President's open challenge to Ranil
President Mahinda Rajapaksa last week threw an
open challenge to the United National Party (UNP) to topple the
Government during this year's Budget, if the Opposition Leader Ranil
Wickremesinghe could secure an absolute majority in Parliament.
Immediately after the 2005 Presidential Election victory, many
expected President Rajapaksa to dissolve Parliament and call for fresh
elections. But the President thought otherwise as the members elected at
the 2004 General Election had a mandate until 2010.
Since then, the UNP has been dreaming of regaining power and looking
for short cuts to secure a majority in Parliament to form a Government.
That too is understandable as the UNP is obliged to do 'something' to
boost the morale of its supporters who have been utterly disappointed
after losing 14 successive elections, including two Presidential battles
under Wickremesinghe's leadership.
Hence, the UNP has been setting short-term goals as morale boosters.
First, they said they would topple the Government in March and then put
it off for the end of the Sinhala and Tamil New Year in April.
President Rajapaksa's decision to sack Ministers Mangala Samaraweera
and Sripathi Sooriarachchi infused fresh hopes for the UNP and they
declared that they would regain power by June.
They went a step further and coupled it with astrology. They compared
the horoscopes of President Rajapaksa and that of the Opposition Leader
as the so-called astrologers made various predictions of a Raja Yoga.
That was a part of the UNP's strategy and master plan.
However, there was precious little or nothing that Samaraweera and
Sooriarachchi could do to boost the fading colours of the UNP. In
fairness to Wickremesinghe, the UNP's dream of toppling the Government
too is understandable because Samaraweera gloated that he could bring
many ruling party Parliamentarians under the wing of the UNP leader.
Hence, one cannot blame Wickremesinghe for falling for the rosy
picture painted by Samaraweera.
Initially, Samaraweera and Sooriarachchi said they would get 18 MPs
to form an SLFP rebel group of 20.
Believing that Samaraweera is a hero and an opinion maker who has a
huge personal vote base in the SLFP, the Opposition Leader hurriedly
signed a pact with the sacked SLFP Ministers, promising equal rights and
privileges to Samaraweera's rebel team with the UNP.
Wickremesinghe promised an equal number of Ministerial portfolios in
a future UNP Government and a similar number of nominations at a future
General Election. The UNP was even considering to abandon its
long-standing Elephant symbol and to contest future elections under a
common symbol with Samaraweera's team.
That too is understandable as Samaraweera and Sooriarachchi's
impressive promises sounded magical to Wickremesinghe, who has been
desperately looking for an instant method to topple the Government.
Samaraweera and his close buddy have now cut a sorry figure as they
have failed to get even a single MP amongst the Government ranks to
support their deal with the UNP. The duo has now been postponing their
'dream target' and the UNPers are having many sleepless nights, in the
belief that their leader would become the Prime Minister overnight.
The UNP's latest target is the forthcoming budget.
They have been bragging that they would definitely topple the
Government in November.
There is no point in building castles in the air about anticipated
crossovers and dreaming about forming governments. The President has now
thrown an open challenge and it's up to the Opposition Leader to prove
President Rajapaksa and his Government have given the right
leadership to our gallant Security Forces to achieve some great
victories. Apart from liberating the entire Eastern Province from the
vicious clutches of the LTTE terrorists, the brave sons of our soil have
embarked on another humanitarian mission in the North; to liberate
innocent Tamil civilians who have been virtual slaves of Velupillai
Prabhakaran's barbaric-style rule.
On the other hand, our sailors have achieved the greatest victory in
the annals of Sri Lanka's Naval history by destroying three Tiger arms
ships. That is definitely a severe blow as well as a great loss to the
LTTE. The surveillance activities of the Navy have helped the Security
Forces to curb the LTTE arms smuggling to a great extent. That has made
life miserable for the Sea Tigers.
Let the people decide what the country needs most. No doubt democracy
and the rights of the people should be respected at all times but that
does not mean that power-hungry politicians should be allowed to play
political games at the expense of our national security.
Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa told the business community
recently that we must first protect the country to do business, politics
or any other activity. Once we eradicate terrorism through a combined
effort, then we could settle our own differences, political or