Colombo, February 15 (newsinasia): The Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena will announce his decision on the future of the troubled coalition between his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the United National Party (UNP) led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, at a press conference with local journalists here on Friday at 8.30 am, according to sources in the Presidential Secretariat.
Earlier on Tuesday, the SLFP and the UNP had appointed a committee to determine, within three day,. the future of the government in the light of the parties’ defeat in the February 10 local bodies elections which were deemed to be a referendum on their “National Unity Government” (NUG).
The fate of the NUG has been hanging in the balance since the SLFP and UNP have been indulging in an acrimonious blame game.
Unable to reconcile the differences, Sirisena and Wickremesinghe agreed to form a bipartisan committee to go into the pros and cons of various options.
The options are several: One is to continue the coalition as it is with suitable changes in policies and the composition of the cabinet. The second is to have a new Prime Minister in place of the controversial Wickremesinghe who allegedly had an indirect role to play in the LKR 11. 4 billion Central Bond bond scam. The third is to get the SLFP to form a government in alliance with the Joint Opposition, which is but a chip of the old SLFP block. It was the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) formed by the Joint Opposition which trounced the two government parties in the local bodies’ elections.
However, even as the “reconciliation” committee is working, the two parties are on a vigorous bid to form a government of their own, eliminating the other.
The UNP was the first to declare that it will break the alliance and form a government. The UNP is the single largest party in parliament and needs only seven more MPs to get a simple majority. Therefore it has the greatest chance of forming a government on its own.
But not to be outdone, the SLFP has also thrown its hat in the ring. It says that it can get support from the Joint Opposition led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. It has proposed that senior SLFP leader Nimal Sripala de Silva be Prime Minister in place of Ranil Wickremesinghe of the UNP.
But the Joint Opposition and the SLFP put together have only 95 MPs. Therefore, getting 113 to have a simple majority is a far cry, if not impossible.
But the more difficult part of the problem is that the SLFP and SLPP cannot combine because of sharp differences between their top leaders – Sirisena and Rajapaksa.
The Joint Opposition is a breakaway ground of the SLFP led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa who is completely estranged from the current SLFP chief and incumbent President Sirisena.
In fact, the website Asian Mirror quotes Rajapaksa as saying on Wednesday that he would trust Ranil Wickremesinghe’s one word but not pages of assurances signed by Sirisena. The distrust between them is indeed unbridgeable
The Joint Opposition had formed the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) to fight elections and the SLPP had crushed both the SLFP and the UNP in the recent local bodies’ elections.
Therefore, there is no reason whatsoever for the SLPP to help the SLFP form the government. It will want to form a government on its own, as indeed it does. In this context, the SLFP’s forming a government with Nimal Sripala de Silva as Prime Minister is clearly a pipe dream
According to political observers, the SLFP’s brazen demand is only political posturing to keep the UNP on tenterhooks and erode its confidence which, as on date, is very high.
However, President Siriseena is keeping everybody guessing by saying that he will make an important announcement by Friday. By Friday, presumably, he will have got the recommendation of the bi-party committee.
Would he allow the UNP to form the government? or would he make a bid to form an SLFP government with defectors from the UNP and the Joint Opposition?
Alternatively, would be ask parliament to pass a resolution with two thirds majority seeking dissolution to enable it to go for a snap poll?
The last option is favored by many democratic minded Sri Lankans. They say that when the population has rejected both the SLFP and the UNP, why should these two be allowed to form a government and continue to rule.
These democrats do not accept the argument that the elections held on February 10 were only local bodies’ elections and not parliamentary elections.
“It was a referendum on their governance. The two ruling parties stand rejected.Therefore none of them should be allowed to form the government. Parliament should be dissolved and a fresh mandate sought” the democrats say.
However, dissolution of parliament is not the favored option among MPs across the party divide. They would not like quit office when the present parliament has two and a half years to go still.
(The featured picture at the top shows Sri Lankan President and SLFP leader Maithripala Sirisena)