Never has a claimed name been such a
misnomer. The dissident group of MPs of the old UPFA coalition have
endeavoured to establish their identity in the political arena by
calling themselves as the 'Joint Opposition'. These columns have, time
and again, queried how their group alone could be called 'joint' when
the all the other political parties in the Opposition in Parliament were
not with them. This alone makes such a name misleading to the public,
the citizens who have voted in all those who now sit in the House.
In the case of the UPFA dissidents, this self-naming is even more
misleading and confusing because most of them, specifically the
dissident MPs of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, are members of a party
that is a major partner in the Government. How such people - politicians
supposed to uphold the Constitution - could honourably remain members of
a party that is in government while they, themselves, quite
categorically describe themselves, and act, as 'Opposition' in
Parliament, is left to the reader to judge. The citizen-voters will
certainly question the integrity of such politicians who win their votes
as being members of one party but, having got into Parliament, then jump
sides even as they continue to enjoy all the perks and privileges of
The recent Paada Yathra stunt demonstrated how truly 'Joint' this
dissident group is when a longstanding UPFA coalition partner, the
Communist Party, opted out of that long march.
Just last week came the most humiliating outcome of this particular
The Bill for the establishment of an Office of Missing Persons was
passed by Parliament not by means of a simple majority of the Government
parliamentary group but by a historic two-thirds majority. The only
group of MPs who voted against - and did so even as they caused an
uproar in the House - were the UPFA dissidents. The official Opposition,
including the TNA and the JVP, joined the Government to vote in favour,
showing that they were clearly aware of the historic importance of this
legislation in terms of movement towards a genuine inter-ethnic harmony
Indeed, the JVP, in a constructive spirit, moved some amendments to
the Bill, thereby demonstrating their readiness to share in the
responsibility for this new law - despite the claims of some that this
bill would be a 'betrayal' of the nation.
Hence, the 'Joint Opposition' has been shown to be that much more dis-jointed.
They have been left behind by both the Government and the Opposition in
a forward movement of the whole national leadership to usher in genuine
trust and harmony between communities via a new instrument of justice.
The Office of Missing Persons has been hailed as one that will help
all Sri Lankans. The tracing of people who have gone missing - whether
due to kidnapping or disappearance during violent conflict - will now be
done by a specialised agency not only with full authority but also
equipped with sophisticated procedures that will ensure confidentiality
of sources and safety of kin. All Sri Lankans, and not just one or two
communities, will benefit.
The coming together of both the Government and the Opposition in this
historic vote echoes a similar historic legislative action recently
across the Palk Strait when the Government and Opposition in both houses
of the Indian Parliament voted in unity to pass the General Sales Tax
Democracy is thriving in this part of the world.
Even as the relevant governmental agencies joined the Chinese
implementing contractor in signing a renewed agreement for the Colombo
Port City project, the government was also putting the final touches to
a new venture in Trincomalee together with India. The oil giant, Indian
Oil Corporation, combines with our CEYPETCO in further development of
the massive World War Two vintage oil storage complex in Trincomalee.
The vastness of the oil storage complex - called loosely a 'tank
farm' - represents the huge British imperial project that it originally
served. Inevitably, little Sri Lanka never made proper use of it in all
these intervening decades since the end of WW2. It is but logical that a
country with a massive economy and national capacities - and needs -
joins in with us in making use of the storage complex, thereby
contributing immediately to the development of the equally long-dormant
potential of Trincomalee.
Trincomalee's vast potential is yet to be realised, given its
convenient location as one of the largest natural harbours in the Indian
Ocean and one that can service both seaboards of the densely populated
and economically booming South Asian Sub-Continent. India, our giant
neighbour with one of the world's fastest growing economies, is best
positioned to help us maximise our island's potentials.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has travelled to China
to win over some of that global giant's entrepreneurial dynamism to our
shores. The Port City, which the previous regime attempted to exploit in
seemingly shady deals for the personal gain of some leaders, will now be
a service hub for regional and global finance and investment. Both
Indian and Chinese capital is being invited to come in.
Such careful navigation of the increasingly rough seas of global
geo-politics is the way to go.