23 March, 2019

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Logic Of Coalition Politics As Art Of The Possible Will Continue 

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa has predicted the collapse of the government in the New Year and his return to power. He is demonstrating the same tenacity that stood him in good stead during his long stint in politics prior to rising to become the undisputed leader of the country. He was kept down by his party leaders but prevailed in the end. After his unexpected defeat at the presidential election of January 2015 that he called prematurely he has been tenaciously struggling to stage a political come back to the centre stage of power. Together with his supporters in the Joint Opposition he has been able to demonstrate mass support among a section of the people on numerous occasions but so far has been unable to convert that into real power.

The former president is likely to continue to face this problem of being unable to convert mass support into political power so long as President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickemesinghe continue to engage in coalition politics. Together they are able to muster a 2/3 majority in parliament. This was seen as recently as last month when the budget was approved at all stages by a 2/3 majority. Power lies in the control of government. The stability and strength of the government lies in the continued willingness of the president and prime minister to work together in the realization that each needs the other’s support to continue to stay in power until the next general elections which are three years away.

The understanding that the president and prime minister have about the need to work together is not necessarily shared by senior members of their political parties who have a shorter time frame than they. It is likely that many members of the UNP and SLFP prefer to govern the country by themselves rather than sharing power with each other. They would focus on the fact that they will have more resources to themselves if they govern alone. It will also speed up the decision making process which be slow in a coalition government. The desire of each party to govern alone can be seen in the statements and outbursts that periodically emanate from the members of the two parties about each other. It is these outbursts that create an impression of governmental instability that the former president is focusing upon.

Three Realities 

There are three realities of coalition politics. The first is that decision making will be contested and will therefore be slow. The UNP and SLFP have two different political philosophies. One is more pro-business and internationalist while the other is more redistributionist and nationalist. The president and prime minister represent these two value systems which would be in opposition to each other in normal circumstances. What makes their combination effective is that decisions that are eventually made will tend to include concerns from both ends of the political spectrum and hence will have a greater degree of political acceptability. Examples of this would be the tensions that prevailed but which yielded sustainable outcomes in the passage of the 19th Amendment to the constitution which kept the presidency intact and the change of Governor of the Central Bank in the aftermath of the bond scandal.

The second feature of coalition politics is the need to share power. This can be seen in the preliminary rejection of the Development (Special Provisions) Bill which had been approved by the cabinet of minister. The purpose of this law is to make it easier for investors to start economic projects. At the present time investors have to go to many different government agencies to get approvals to start their projects. They might have to get approvals from the local government authority in the area in which the project is to be located, the Board of Investment and the Central Environmental Authority and many others besides. Getting all these approvals can be a time consuming and frustrating process. The new law seeks to set up a one-stop process to minimize delays. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe has said the Development (Special Provisions) Bill is aimed at accelerating the country’s development to meet the expectations of the public.

However, SLFP members have said they would oppose the government’s efforts to create a super ministry, which they allege would vest concentrated powers in a single minister. They fear that it would usurp the powers of cabinet ministers under whose purview various regulatory agencies of the state come under, as well as the provincial councils. The SLFP controlled provincial councils have vetoed the new law. A one stop process is important for the country’s development, and many other countries have adopted it to facilitate investments that create jobs and wealth. In this situation the way forward would be for the government to ensure that both UNP and SLFP members share decision making power in the one stop process.

Postpone Competition

The third feature of coalition politics is to postpone the competition between them. This accounts for the repeated postponement of local government elections. These elections have now been postponed for nearly two years. Various technical reasons are given. However, the political reality is that the SLFP in particular would not like to go to the polls where they would have to compete against the Joint Opposition in which many of their members are active and to which the former president is giving leadership. The SLFP’s reluctance to go to the polls also suits the UNP at this time. As the party that is in effective charge of the government, the UNP is shouldering the responsibility for putting the country’s economy into shape after it was weighed down by the heavy debt repayments incurred by the former government. The coming year will be one in which the government will wish to consolidate its economic programme, which will be the most important determinant of whether it can obtain the continued electoral support of the electorate.

