Need for negotiations and compromise | Sunday Observer

Need for negotiations and compromise

The rivalry between the main coalition partners in the former National Unity Government may have reached a climax on October 26, when the SLFP-UPFA withdrew from the coalition, but the country yet awaits an end to the current instability caused by the continuing jockeying for power. Those engaged in the tussle must bear some responsibility for the increasing weakness in the national economic fundamentals caused by the political uncertainty.

Come Friday, the Supreme Court is to rule on the validity of the dissolution of Parliament, but that does not and cannot resolve the political crisis. The political crisis arose with the collapse of the coalition government following the withdrawal from the coalition of SLFP-UPFA combine. The SLFP-UPFA is led by President Maithripala Sirisena and they were in coalition with the UNP-UNF in the ‘National Unity’ coalition government that swept to power following Maithripala Sirisena’s historic Presidential victory in January 2015.

Faced with a collapsed governing coalition, the President did the next best thing by offering the Premiership to Mahinda Rajapaksa as the parliamentarian with the ability to build a working majority to govern the country. What was urgent at the time of the collapse of the National Unity regime was to dispel uncertainty by appointing a new government without delay or prevarication.

Faced with an unrelenting agitation in Parliament by the unseated former governing parliamentary group, President Sirisena has rightly resorted to further attempts to search for a compromise political arrangement. If his final option is to conduct general elections, the President must first await the Supreme Court’s ruling on the matter.

Given the frailties of our much-amended Constitution, the President has little room to manoeuvre without being accused of manipulation. But, he is stubbornly persisting with the most constructive path of a negotiated solution to the question of government.

Hence, the continued meetings with the many parliamentary blocs in the search for a viable and stable government that can proceed with the management of the country without the hindrance of political agitation and hostile propaganda. The nation does not wish to see a repeat of the stonewalling in Parliament of the past weeks, nor of the use of combat tactics to push through legislative decisions.

How does a country’s political leadership act to resolve a governance crisis brought about by the severe inadequacies of the Constitutional framework itself? When the nation is compelled to step beyond existing Conventions simply because the Constitutional provisions do not exist to adequately deal with the deadlock, then we are in uncharted territory. Other democracies, faced with their own constitutional inadequacies, botched referenda and, criminal probes of leaders, are not in a position to help.

We must draw on our own resources of political wisdom and propriety. Good faith is needed and consistency in intention and action, all attributes for which our politicians are not famous.

That there are discussions on-going between political parties as well as with concerned civic leaders is something in which the citizenry can have confidence – that the politicians are not simply indulging in dramatic political fisticuffs. After all, heated political confrontations have the tendency to lead to heated physical confrontations and violence and destructive behaviour.

No one wants a dragging deadlock to drive party activists in to the streets in violent contestations that will make a mockery of our democratic image. Who wants political uncertainty to turn into chaos. The hope is that the crisis will challenge leaderships to take fresh and creative initiatives to resolve it rather than allowing the country to slide into mayhem.

The Tamil National Alliance has come forward to help resolve issues through negotiation. As one of the most senior and most experienced groups in Parliament, the TNA is endeavouring to facilitate political negotiations between parties to bring about a new governmental configuration. What is needed is the avoidance of past leadership issues and personality controversies and, a building on compromise and concession to ensure the emergence of a politically stable government.

All sides need patience and humility rather than an unseemly rush for power accompanied by tumultuous recriminations and calls for vengeance. What is needed are considered and sober moves reaching towards sustainable governance, and not the clamour and machinations of elements thirsty for power.

Our politicians and party leaders need to be sternly reminded that the goal is governance and not merely power. The citizenry wishes to see the taking up of responsibilities and tasks of dealing with national challenges, rather than the hurried grasping of power and privilege.

So we must look to our political leaders to persist with negotiations and the building of compromises rather than a return to confrontation that will only cause more damage to the nation. Future generations of political leaders are watching and will be influenced by the ways of today’s leadership.