Alliance: A Constitutional requirement - Tissa | Sunday Observer

Alliance: A Constitutional requirement - Tissa

Former UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake
Former UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake

President-Prime Minister Alliance: What Parliamentarians say

In the wake of the possible dissolving of Parliament early next month, Opposition (United National Party) Parliamentarians are proposing a new coalition government under a collaborative leadership of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and current-Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa.

These politicians claim that a Gotabaya-Sajith partnership would be the best alternative to the public.

The Face to Face segment of the week, is dedicated to inquiring about this new political opinion from members of both the SLPP and the UNP.

Q. A possible Gota Sajith Gota alliance is being mooted by certain UNP members. Why do you think there is a prospect for such an arrangement in the face of a crucial election?

A. Gotabaya Rajapaksa is already the President. If Sajith Premadasa wins the upcoming parliamentary election, he has to work with the current president. Thus, this Gota-Sajith alliance means a constitutional requirement, and not a political alliance as incorrectly portrayed by those with vested interests.

We are not thinking of a possible team up before the election. The 19-A vested most of the executive powers with the Parliament therefore, it is a constitutional obligation for the President to work with the next government which seizes power.

The Prime Minister will lead the Government which has the fundamental responsibility to run the country. The President as the leader of the State has to work with the Government. It is the tradition and it is dictated by the Constitution. There is no need to believe various rumors which are being spread by individuals.

Q. We saw the best of such arrangements fail in the past. How can you vouch that this is the best governing model for the country?

A. There can be conflicts, due to constitutional and other issues. The 19-A has transferred many executive powers to the Prime Minister and he will lead the Government. Therefore, if the President and the Government are from two different political parties, conflicts due to certain differences of opinion can crop up.

In 1994, when UNP’s D.B.Wijethunga was the President, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga was appointed as PM from the UPFA. This set up lasted only a few months, therefore, major conflicts were avoided.

But in 2001, Chandrika Kumaratunga was the President when Ranil Wickremesinghe became the PM. That was a period of disaster because their political views always clashed. This is a serious flaw in the Constitution.

Then in 2015, the two leaders Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe were elected. They represented a common political movement, although they were initially from two opposing political camps. After months of working together, they drifted apart. They had a joint election campaign and were working on common goals. But differences of opinion developed into a major rift and created issues in the Government.

This can happen in the future, we cannot overrule that, especially since in Sri Lanka we don’t have national policies. There can be conflicts when making decisions on policy matters. That’s a reality but I anticipate less conflicts between these two leaders who have shown by deed that they are driven by the people’s mandate.

Q. Do you say that their ideologies are in harmony with each other?

A. There are two sides to this story. The President’s way of thinking, his philosophy and principles are at variance with the former leaders of this country. He has shown this by word and deed. He has shown genuineness in his performance so far.

Even Sajith Premadasa has similar policies to fight bribery and corruption. We saw his staunch dedication and firmness in serving the country’s poor. A tie up between these two leaders will not be that difficult.

But he will not sacrifice his party policies. It is alright to call this a coalition government. But there will not be any tie ups between political parties. There will be an understanding to work together for five years.

Q. But the SLPP members have not shown any support for such an arrangement so far. In fact the SLPP Chairman Prof.G.L.Peiris has gone on record saying that the SLPP diametrically opposes such an alliance ?

A. That is true, the SLPP may have reservations about such an arrangement. Their thinking is different. But the reality is if Sajith gets elected, we have to work with the current President. He will be in office for another four and a half years.

We have a political agenda and a national agenda. We have a good understanding as to how these two should be implemented without getting the two mixed up. So, we are preparing to minimise conflicts.

But the SLPP seem to be adamant, that they will not go for a coalition government and that only they should be in power. That is not a good way to go.

If the voters decide both the parties must get together and work for the betterment of the country, we, politicians will have to accept their decision.

The recent electoral trends have shown that people don’t give too much power to a single party. They want to balance it, limit it. The voters are more politically mature now. They don’t get carried away by popular slogans. This is very clear when you study the behavior of the voters since 2015.

Now, there are more floating votes than the block vote, . Even the young voters think differently. Their decisions depend on the current situation. If they think power should not be concentrated in one place, we have to honour that decision.

Q. You said there will be conflict areas in a possible SLPP- UNF palliance, have you identified areas where such conflicts might crop up ?

A. The conflicts will not be on policy issues but on matters of politics. I believe that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is not driven by a political agenda. Therefore, I would not anticipate many issues in a future alliance between Sajith and Gota.

It is clear that the present President has no long term plans in politics. I believe that is a plus point for us. When someone is politically ambitious, that will overshadow everything else.

But the current President’s behaviour will make it easy for us to reach a consensus on policy matters and invest in a working arrangement to steer the country forward for the next five years.

The key areas of our attention in a future government would be an efficient state sector, economic, social and cultural development, national security and an end to bribery and corruption.

Q. Will you be discussing this idea of a future coalition with President Rajapaksa or SLPP representatives before the general election?

A. I don’t think we need to address this area before the election. We will wait for the outcome of the election and then decide as to how we will proceed because then we will be on a better footing to negotiate