1956, with its vote base shrinking to around 29 percent of the
total votes polled. At all previous elections, the UNP enjoyed a
percentage of around 40 of the total votes polled.
Eighty-two members of the UNP were elected at the 2004 general
election, but at the time of dissolution of the last Parliament, the
party had less than half the original figure as the others had joined
the Government to support President Rajapaksa. It would be no wonder if
the number of UNP MPs in Parliament drops to 30 during the next six
An early sign was witnessed on the day the new parliamentarians took
their oaths before the Speaker. The National Workers’ Front (NWF),
leader P. Digambaram a member of the UNF coalition) severed his party’s
links with the UNP and extended its support to the Government.
The Democratic People’s Front (DPF), another constituent party of the
UNF, is also having differences with the UNP after Wickremesinghe
dropped DPF leader Mano Ganeshan from the UNF National List. In light of
these circumstances, the UNF may lose another MP - Prabha Ganeshan who
is likely to protest his brother’s omission. The DPF and NWF are
extremely unhappy over the UNP’s selection of the National List MPs and
are set to break away from the UNF, isolating Wickremesinghe further.
The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA)
have been rejected altogether by the masses. The JVP which had 41
members in the previous Parliament secured only seven seats this time
while the TNA’s seats were reduced to 14 from 22.
The new political developments would no doubt pave the way for a
stable Government that could take Sri Lanka to greater heights. With the
end of terrorism, Sri Lanka’s booming tourism industry and the
agricultural development in the North and the East, would show steady
progress. The economy, which grew at 3.5 percent last year, would fast
track before the end of this year.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has expressed confidence in Sri
Lanka’s economy. With the global economy in recovery mode and with
higher domestic and foreign investments, the ADB has predicted a six to
seven percent growth in the country’s economy this year.
Growth momentum is likely to reach around six percent this year and
seven percent in 2011, according to the ADB. The positive post-war
economic prospects will depend mainly on private sector growth, improved
investor confidence and performance of service industries, ADB Country
Director Richard Vokes had said.
The Asian Development Outlook (ADO) 2010 said that Sri Lanka achieved
its growth rate in 2009 amidst many challenges. All in all, the future
looks brighter for the country with a stable Government sans terrorism.
Whatever said and done if we are to derive the maximum out of the
conducive environment at present, we have to work harder to achieve