Spousal battery
Posted on October 24th, 2018

Editorial Courtesy The Island

Thursday 25th October, 2018

The UNP-SLFP political marriage is on the rocks. They are bashing each other in public. What they are doing to each other may be likened to spousal battery, as it were. Internal problems of the yahapalana coalition have come to a head with the UNP and SLFP leaders clashing at Cabinet meetings. President Maithripala Sirisena has gone to the extent of calling upon the public to elect an honest politician as the next PM. Not to be outdone, the UNP undermines the President’s authority at every turn.

President Sirisena has directed his ire at the UNP apparently for two reasons. He is trying to assert himself vis-a-vis an aggressive UNP. It is also possible that he has chosen to take on the UNP to prevent a further erosion of the SLFP’s support base as his party’s rank and file are not well disposed towards the yahapalana coalition.

Sirisena succeeded in justifying his decision to join forces with the UNP in 2014 to secure the presidency. He praised the UNP to high heaven at Sirikotha, where he received a warm welcome and opened an election office, in Nov. 2014. Now, he is preparing the ground for deserting the UNP and taking swipes at it. He has gone on record as saying, at a recent public function, that today’s UNP is a far cry from the party founded by the late D. S. Senanayake. Nobody will buy into his claim that the UNP is not what he thought it to be, at the last presidential election. He, as the SLFP General Secretary, carried out numerous election campaigns against the UNP, which the SLFP used to vilify.

The President’s current view of the UNP is at variance with the sentiments he expressed in his famous Sirikotha speech in 2014; he spoke very highly of the founders of the UNP as well as its current leaders.

If Sirisena considers the UNP so bad, then it becomes clear that it was out of sheer expediency that he enabled that party to capture power in Jan. 2015 by sacking a strong government led by the SLFP, founded by the late S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike. He also engineered the SLFP-led UPFA’s defeat at a general election about seven months later so that the UNP could win. Under his stewardship, the SLFP coalesced with the UNP to form national governments twice.

President Sirisena must have realised that the UNP was as corrupt as any other political party when the first bond scam was committed a few weeks after the formation of the new UNP-SLFP government in Jan. 2015. The COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) headed by D. E. W. Gunasekera revealed that scam, but the President dissolved Parliament before it was taken up for debate lest it should ruin the UNP’s chances of winning the August 2015 general election. He admitted, in an address to the nation, in the run-up to the polls that he had been aware of the bond scam. If his commitment to good governance had been genuine he should have allowed Parliament to debate the COPE report so that the people would be able to make an informed decision at the parliamentary polls. The Attorney General’s (AG’s) Department was prevented from prosecuting the perpetrators of the first bond scam and a file recommending legal action shelved. The file (No: C/187/161/2015) containing recommendations for criminal action was later turned into a confidential document (N0: CF/08/2015), recommending civil action and made to disappear.

If Parliament had debated the COPE report on the first bond scam and the AG’s Department had filed criminal action against the racketeers, the second bond racket would not have taken place in 2016; most of all, the then Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran would not have been able to flee the country.

President Sirisena and the SLFP cannot absolve themselves of the responsibility for the yahapalana government’s malpractices which are legion, by bashing the UNP.

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