National Government: What for?
Posted on March 24th, 2015

By Sumanasiri Liyanage  Courtesy Island

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New Ministers, State Ministers and Deputy Minister were sworn in making the size of the cabinet of ministers to 44. If you add the number of state ministers and deputy ministers the total number may be closer to the number of ministers in the MR regime. As The Island reported,”The number of Cabinet, State and Deputy Ministers rose to 77 yesterday as 26 SLFPers were sworn in before President Maithripala Sirisena at the Presidential Secretariat.” In this sense and in many others, Maithripala-Ranil (that I call MR II) regime has no much difference from Mahinda Rajapaksa (MR I) regime. Even in the climax of war, Sri Lanka did not have a national government, not even during the tsunami catastrophe. So one may justifiably ask: Why now? What for? Prior to answer these questions, it is imperative to raise two points.

First, if we reflect on some of the views expressed by people who wholeheartedly supported Maithripala Sirisena candidacy on January 8, one thing is clear. All of them have already disappointed over the performance of the regime. The MR II regime has already shown political impotency, economic sterility and administrative incapacity so that it is highly unlikely to materialise what had been promised by Maithripala Sirisena during the election campaign. Although some prominent citizen oriented civil society practitioners hoped and expected that MR II regime would be essentially different from the MR I regime, in the context what has been happening now it is clear that more affinities than differences exist between the two. This convergence is clearly depicted by the formation of the so-called national government that is in fact a coalition between the UNP and the SLFP.

Secondly, it is necessary to understand the nature of the MR I regime and its technologies and modalities of governance. Let me focus only on critical characteristics. Mahinda Rajapaksa preferred unipolar governance in a seemingly bipolar or multipolar political context. He did not want to crush the Opposition; he in fact said that he stood for a strong opposition. Nonetheless, he used both the carrot and stick in order to weaken the opposition by inviting opposition members to the Cabinet. He had occasional coffee with the Leader of the Opposition. The presence of formal bipolarity was not an issue for him. This technology of governance worked quite well with neo-liberal economic policies put into practice in a country in which democratic elections are a feature with of great importance.

Three promises that made Maithripala Sirisena candidacy attractive to a wide spectrum of peoples are: (1) relief from economic hardships (2) democracy and democratization and (3) good governance. However, it is necessary to keep in mind that these were understood by different segments of society in differently. The way in which democracy and democratization was understood by the Internally displaced people in the North differed significantly from the way it was understood and interpreted by Colombo civil society. In spite of preparing 100 days or 180 days calendars, these three pledges cannot be implemented fully within the neo-liberal economic framework.

However, MR II like MR I has no option. The class configuration of the MR II regime may not be able to develop an alternative economic framework. Once again, it has resorted to obtaining loans from the private sector as well as from the international financial organizations. IMF has already warned that it will not lend money to this regime until and unless it shows ‘fiscal discipline’.

The formation of the so-called national government demonstrates how and in what way MR II regime has proposed its governance strategy. MR I weakened the opposition while MR II brought in both the government and the opposition under one rubric of the government, the President and the Prime Minister (Subha and Yasa as I mentioned in my previous article). So, it was very logical to amend the draft bill of 19th Amendment specifically mentioning that the President would appoint both the PM and the Leader of the Opposition. As the Minister Rajith Senaratna informs us the two parties would contest next election separately but to form once again a ‘united’ government reshuffling the members of the Parliament into government and Opposition. Hence, MR II is planning to strengthen the unipolarity that was one of the features of the MR I regime.

Can the so-called national government ensure democracy, good governance and relief for poor classes? In my opinion, the JVP Parliamentarian, Sunil Hadunneththi was absolutely right when he said it was an attempt to hide some of the malpractices and corruption of the politicians of the previous government and to prepare the condition for UNPers to engage in the same practices. The cabinet system of government is preferred to the presidential system of government primarily because the later brings in multipolarity into the system of governance. Democracy also needs independent MPs who do not belong to group politics. These two conditions were erased when the Second Republican Constitution of 1978 was enacted. JR had absolute majority in the Parliament while his successors had to maintain the majority in the Parliament by throwing carrots in the form of ministerial posts. It began with President R Premadasa. Maithripala Sirisena is adopting a different method by bringing in both the government and the opposition under him using not only the Constitution but also the Constitution of the SLFP. Hence, the national government is a naked attempt at redesigning neo-liberalist rule.

The writer is the co-coordinator of the Marx School.

e-mail: [email protected]

8 Responses to “National Government: What for?”

  1. Christie Says:

    Namaste: Marx School, should learn about nonviolent aggression and oppression. Nonviolent aggression and oppression is much older than what Russia and Eastern Europe were before the Marx theories. We are heading to a full pledged colony of India like Mauritius. Jai Hind

  2. Nimal Says:

    National government of dedicated politicians who wants to serve the country is better than those who get into politics just to make money for themselves and I hope there will be many more JVP lads in the parliment to keep an eye on the people in power as power corrupts.

  3. Ratanapala Says:

    This enterprise of a national government is just a ruse by Don Juan Ranil to come to absolute power by hook or by crook. Anybody who expects democracy in the gay hands of Ranil are deluded. He wants to complete the unfinished work of Don Juan Dharmapala and hand over Sri Lanka to the Catholic Church and his masters the Western Christian powers.

    Sirisena has no vision nor plan nor phyloshophy other than to have his name as another Don Juan Dharmapala – the most miserable and unfortunate ruler of Sri Lanka in her over 2600 year history. His utterances on his trip to London shows clearly his subservient mindset. He is a disgrace to Sinhala manhood!

    It is difficult to imagine whether Sirisena himself realise his treachery to the land of his birth and his religion.

  4. dhane Says:

    Ratanapala after Sirisena come back from China we can hear another hilarious “Godayata Magic” talk.

  5. Ratanapala Says:

    I thought after 47 years in politics he had learnt something. He puts Udu Rawana to shame with his utterances. I am sure he will get some telling from the Chinese. Point is whether he will understand the Chinese diplomatic talk.

    Sri Lanka has done a great blunder by belittling the Chinese President and his historic visit to Sri Lanka. This simple minded man has no idea what he is representing as the President of Sri Lanka. He has belittled even the title of President of Sri Lanka.

  6. dhane Says:

    Let see what comedy out look when meeting with Qatar King in Colombo. Is My3 using renovated Temple Trees or Queens House?

  7. SA Kumar Says:

    Sirisena has no vision nor plan nor phyloshophy – NO wrong Chinhala Brother , MS is another person ( like MR to finish the war with blood in hand as like Princes Arjuna in Mahabharatha) send by Lord Bhuddat to safe Holy land of Mother Lanka.
    wait & see 2020 !!! We all will live in United Mother Lanka forever !!!

  8. Fran Diaz Says:

    The new illegal govt is not a National Govt at all. It is a mere Coalition of opportunists ! The bulk of the People of Lanka are not with them as the WAY they govern is without self respect or self esteem toward the Nation.

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