Antho jata, bahi jata
Posted on November 14th, 2018

Editorial Thursday 15th November, 2018 Courtesy The Island

The country finds itself in a perfect mess. It has two Prime Ministers and two governments. The Speaker and the President are acting like two private bus drivers disputing the lead; they have already brought the institutions they represent—the legislature and the executive—on a collision course besides creating some bad precedents which will not just go away after the dust settles on the political arena sooner or later. There’s the rub. As for the current situation, one may say, antho jata bahi jata (‘conflicts within, conflicts without’).

President Maithripala Sirisena has drawn heavy flak for the way he sacked the UNP-led government. The issue of the dissolution of Parliament is currently before the Supreme Court and it is best left to the learned judges. The manner in which the UNP and its allies acted in Parliament yesterday has also left a bad taste in many a mouth. Their haste was unwarranted; it smacked of sheer desperation and lack of respect for parliamentary traditions and values they claim to uphold. They were confident of having a majority in the House and, therefore, they should have waited until the next sitting to have their no-confidence motion placed on the order paper and call for a division with the mace in its rightful place.

What we witnessed, yesterday, in the House was more like a fish market brawl than a parliamentary sitting. The stramash made it impossible for anyone to figure out who said what, but a voice vote was taken and the result announced! That unfortunate situation was not without a precedent, though. It may be recalled that last year a bill pertaining to one of the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government’s Geneva commitments was ratified in the most despicable manner. The House was in turmoil, but a vote was taken. Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe, who was then an ardent defender of the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government claimed, at a subsequent media briefing, that the proper process had been followed and the vote was valid. We pointed out, in this space, the absurdity of his contention and warned that it would set a very bad precedent. Today, Samarasinghe’s party is crying foul over the manner in which yesterday’s vote was taken.

There is no reason to doubt the UNP’s claim that it and its allies have a majority in the House even if the outcome of yesterday’s vote is not be taken into account. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, obviously, lacks a working majority and that was why Parliament was first prorogued and then dissolved. But it is not clear whether those who have opposed the appointment of Prime Minister Rajapaksa will get together to form a government.

The UNP had the highest number of seats (107) in Parliament before the change of government on Oct. 26. There were some defections from its ranks thereafter, but yesterday some MPs crossed over to its side. How many seats does the UNP have now? If the number is lower than 113, how does it propose to muster a working majority? Will the TNA undertake to back it? Or will there be a hung Parliament? What will the UNP do if President Sirisena refuses to appoint its leader Ranil Wickremesinghe Prime Minister again? Will the Speaker declare that pre-Oct. 26 status will prevail and recognise Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister? Will such a move be legal? These are only some of the many questions that may arise anent the present chaotic situation.

Meanwhile, there is a situation where the SLPP-SLFP combine is scared of facing votes in Parliament and the UNP and its allies need elections like a hole in the head. The former wants the current political battle taken out of Parliament and the latter is doing its damnedest to confine it to the banks of Diayawanna, where its defences are strong.

Only the people can resolve this conflict once and for all. They are the best judges as attempts by other to tackle it have come a cropper.

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