UNP Market friendly; SLFP People friendly

A make or break for Unity Govt.? (Original Title)

Daily News Editorial

The present imbroglio in the Yahapalanaya government, following the defeat suffered at the just concluded local government election, is yet to be resolved, as this piece is being written. A section within the SLFP parliament group wants Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to step down, while the young Turks in the UNP want the present leader to break ranks with the Blues and form a UNP government under the Premiership of Wickremesinghe.

The President, also, in deference to the members of his own camp is insisting that the Premier stands down. Meanwhile a group of UNP Cabinet ministers had also met the President and wanted PM Wickremesinghe retained. In the end, the President appointed a committee comprising members of both sides to decide on the future structure of the government, but not before being critical of the UNP for leaving him out of the loop in matters of governance, which, he had pointed out, was the main reason for the current predicament of the government. This betrays the extent of the policy clashes between the market friendly UNP and the more people friendly SLFP.

Be that as it may, a majority within the UNP may feel that the government’s defeat at the LG polls had come as a blessing in disguise. It has now paved the pave for the party to form its own government. The UNP, has, at present, 107 seats in parliament and there are strong indications that a sizable group from the SLFP/UPFA would join the Greens to form a UNP government.

Of course, the constant bickering among the Yahapalanaya partners, no doubt, sent a negative message to the electorate. The frequent broadsides aimed at Premier Wickremesinghe by the likes of Susil Premajayantha and Dilan Perera, on the one hand, and, the attacks on their SLFP partners by the likes of Sujeewa Senasighe and Chaminda Wijesiri, showed up the Unity Government as a tottering edifice ready to crumble at any moment. The public were given the clear impression that no one was in control of the ship of state.

The UNP back-benchers who are clamouring for a government of their own may have just cause for airing their views in the open. Their party cadres had virtually been in the wilderness for over two decades, been forced to endure untold hardships and victimized at every turn in the area of employment and in other ways, during that period.

Now, notwithstanding a government being led by their own party, they are still unable to do justice to their party men, with most of the top ministries in the hands of their coalition partner, closing the door for employment opportunities to UNPers. This is why firebrand MP Nalin Jayamaha voiced his anger yesterday saying that hordes of UNPers turned their backs on the party at Saturday’s election, due to the party’s inability to cater to their needs (due to the plum ministries being with the SLFP ministers).

The UNP were also hampered in other ways, with most of its economic policies having being forced to be put on the back-burner after being countermanded by the President. True, some of these proposals were hard on the public who expect quick fix solutions to their woes. However, the SLFP always sought to take credit for withdrawing these policies, showing the UNP in poor light before the public.

In sum, both, the UNP, and, SLFP were acting at cross purposes for the entirety of the Unity Government, resulting in sluggishness in the implementation of government policies, for the people’s welfare. The public, naturally, were all at sea, unable to grasp this state of affairs. The UNPs hands were tied in most instances, with the SLFP always trying to project the image that it was the Blues that was against placing burdens on the public due to UNPs economic policies.

Be that as it may, it is not clear what the outcome of the committee appointed by the President will be. The civil society outfit puravesi balaya, which played a major role in bringing the January 8 change, wants the Unity Government to continue till 2020. Its leaders have met, both, the President, and, Prime Minister and prevailed on them to stick together. With the soured relations between the partners taking a turn for the worse, after the electoral defeat, it is doubtful whether a rapprochement will be feasible. Both sides will have to hold onto to their guns, which, from the way things look, will be near impossible.

Meanwhile, while the countdown is already on for the decisive moment, the government should not allow paralysis of the state apparatus. The political crisis has already impacted on the dollar vis-a-vis the rupee, and, financial markets too may suffer the consequences of political instability, if it has not already. Hence a quick return to normalcy is of paramount importance. The current imbroglio is over the results of an inconsequential local government election. This should in no way be allowed to intrude into the government’s day-to-day affairs.

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