The bizarre situation that we have been experiencing for the past two weeks where the opposition UPFA has a clear majority in parliament but still chooses to remain in the opposition still holds. But last Friday’s SLFP central committee meeting attended by president Maithripala Sirisena indicates that this situation may not last long.
A clear indication of this is that a firm decision was taken to act against SLFP provincial councilors who collude with the UNP to topple provincial administrations. The mere fact that S.B.Dissanayake a bitter enemy of Chandrika Kumaratunga has been appointed a vice chairman of the SLFP may be an indication that the SLFP is trying to unite all sections of the party and to go forward.
The SLFP’s chosen leader of the opposition Nimal Siripala de Silva still commands the second biggest majority in parliament that any party has got in the past 25 years after the proportional representation system was introduced.
The 2010 government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa had the biggest majority – 163 MPs at the highest point. The next comes Nimal Siripala de Silva with 136 MPs. The third is the R,Premadasa government of 1989 which had 125 parliamentarians. The governments formed in 1994, 2000, 2001 and 2004 did not get clear majorities in parliament and a majority had to be cobbled together with the help of allies. In such circumstances, it’s a pipe dream to expect the SLFP or the UPFA to go to the next elections meekly as an underdog.
Both the UNP and the UPFA are acutely aware that their chances of getting the highest number of seats in the next parliament depend on whether they happen to have portfolios or not at the time they face the next election. MPs are lobbying to become ministers and the number of ministers has been going up day after day because each MP knows that their chances of re-election are that much better if they have a portfolio to show the public. Since the same need is felt by the SLFP, how long is it before Nimal Siripala de Silva makes his move?
The UNP government should not give the SLFP/UPFA any excuse to dismiss the minority government. But inexplicably, they seem to be hell bent on giving the SLFP all the excuses they need! In November 2003, when Chandrika Kumaratunga moved to seize the media, defence and finance prortfolios from the then UNP government, one of the excuses she used was that the UNP was betraying the trust of the armed forces. The UNP is making the same mistake today.
There was nothing in the 100 day program about implementing the 13th Amendment, or holding domestic war crimes inquiries, but UNP members of the government have been making noises about such things and playing right into the hands of the SLFP/UPFA. As this writer has been saying over the past few days, other than the Rajapaksas, the only other force that can ensure that this country does not dissolve into complete chaos is the UNP. When the UNP which is now the last bulwark against anarchy damages themselves in that manner, what future will this country have?
The UNP may be pinning their hopes for victory at the next election on the incontrovertible fact that the SLFP/UPFA without the Rajapaksas will only be a shadow of its former self. In fact the other members of the UPFA such as the Communist Party, LSSP, MEP, EPDP, New Left Front, the JNP and the Gammampila faction of the JHU are also aware of this fact and they have begun acting independently as separate political parties in parliament.
Of these parties the JNP, MEP, New Left Front, and JHU(G) did not bother to even attend the UPFA executive committee meeting held last Friday. The LSSP, CP and the EPDP attended the meeting but they all have submitted letters to the speaker saying that they sit separately in parliament. They too are aware that without the leadership of the Rajapaksas, the UPFA is just an empty shell. Even A.L.M Athaulla a Rajapaksa ally to the end, is now sitting separately in parliament.
All these parties have been allowed to function as entities separate from the UPFA by the precedent created about a decade ago of the JVP contesting the 2004 parliamentary election under the betel leaf symbol and later deciding to sit separately in parliament. Last week, both Dinesh Gunawardena and Wimal Weerawansa made blistering speeches in parliament describing the opposition as a ‘hijacked’ opposition and praising the former president.
The encouragement they got from UPFA parliamentarians who banged on their tables in approval indicates that the former president still commands a great deal of sympathy within the SLFP and the UPFA. They are all acutely aware that a parliamentary election is just round the corner and if they are to take on an upbeat UNP, they can’t do that under the leadership of Chandrika Kumaratunga.