By Kamal Nissanka –
The Liberal Party of Sri Lanka is deeply concerned at the recent breakdown in Law and Order and the exacerbation of communal violence that has taken place in the last couple of days. Whilst we still await further details of what actually happened, it is clear that the authorities have not acted with a sense of responsibility, in having permitted public demonstrations in an inflammable situation.
It is also worrying that there is no clear reporting of what is going on, since this leaves room for all sorts of rumours. In a context in which the government, understandably, feels that there are efforts at destabilization, it must be all the more careful to ensure that there is a clear chain of command so that the safety of all citizens can be ensured.
The intensity of the provocation being exercised seems related to the absence of the President from the country. This is understandable given that the general belief is that he is the only person fit and able to exercise authority. But this is not an acceptable situation, since clearly it is necessary for him to leave the country on occasion, not least because he is the only person in a position to represent the country credibly in other countries.
That being the case, it is urgent that he appoints a Prime Minister able to take charge in his absence. He knows how the country benefited from his prompt action when the tsunami struck in 2004. He should not allow the country to languish now when a crisis hits and he is away. We strongly urge therefore that he appoint a senior member of his party immediately as Prime Minister, with a mandate to take charge of affairs in his absence. Direct contact with him should be facilitated instead of a system of having to go through functionaries without clear responsibilities.
We hope therefore that Mr Nimal Siripala de Silva or Mr Maithripala Sirisena or Mr Susil Premjayanth is appointed soon to the post of Prime Minister, with clear authority in the absence of the President, and also a mandate to ensure coordination amongst Ministers in areas that now seem to suffer from neglect. The Prime Minister should also be empowered to ensure better liaison with Parliament, to prevent the sort of situation that arose when a number of young Parliamentarians refused to vote for what they saw as the Casino Bill even though prior discussion of this in Committee should have made it clear that there was no great change in current practices envisaged by the Bill.
In short, we are faced now with a crisis of governance, and it is necessary to broad-base authority instead of retreating further into the fortress, which has been recommended by those within the Cabinet who have failed to express their confidence in the government of which they form a part. Their own exacerbation of communal tendencies and narrow-mindedness, having been left unchecked, has contributed to the current crisis, and it is to be hoped that traditional SLFP values of moderation will assert themselves. The firmness with which the government of Mr Bandaranaike acted in 1959 when there was communal violence, as opposed to the failure to act of the Jayewardene government in 1983, is a lesson that this government must take to heart.
*Kamal Nissanka – Secretary General – Liberal Party of Sri Lanka – Statement of the Liberal Party of Sri Lanka on the Current Crisis of Government