Vasu’s trial balloon

Daily News Editorial

Joint Opposition firebrand Vasudeva Nanayakkara’s call to President Maithripala Sirisena, that, should the latter ditch the UNP, they, of the JO, would be willing to form a government with the SLFP component of the current regime, should be viewed as yet another attempt to get those currently being investigated for mega scams and other crimes off the hook. Vasu’s, of course, is the latest voice in this regard. There have also been others, too, of the JO, who make the same suggestion from time to time, notably Messrs. Kumara Welgama and Prasanna Ranatunga both of whom have cases pending against them. MP Dullas Alahapperuma too has been a vociferous advocate for such a course. Such an arrangement would not only stand the JO in good stead from the point of view having the cases against their stalwarts dropped but would also open up other possibilities.

Many of the JO members were once Cabinet Ministers and a new government formed with their former SLFP colleagues, will, no doubt, present them the opportunity to be Ministers once again. Not only that. A realignment of forces would necessarily make Mahinda Rajapaksa the Prime Minister while investigations currently being made against the numerous felonies of JO stalwarts would come to an abrupt end.

However Vasu’s suggestion coming to fruition has the chance of a snowball in hell. To begin with, the UNP still commands a majority in parliament and a minority government, as suggested by the MP, would be a non-starter. There is also good reasons for the President not to be enamoured by such a suggestion. Having queered the pitch of MR becoming PM at the last general election it is next to impossible that President Sirisena will have a change of heart in this regard. One recalls the statement made by the President that had Rajapaksa won the election he (President) would have been six feet below terra firma.

Those advocating a realignment should also factor in the ground realities. Joint Opposition members have been vociferous critics of the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government on almost all fronts and accused it carrying out a witch-hunt against the war heroes. It has also taken to the streets decrying the many agreements signed by government and those that are in the pipeline. Does the likes of Vasudeva Nanayakkara expect a government formed with the JO to jettison the Hambantota port development agreement signed with the Chinese or the Public Private partnership to be shortly entered into bailout the national carrier? Will the new government, formed with the JO component, do away with ECTA and abolish SAITM, two issues it obviously cannot compromise on, after going to town attacking the government. Can Nanayakkara explain how a government devoid of the UNP can suddenly become the best thing that has happened to this country, with members in its fold having the most regressive and obsolete ideas, not in tune with the modern world?

Does a government that includes the JO, to the exclusion of the UNP, drop the constitution making exercise, now in an advanced stage, with people like Udaya Gammanpila and Wimal Weerawansa protesting furiously that it contained clauses that will divide the country? What will become of the agreement signed between the SLFP and UNP to continue the alliance for the duration of the unity government? What will become of the newly formed Pohottuwa party led by the Prof. G.L. Peiris as the fall back option for the JO? Will the party be disbanded if the JO is accommodated in the government?

It is not known if Nanayakkara is flying a trial balloon at the behest of his leader Mahinda Rajapaksa. For MR has so far not come out in the open advocating such a course but has been a vocal critic of the government, vowing to have nothing to do with it.

Be that as it may, President Sirisena will be the last person to accommodate the Joint Opposition in the government, and for good reasons. He is well aware of the viscous attacks made against him, even at a personal level, by the personages in Joint Opposition who are today clamouring to work with him by forming a government. He also cannot be unaware that there are scores to settle with him by the Rajapaksas, not just for his “betrayal” in decamping at the eleventh hour to take on MR but also having the spunk to throw some of the Rajapaksa family members behind bars. Besides, President Sirisena cannot let down the civil society groups, the Good Governance advocates and the combined forces who put their shoulders to the wheel to ensure his victory and rid the country of a corrupt regime, with former President Chandrika Kumaratunga in the vanguard of the campaign. Most of all, he cannot be ungrateful to the UNP through whose votes he rode to power and whose members made tremendous sacrifices to install him in office. Besides, the unity government is too far gone down the road for a turnaround at this juncture.