How weird can one get! : Seeking to change Govt through LG results | Sunday Observer

How weird can one get! : Seeking to change Govt through LG results

Last Saturday, the people spoke. They gave a decision. They handed over control of the vast majority of local government bodies in the country to the newly established Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). No one disputes that. However, since then, there have been several disputes.

There is a dispute about the ‘mandate to govern the country’. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the de facto leader of the SLPP, is calling for the dissolution of Parliament on this basis.

Rajapaksa wants a general election held forthwith. There has been a dispute about who should be Prime Minister. Apparently, the former and present General Secretaries of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), Ministers, Susil Premajayantha and Mahinda Amaraweera, respectively, have proposed that their colleague Nimal Siripala de Silva be appointed Prime Minister. Then, there is also a dispute about who should be Leader of the Opposition.

The Joint Opposition, the SLPP’s proxy in Parliament is demanding the post, simply because it says, it now has the largest grouping of opposition MPs in Parliament.

Of course, politics they say, is the art of the possible. No one grudges our multi-faceted politicians a little fun and games, especially, at times like these, when political upheaval is the name of the game. However, it is a bit worrying when some of these demands insult the intelligence of the electorate.

Rajapaksa was President of the country, not once but twice, and had it not been for his folly may have been President thrice. So, he must know a thing or two about our Constitution- especially, after he manipulated it expertly, introducing the 18th Amendment, so he could stay in power forever.

Losing his marbles?

The 19th Amendment, introduced by this government, changed all that. It explicitly forbids the President from dissolving Parliament before the end of four and a half years- unless Parliament resolves by a two-thirds majority to dissolve itself. We presume, Rajapaksa knows his arithmetic. Two thirds of two hundred and twenty five is one hundred and fifty. Even if the entire UPFA supports his call, he has only ninety six MPs on his side.

The United National Party(UNP) has one hundred and six MPs in their ranks. Assuming that neither the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna(JVP) nor the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) will support Rajapaksa’s call-which is a safe bet- Rajapaksa is expecting fifty four or more than half of the one hundred and six UNP MPs to stand with him and vote for a dissolution of Parliament which will cost them their jobs.

So, the question is, is he joking or is he losing his marbles? After all, he is on the other side of seventy years now!

Lost the mandate

Then we have Amaraweera and Premajayantha telling the President that Nimal Siripala de Silva should be Prime Minister on the basis that the UNP has ‘lost the mandate’.

Even if one assumes, for the sake of argument, that the UNP has ‘lost the mandate’ let us examine the logic of this request, shall we? They claim, the UNP has lost the mandate because it secured only forty one local councils in contrast to the SLPP’s 239. The SLPP secured 44 per cent of the popular vote to the UNP’s 32 per cent. Yes, it was a resounding victory for the SLPP. Surely, if this is interpreted as the UNP ‘losing the mandate’ they should call on someone from the SLPP to be appointed as Prime Minister. But they don’t. They call on Nimal Siripala de Silva to be appointed Prime Minister.

We have nothing against the rotund and affable former Minister of Health. However, he is one of those who joined President Maithripala Sirisena’s government and stayed with him. So, as far as this election is concerned, he represents the UPFA and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). So, what is the percentage of votes the SLFP-UPFA combine obtained at this election? Together, they polled 13 per cent of the vote and won a mere ten local councils. Yet, Premajayantha and Amaraweera want de Silva who represented the SLFP and the UPFA appointed Prime Minister because the UNP has ‘lost the mandate’.That’s a bit rich, isn’t it? Then we have the claim for the post of Leader of the Opposition.

The JO can certainly claim that mantle if all the MPs elected on the UPFA ticket sit on the opposition benches as one party in Parliament. Then, with 96 MPs, they will certainly be the largest opposition grouping in Parliament. But do they? No. Will they do so now? We don’t know yet, at the time of writing.

Even sillier

Half of them sit with the government, some of them holding important ministerial posts, so they can’t surely be part and parcel of an Opposition. And, isn’t it a bit silly anyway when someone demands the post of Leader of Opposition in the National Parliament based on the results of a local government election? And, isn’t it even sillier when half of the party is demanding the appointment of their man as Prime Minister and the other half is demanding the appointment of their man as Leader of the Opposition? How much more weird can you get?

Wake-up call

Let us get back to reality then. The SLPP won the election, fair and square. There were no allegations- even by the losing side, of vote rigging, intimidation or the abuse of state power.

Congratulations to them for doing so well with a party that was formed just the other day! The election however, was to elect representatives for local councils, nothing more, nothing less.

Let us not get our knickers in a twist and try to extrapolate these results to the National Parliament, seeking to change the government, Prime Ministers and leaders of the Opposition.

Instead, let us stick to the basics. Yes, there is a message to the government in the election: their performance has fallen below expectations in the eyes of the people.

The government- both factions of it-should learn lessons from this election and take it as a wake-up call.Otherwise, the SLPP can trounce them at the next elections in 2020. But, unless and until that happens, let us all let the government get on with the job of running the country, because they were elected to do so for five years. For those who have forgotten, that by the way, was the mandate.