In this context, it is unlikely that the government will need to decide whether or not to hold a referendum on constitutional change. Minister of National Languages and Co-existence, Mano Ganesan has warned that a referendum on a new constitution cannot be easily won. The Minister emphasized that the government should first and foremost be safeguarded. He has highlighted that the constitutional amendments were needed to be set forth so as they would not be rejected in a Referendum. “We have to make an effort for a while to avoid a Referendum. My view is that if we go for a Referendum, we must be ready to win. For that, instead of a completely new Constitution, we have to think of amendments to key areas,” the Minister stated. He said that the extremist elements would vehemently protest the power devolution proposals, including the police and land powers, recommended by the subcommittee on centre-periphery relations.

The more likely scenario in 2017 therefore will be one of changing the constitution to the extent possible utilizing the coalition government’s 2/3 majority in parliament but without going in for a referendum. This is the model followed by Colombia to consolidate its peace process between the government and rebel FARC militants. The Colombian government failed in October to win a referendum that sought the approval of the people for the peace agreement, much to its own shock and the shock of the international community which awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to those who were architects of the peace agreement. However, in December this peace agreement came into force by being passed by parliament with a unanimous vote in favour. Two tenets of the original agreement, a transitional justice system and a mechanism to allow FARC leaders to participate in politics, were altered slightly in response to concerns raised by political factions that campaigned against the deal. As in Colombia, if this model is followed in Sri Lanka, it does not necessarily mean that the changes made will be any less far reaching or important. Politics, whether coalition or not, remains the art of the possible.

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Latest comments

  • 3
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    Jehans’s paper like the parson’s egg is excellent in parts. It is also concise.

  • 5
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    Jehan,

    Avoiding the referendum on the new constitution seems to have become a necessity for this government. You were hinting at it in your last article, but the last paragraph in this article you have given it more flesh.

    A referendum on a new constitution at this juncture will definitely be defeated, not because of its contents, but because of the escalating dissatisfaction with this government. It will be a protest vote against the government rather than a rejection of the new constitution.

    The answer does not lie in cancelling the referendum and resorting to amendment of the present rotten construction. We do not need amendments like the moth-eaten 19th amendment, which is proving to be a cosmetic exercise.

    The answer lies in firstly governing as promised, eliminating corruption, punishing the corrupt and being sensitive to the crying concerns of the people.

    Less contradictions, reversal of decisions, mistakes and thoughtless words and actions of the President would help. It is annoying to see a President who presides over the cabinet, participates in its decision and is a party to any decision, repudiating it in public. Is he campaigning against his own cabinet. Why does he not oppose what he does not agree with, within the cabinet. Do the rules that apply to other cabinet members apply to him? Is he not collectively responsible. I am beginning to think he is increasingly a liability.

    Secondly, campaigning for the need for a new constitution to resolve national problems and minority concerns. Something on the lines of the ‘Sudu Nelum movement’ at the grass roots level,should be launched now.

    I personally prefer postponing the referendum than avoiding it. I and likely all minorities want to know the so-called Sinhala-Buddhist opinion on the minority issues and modes of resolving them. Much sin has been committed in their name and on their behalf. Let us assess the truth through the referendum. The minorities can then deal with the fact accordingly. Let the cat and mouse game stop. Let expediency be buried six feet deep.

    The well designed and targeted public information campaign and counter arguments will also inform the people on the essential features of the new constitution. If the referendum approves it, the new constitution will have more sanctity. If not, re-try after a decent time lapse.

    Further, sins cannot then be commited in the name of the Sinhala-Buddhist people. We could prove the fact or fallacy of a pernicious and perverted Sinhala-Buddhist opinion as portrayed by the extreme. The minorities opinion too would be ascertained through this referendum. Doubts regarding separatist sentiments among the Tamil voters can be confirmed or thrown overboard forever through the referendum. The reason for the negative vote should be studied and responded.

    A referendum is a golden opportunity for this country to know what it really is and its peoples are.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  • 2
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    Batalanada Ranil wants to give fresh crusty bread to the Elite , Anglicans , Vellalas and the Muslims.and the crumbs to the rest.

    Bodhi Sira is trying to increase the quantity of crumbs, if possible.

    That is all he can do under the agreement which he has with the West, Suren Surendran and the NGOs..

  • 2
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    How dare you Yahapalana suckers can say straight to our face you people cannot be trusted!

    Soma

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      Ho ho…. can anybody with a healthy conscience trust your Athigaru ?

      Man you need to go to a neurologist. Dont let Rajaakshes to harm you too ?

