Will the Unity Government achieve its goals before time runs out in 2020?

“United we stand, divided we fall” and a similar phrase appears in the biblical New Testament as “And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand” and first credited use of this expression in modern times was in the Liberty Song of Americans; a concept that lies in the collectivist notion that if individual members of a certain group with binding ideals – such as a coalition or alliance – work on their own instead of as a team, they are each doomed to fail and will all be defeated. This concept applies equally well to the Sri Lankan Unity Government coalition members as they must work as a team and keep their alliance going to accomplish their goal to take the country forward before the 2020 Elections.  

z_p17-Colombo-1

Expectations are still high that the two main parties in United National Party (UNP) and Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), working together for the first time since independence in 1948, would provide good governance; based on the re-affirmed commitments from the President and the Prime Minister to act as partners in the coalition in the national interest at this vital juncture. Earlier the two leaders filled cabinet portfolios with legislators selected from all parties in coalition; among them were some former cabinet ministers suspected of corrupt practices during the previous regime and a few with no moral right to enter the parliament, entering through the missed used national list. As the result, with the composition of an oversized cabinet, the coalition government has not had a smooth run over the past two years and their efforts have been inadequate to pull the country out of its debt traps left behind by the previous regime nor have they been able to provide answer for tens of thousands of civilian deaths and disappearances after the civil-war guns were silenced in 2009, while the full strength of the tri-forces retained still in the previous war zone. The failure of the President and Prime Minister to look fearlessly at the past has caused concern in general to the moderates who voted them in and those affected poor rural communities living in former war zone north-east of the country, who are left with their social infrastructure in ruins. This hesitant approach of the government did cast a shadow of doubt on the ability of the Unity Government to deliver by the communities, who received harsh treatment from an excessive, intimidating tri-forces retained in the former war zone. The physical infrastructure in ruins in the war zone were reconstructed earlier during the six years, at a heavy cost to the nation; that enabled former corrupt cabinet of the previous regime to pile up wealth with their own agenda utilizing their henchmen in public enterprises.

Though for best part the present government is looked upon by the people as better than the previous regime, the two leaders are themself disappointed with the progress made to date by their government and have realised the fundamental error they made at the very outset of forming the new Government in 2015 for not getting a comprehensive code of conduct prepared for their legislators. Today the two leaders are at the receiving end of the consequences of poor governance caused by the lack of discipline of their legislators, who have many times almost derailed the alliance. For a country that has over forty years given prominence to Buddhism, it was not a surprise to have Buddhist majority of the ministers in the cabinets and today is no exception. But what is regrettable is the fact that they are not aware of the Lord Buddha scriptures, which clearly spelled out the standards to follow for the rulers and the people who are ruled by them in a democratic form of governance. These old hands in the cabinet appears to be ignorant of these scriptures and have been working on their own agenda with their planted persons holding important positions in public enterprises, who are trying to steer the government in all directions to their whims and fancies. As the result the Unity Government have faced many resistance from within the cabinet, with ministers disputing economic issues such as the Hambantota Port and the Trincomalee oil farm projects and many other including the overall strategies outlined in the Vision 2025 sustainable economic development goals. The bond scam investigations were confined only to bond issues after the President assumed office in 2015, as it is only the tip of the iceberg; it has raised doubts within UNP backbenchers to discredit. It now appears the government is set to investigate such transactions starting from 2008; at the same time have accepted the facts that the said bond issue under investigation has caused the largest financial fraud affecting the entire spectrum of the economy and that all responsible irrespective of their positions should be taken to task. There was another major reason to change of government in 2015, that was to put a stop to the corrupt practices that existed during the previous regime, but not much progress has been made and the corrupt are vociferous in parliament and outside accusing these practices are still continuing under the present government. But supporting the government are the two main political parties the TNA and JVP in opposition; to its credit JVP the least corrupted party in politics today is playing a vital role to keep the government on track. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the TNA, who on getting elected in 2015 made a fundamental error of not arriving to an agreement on the acceptable extent of devolution within the four political parties in alliance; this infighting of the four alliance members is pre occupying them and is not doing any good to the alliance or the people they represent left voiceless today and as the result TNA are unable to make any valuable contribution towards good governance.

Bitter Truth coming out of all these events is it has given enough material for the previous regime members in opposition to dominate the media news of them attacking the government in the legislature and in public; that has receive negative feedback to the government to delay the progress on drafting the New Constitution, that was intended  to resolve many issues that had caused bad governance of the country by successive rulers for many decades; most affected by it are the voiceless rural poor majority from all communities, in particular the Tamil speaking minorities in the country, more so those living in the former war zone North-East of the country.

True, Sri Lanka has remained relatively peaceful after the change of government in 2015 and the Unity Government has made attempts to deal with several issues of the people compared to the period of six negative years prior to 2015, after guns were silenced in 2009 to end nearly three-decade long civil war. After the general election in 2015 to form the Unity Government together with few other political parties in coalition a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed for two years between the SLFP leader, who was then the President with the leader of UNP as the Prime Minister to bring about racial and religious reconciliation to build for the all-inclusive society a peaceful and just Nation. The two years MoU has expired as the Unity Government coalition members must remain united to keep the alliance going and work as a team to accomplish their goals to take the country forward before the term of the government expires in 2020, prior to holding the General Elections with a New Constitution.