(Text of Editorial appearing in “The Island” of April 20th 2018 under the heading “JVP’s googly”)
Crafty handlers of mendicants, involved in begging rackets, exploit the disabled unconscionably. One of the methods, employed by them, is to pair blind men with sighted cripples so that the former can move about, guided by the latter, on their backs. The architects of the yahapalana government adopted the same method; they coupled the UNP and the SLFP. The two parties have to stick together, if they are to survive. But, today, they find themselves in a situation where their symbiotic relationship is threatened.
All the indications are that the UNP is planning to go it alone at the next presidential election. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, after defeating the no-faith motion against him in Parliament recently, met the press, amidst cheers from a band of his raucous MPs, who hailed him as the future president. But whether the PM will be able to win over the party dissidents, opposed to his leadership, remains to be seen.
SLFP General Secretary Duminda Dissanayake has announced that President Maithripala Sirisena will contest the next presidential election, on the SLFP ticket. Time is fast running out and the UNP and the SLFP will have to get ready for the presidential race, at the expense of the fragile unity of the yahapalana government.
The architects of the current regime will have their work cut out to bring the two warring parties together and re-forge the blind-man-and-cripple alliance in time for the next presidential election.
The Joint Opposition (JO), too, is in a dilemma over the question of selecting its presidential candidate. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa cannot contest again. Some of the JO big guns are promoting former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa as the party’s presidential candidate. The JO is not devoid of fissiparous tendencies innate in a disparate group of politicians. Therefore, not all JO notables are in favour of Gotabhaya. They will have to sort out this issue fast and brace its electoral muscles. They have bungled big time after their impressive win at the local government polls, and don’t seem to care to manage their electoral gains properly; they are resting on their oars.
It is reported that the JO has pledged conditional support for the JVP’s move to have the executive presidency abolished through the proposed 20th Amendment (20-A). Former Minister Bandula Gunawardena has gone on record as saying that the JO would back the JVP’s Bill if provision is made for the dissolution of Parliament upon the passage of the Bill. It is doubtful whether all JO seniors are agreeable to the 20-A conditionally or otherwise. Some of the JO well-wishers have already taken exception to Gunawardena’s statement in question.
The proposed 20-A may be acceptable to the loyalists of former President Rajapaksa, who cannot contest another presidential election. If the executive presidency was abolished, he could seek a popular mandate to be the PM cum Head of State, and the question of the JO having to field a presidential candidate wouldn’t arise in such an eventuality. But, the question is whether such an arrangement will go down well with the presidential hopefuls in the JO and the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna. Although the prospect of Mahinda becoming the head of state will not be to their liking, they cannot raise objections, for obvious reasons. But they can protest against the 20-A, and try to derail it.
It will be interesting to know PM Wickremesinghe’s position on the JVP’s move to abolish the executive presidency. One sees no reason why he should oppose it, given the problems the next presidential contest are bound to throw up for him and his party.
The 20-A may not be acceptable to President Sirisena, for his party, the SLFP, cannot win a general election on its own, and the chances of the UNP coalescing with it at parliamentary polls are zero. But his objections will be irrelevant if the JO and the UNP are really desirous of abolishing the executive presidency, because they have between them enough numbers in Parliament to muster a two-thirds majority for the Bill.