Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 24 May 2015





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

The SLFP's indigestion

Splits in political movements and in political parties are part and parcel of politics. It was with this in mind that the wily J. R. Jayewardene provided a constitutional loophole for Members of Parliament to jump sides. In his original 'Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka' the 'Lokka', as his admiring party membership began to call him, had provided for tight control by political party leaderships over their respective parliamentary groups. An MP could attempt to jump sides in the House only at the risk of losing his or her parliamentary seat altogether.

Seeing the value of such 'jumping', Jayewardene used his five-sixth majority in Parliament to push through constitutional provisions that enabled MPs not only to easily jump sides while retaining her/his seat in Parliament, but also retain their membership in their original party even as they were rewarded with ministerial positions for their cross-over to government. Given this kind of constitutional protection of what essentially amounts to political betrayals, is it unsurprising that this 'jumping' disease is now endemic to the political system?

Today, this kind of 'jumping' has proliferated to the degree that few ordinary citizens - the voters - can easily track as to which parliamentarian belongs to which party. All this is part of the larger trend in Sri Lankan politics, no doubt helped by the news media's penchant to build personalities over policies.

Thus, today, there is a far greater emphasis on personalities and their loyal vote banks - mainly comprising caste and ethnic affinities - over political party policies and political commitments to voters. And such electoral affinities only further worsen the on-going inter-ethnic and inter-caste rivalries to the detriment of socio-political stability and policy-based national agenda-setting.

And it is almost always the party in power that has the greater benefit of such political pole-vaulting while major opposition parties tend to be weakened by losses in strength due to such cross-overs, some parties being reduced to near-collapse.

If the UNP suffered from this jumping disease in the recent decade, today it is the SLFP that is riven by such internal battles not yet amounting to an effective split in the party. That President Maithripala SIrisena survived his own leap from the SLFP to a new opposition alliance led by the UNP is partly due to this technical protection provided by the Constitution and parliamentary by-laws. That SLFP renegade MPs can jump back and forth between the two major power blocs within their party and between the Government and Opposition benches, shows the wide ramifications of this parliamentary law so craftily devised by master minds nearly a generation ago.

The very special circumstances of a defeated presidential personality frantic to defend himself and his associates - including family - over their severe mis-governance record and suspected massive theft, are also adding pressures for manoeuvres for political survival by droves of MPs of the former governing coalition, the UPFA.

Today, the average voter is being dragged deeper into the mire of political confusion by the ridiculous gymnastics of various SLFP and UPFA parliamentarians who seem to be happily swinging from one party tree to another with such rapidity that where they are this week may not be the same next week!

The question for the citizen-voter is: do they deserve to be voted back into the House once again if all they can do, in the face of crucial national imperatives for reform and clean-up, is to indulge in this swinging rather than join in the national momentum for an overall change.

...And the UNP's diet

True to its reputation for disciplined resilience, the party that was once in near-tatters and riven by a leadership struggle, is today drawing on that discipline to prove its worth as the most organised political entity even if it has yet to prove its electoral strength after over a decade in the opposition. That the party survived a major internal leadership battle is proof of its resilience. That it quickly went into 'combat mode' when called to suddenly contest the presidency and then won it is proof of its discipline.

As the party which has survived all its troubles and overcome them to answer the call of the citizens, it would be logical for a citizenry tired of one political formation's lengthy corrupt and autocratic rule, to look to the UNP for change.

Thus, a fresh governmental formation with the UNP playing a major role would seem a natural trend in our electoral politics. That this ambition is part of the UNP's political hunger is very clear from the pronouncements of many of its leaders and, also the party's eager appetite for parliamentary hustings.

But what its political diet should be is tied also to the appetite of the citizenry who clearly voted for major structural changes in the Sri Lankan polity first, before any single political party is allowed to exclusively take up the reins of government.

The mandate of the current regime is unquestionably one of collaborative government for a consensual process of reform in which consensus is seen by the voters as the only way greater democracy is assured as the outcome of that reform.


LANKAPUVATH - National News Agency of Sri Lank
Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL)
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