Sri Lanka’s new Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan today said that while a national government in the present context in the country may be a national need, it would have been better if the two parties would have been able to come together without an increase in the number of ministries.
The Speaker Karu Jayasuriya today recognized the TNA Parliamentary Group Leader as the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament.
Accepting the position with humility, Sampanthan said that they will support the government on issues where it is justified and that they will oppose the government when it is in national interest to do so.
“We will extend our fullest support to all parties and members in the opposition and we will work closely with them to ensure that we are an effective and efficient opposition,” he said, delivering a statement in Parliament.
Sampanthan assured all political parties and members in the opposition that his party will not hesitate to work with them unitedly to serve the cause of the opposition and to be an effective and efficient opposition against the government whenever that is required.
“There are issues that need to be resolved in the national interest. Amongst them are the long-festering Tamil question. We would like to work closely with everyone to resolve this question,” he said.
“While we will be loyal to this country and to the people to this country, I must emphasize that it is also our primary duty to ensure there is an acceptable resolution of the Tamil question.”
Making some comments on the bill being discussed in Parliament regarding the increasing of ministerial portfolios of the national government, the Opposition Leader said that a national government in the present context in the country may be a national need.
“The two main parties working together could be in the national interest. This is the first time in the country’s history that the two main parties have decided to come together to constitute a government.”
“This is also in consonance with the two democratic verdicts delivered by the country recently and also in keeping with the 19th constitutional amendment. It is in keeping with the amendment that this resolution is brought to this house today,” he said.
However, he emphasized that the increase in the number of ministries to achieve this does not seem in conformity with good governance.” It would have been much better if the two parties would have been able to t come together without an increase in the number of ministries.”
But unfortunately we have a culture in this country which had been deeply entrenched in recent times which has resulted in the number of ministries being enhanced through various devious processes including the use of various considerations in order to buy over MPs, he said.
“I think we should put an end to this culture.”
Sampanthan pointed out that neighboring India, which is a large country with a population of 1.2 billion, has only 65 ministers including 22 cabinet ministers.
“This is something we should bear in mind and the desire for ministerial positions it is against the national interest to an extent that is not consistent with the need of the country is a culture we must get over.”
“But I do realize that in the present context a national government under any circumstances may be a dire necessity and may be something this country needs,” he said.
“We must also remember that this culture of everybody wanting to become a minister somehow must be ended and we must turn a new leaf,” he said, adding, that will be the interest of the country.
Sampanthan also proposed a system of governance similar to India as a solution for increasing the number of ministerial portfolios.
“I was thinking to myself this morning, rather their being so many ministers in the Center, why can’t we have 3-5 regions in this country vested with substantial powers of governance?”
“There are many young members of parliament who can be excellent ministers and chief ministers in those regions. Give them maximum power and allow them to rule various parts of this country in such a way that the people’s interest is best served,” he stated.
He stated that India has today 29 states and that the country is united. “The country stays together because the people’s aspirations are respected, honored and implemented by the states which have been constituted in such a way as to preserve linguistic interests, cultural interests, religious interests and so on.”
While we realize the importance of the bill in the present context of our country I think we need to get away from this culture of having an excessive number of ministers in our cabinet, he reiterated.
“That is not good and the people of the country will not respect that for too long.”