National consensus and consent are essential for revival | Sunday Observer

National consensus and consent are essential for revival

29 May, 2022

Sri Lanka’s economy has reached the point of eruption with the prevailing financial crunch and an enormous shortage of foreign exchange. The situation is so volatile that there is no time even to analyse what went wrong, but how the solution should be found immediately.

A vast majority of the general public is unaware of the real danger that will pause in the next few months. They must be educated about the current status quo and manipulated to act on rationality rather than disrupting the day-to-day administrative processes.

People are extremely frustrated, angry and beyond logical thinking. With shortages of fuel, LP gas, food supplies, and power cuts, they impulsively resort to aggressive responses. Hence, an instant plan is needed to deal with the boiling point of public annoyance.

However, the legislature that is assigned to resolve public issues with the people’s representatives, despite pleas from the citizenry, is still in over their heads on petty political issues during their expensive Parliamentary sittings. Most of the time is wasted on relatively unimportant matters. The public is yet to see positive proposals, action programs, or relief plans for the suffering masses. A mutually agreed consensus cannot be seen as yet in the Parliament.


Clearly, people’s burning problems do not seem to be the priority of almost all the politicians representing the Parliament as of now. They still ignore the fact that public frustration has reached a dangerous proportion. For the past several weeks, every single day, throughout the country, ordinary people have displayed their extreme weariness by blocking roads and other protests.

Law enforcement is most often helpless against these scattered protests with large crowds. On one hand, the police do not have enough manpower to control tense situations, and also, they are visibly exhausted. Furthermore, with the recent incidents, quite understandably, they are reluctant to engage themselves in stern policing actions. Presenting a somewhat dangerous trend, the people seem to keep on ignoring the police presence, causing a clear future threat of lawlessness.

The anti-Government protests, particularly those who are agitating in Galle Face Green, who are demanding the removal of the President, seem to ignore the dire economic situation the country is undergoing. The recent television and social media interviews clearly indicated that they have no well-defined and precise suggestions for their actions if the President steps down.

Although the originators of the protests were genuine, lately, political freebooters have subtly crept in and disrupted the proceedings with their selfish intentions. In particular, a rebellious political party with negligible national representation took control of the peaceful protest. These political vultures, sensing the opportunity, were quick to make hay while the sunshine lasts.

Their demand for the resignation of the President is predominantly emotional as of now. Full credit must be given to the Galle Face Green protesters for forcing a powerful Government to step down without engaging in aggressive measures. This is one of the most successful campaigns in contemporary history.

Nevertheless, their continuous call for the resignation of the President is controversial at this point as the Constitutional outcome would be the current Prime Minister being elevated to the position of President of the country. It is highly uncertain that the protesting factions would accept or agree to such an appointment, even for a short term.

Hence, the current proposal of bringing the 21st Amendment to the Constitution seems the best short-term remedy, until the country is ready for a general election. The 21st Amendment entails that the entitled powers of the incumbent President under the 20th Amendment be reduced and transferred to the Parliament.

The aim is to achieve competent, efficient, transparent, and uncorrupted governance. Some of the optimistic enclosures of the 19th Amendment, such as the Constitutional Council, independent commissions, methods of appointing key Government officials and other nationally important matters, are supposed to be in the 21st Amendment. The newly appointed Minister of Justice has announced that he will present the draft bill to the Parliament as a matter of priority.

Clear distinction

There is a clear distinction between the needs and wants of the general public and politicians at this point in time. However, in a democratic country, political consensus is compulsory for the administration. Thus, whether the public likes it or not, Parliamentary representation is obligatory.

Ironically, however, a vast majority of politicians ignore this important fact and still go after political gains. This situation is clearly evident after the new Prime Ministerial appointment, where Parliamentarians from pro-Government benches are vehemently contesting with each other for ministerial appointments. The enormous hardships the public is undergoing are secondary to them.

Although the new Premier has started his sixth term and has initially shown enthusiasm, energy, and vigour, he has not so far managed to offer considerable relief to the public. Naturally, he must be given adequate time to perform and produce results. Although he says that the next few months will be harder for the country, he has yet to present his action plan to the public.

Similar to the childish pledges of so-called leftist parties that they will make the country prosperous, empty statements based on theory by any politician are not acceptable to the masses. People will respond only if the solution is presented with concrete evidence, for the simple reason that politicians during the past seventy-four years have hoodwinked them.

Ordinary citizens are not currently concerned about the ongoing political circus. The prices of basic commodities are soaring and have already reached unbearable heights. The price controls that prevailed for a long time have become a mockery. The Government has lifted price controls, paving the way for unscrupulous traders to make additional profits in any way they please. On the other hand, retailers have no alternative other than to sell what they purchase to resell at a higher price.

As a more serious concern, despite the claims by some of the infamous former Ministers who boasted that Sri Lanka would never face food shortages, professionals engaged in agriculture are issuing serious warnings that a severe food shortage in the country is imminent.

Adding salt to the wound, early this month, in a joint statement, the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) and World Food Program (WFP) together with the European Union (EU) warned of acute food insecurity in the world. Fortunately, although Sri Lanka’s name is not on the most affected list, the global crisis is certain to shake the country as a major portion of essential food-related products are being imported currently.

Also, the chemical fertiliser ban has severely disrupted all types of indigenous food supply chains. According to professionals, food shortages will have a higher impact than scarcities of fuel and LP gas. Therefore, the new Government must initiate immediate remedial action on food supplies to avoid another public uprising.

Despite forming a new Government, the urgently required political stability has not been established in the country. Although a new Prime Minister and his Cabinet have been sworn in, there are many opposing views that emerge among the political parties and Parliamentarians.

Recently formed alliances appear to be experiencing new situations with the head rolling in their parties. Most likely, instead of uniting in this gruesome crisis, the disharmony among them will come out into the open again. However, the ground reality is that the country cannot afford such conflicts that disrupt political stability.

The general public has not yet seen adequate active participation of the newly appointed cabinet ministers. Except for a very few, none of them has even made a public statement on their immediate plans on important issues related to their respective ministries.

Little hope

This behaviour of the Government can deteriorate the little hope the citizenry currently retains. People opine the actions taken by the government since the resignation of the former prime minister and his cabinet are grossly inadequate.

Most of the citizenry is still unaware of the dangers ahead although several prominent leaders, including the new premier, have publicly announced some of them. Unless the societal leaders including politicians in unison warn them about the imminent jeopardies, they will act irrationally and further harm the already fermented and pathetic state of affairs.