In the wake of TNA leader R. Sampanthan’s appointment as the Leader of the Opposition, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera declared that the Maithripala Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration was the first genuine National Government in post-independence Sri Lanka.
The following is the full text of the statement issued by Minister Samaraweera:
“Today, the 3rd of September 2015, will be remembered as a red letter day in Sri Lanka’s political history. For the first time since Independence a National Government has been formed with Parliamentary approval: Sri Lanka’s two main political parties can now work together to address the many unsolved challenges facing our country. The recognition of Mr. R. Sampanthan as Leader of the Opposition has also made this a red letter day; heralding a new era of unity, consensus and reconciliation.
This is the first genuine National Government in post-independence Sri Lanka. The so-called ‘National Governments’ of the past were either, an exercise in ‘Power Politics’ based on political opportunism and self-interest, or a coalition of the unwilling put together through intimidation, bribery and blackmail. Opposition Members of Parliament were spirited away to the Government benches without the consent of the political parties they represented, leaving a trail of splintered political parties in the country weakening the very fabric of democracy.
During the last Presidential election, both Mr. Maithripala Sirisena and Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe promised to depart from this unsavoury and undemocratic practice. In the first 100 days itself, the 19th amendment was passed which, along with many other important constitutional reforms, introduced the contours of a National Government.
That dream has turned into reality. Today, on the 3rd of September, Parliament recognized and approved the National Government as proposed by the Prime Minister. Gone are the days when the numbers of Ministers were decided according to the whims and fancies of the executive. Today Parliament consented and approved to increase the size of cabinet from the constitutionally stipulated 30.
We have opened new chapter in Sri Lanka’s history: forming a genuine national government through consensus rather than subterfuge will help entrench good governance and create a new political culture in Sri Lanka.
The reset in political culture was also demonstrated in the unanimous appointment of the Opposition Leader. The upholding of Parliamentary convention and tradition marks a departure from the divisive and self-interested partisanship which was a hallmark of our politics since independence. The appointment of Mr. R. Sampanthan, one of the most senior and respected politicians in the country, as Opposition Leader also reflects Sri Lanka’s commitment, resolve and determination to the reconciliation process and the establishment of a Sri Lanka where every citizen feels that they are free and equal. In the new Sri Lanka no one would be denied their rightful place in society due to race, religion, caste or gender.
The National Government will ensure the formation and implementation of urgently needed national policies. In particular, we will pass a new Constitution that will include a Bill of Rights. This constitution will not only take into account civil and political rights but economic, social and cultural rights as well. It will be a Constitution that addresses the requirements of all citizens and communities; one which will allow greater public participation in decision-making processes. These measures will enable more accountable and more responsible government in the country. Such a Constitution, with electoral reform and the restoration of stronger Parliamentary government, will be essential to ensure reconciliation and durable peace with justice and rule of law. The bipartisan consensus intrinsic to a national government will also be able to secure the legislative reforms, policy stability and level playing field that are urgently needed for our economic development.”