      Bodhi Sira has achieved bunch of things, but they did not market them.
      It is just they are different with marketing.
      Derana or Marana – together with Hiru make every efforts to turn the thoughts in favours of them. Since Hiru wants to get release their brother and Derana or Marana intends to grab their sums no matters the innocient masses would become permennt blind and deaf.

      All in all, you guys, with little brains do support Derana or Marana, and Hiru or Boru loudly as you can, not supporting Thadjudeens family about their worries or….Lasantha and his family with their worries not getting them servied with promised justice to them.

  • 2
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    Jehan Perera

    RE: Logic Of Coalition Politics As Art Of The Possible Will Continue

    “The stability and strength of the government lies in the continued willingness of the president and prime minister to work together in the realization that each needs the other’s support to continue to stay in power until the next general elections which are three years away.”

    Thanks. A good write up.

    Both Sirisena and Ranil are in a symbiotic* relationship, in light of the antics of Mahinda Rajapaksa and his JO cronies. Sirisena ans Ranil need to charge Majinda for his crimes and put an end to this drama. However, it looks like they have let him and his cronies to roam wild in the wilderness of Modayas, Mootals and Fools in the Land.

    *Obligate symbiosis is when two organisms are in a symbiotic relationship because they can’t survive without each other. Facultative symbiosis is when the species live together by choice.

    What is behind the game played by Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sirisena, FCID, dismissal of Ms. Wickramasinghe, the Transfer of DIG in Charge of FCID, all are inter-relared.

    Is Sirisena a Turncoat, Traitor, Gona, and Mala-Perethaya to the 6.2 million who voted for him for Yahapalanaya?

  • 1
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    Jehan PhD’s first para, the preamble to his convoluted theories, is only a preamble to the new relationship he is preparing to seek with Old Royals if the Old Brother Prince, to whom Jehan PhD’s admiring secret love hanging out, becomes the EP. The money put on NGO, NPC to create conducive environment for reconciliation has not produced any fruits by the “Koolukkum Paadi Kangikkum Paado” president of it, Jehan PhD.

    American State Secretary, John Kerry who dethroned Old King and enthroned New King, said at the Last UN convention that some elements in SLFP were blocking the Yahapalanaya Government in fulfilling its promises. We have been arguing it was some Sinhala Chauvinist have have reasons for deporting Tamils in 1948, reasons to have tearing Pacts with Tamils leaders, have reasons to suppress Satyagraha ……. will have reasons to abandon the American sponsored UNHRC resolution too. Secretary Kerry, who hates Tamils because he has Sinhala Intellectuals’ consultancy in his office and who has voted for UN resolution on Israeli settlement in Muslim lands had stayed away even from visiting Tamils’ area. Secretary practiced a policy just 180 degrees to President elect Donald Trump’s. This is the American State Secretary mentioned two months ago about “Some SLFP” elements just only to protect the New King whom he throne. But even before Secretary Kerry get down from his chair, New King has offered his hands to president elect Donald Trump if he would completely repeal Secretary Kerry’s UNHRC resolution, a show of the genuine faith of the Sinhala Intellectualism for Kerry.

    New King has asked New American administration’s favors, now. But it the New King avoided visiting America after Secretary Kerry throne him but made China trip as his first foreign visit. Basic SLFP policies are anti-American and this is what John Kerry indicated by “some SLFP elements” in his last UN get-together. The same SLFP- EP has written the New Administration is asking Donald Trump’s help to repeal the resolution. Lanakwe’s Aappa diplomacy is a well understood but less challenged technology in the Colombo diplomatic circle. Trump’s is business team, not a diplomatic team. It will ask for barter if it has to work in UNHRC to repeal the resolution. Lankawe will raise its both hands to swear to give any promises Donald Trump’s team would ask for. American embassy may have any in depth knowledge of Lankawe’s Aappa Diplomacy, but it cannot be ruled out that Trump Administration will not make the mistake like the repeated pacts SJV did with UNP and SLFP. After implementing Trump’s Administration part and when it comes to the time to implement Lankawe’s part only Lankawe will ask Trump to turn around to give the kick on the butt. Last Republican Ambassador Robert Blake Conducted war for Lankawe but confessed at congress as “Lankawe has cheated America”. But this time it may not end up as an easy confession at Congress for Lankawe. We guessed a lot inside this deal and wrote “This is an Invitation for Sex with Black Widow”. Jehan PhD, who is guiding GOSL into these type of repeated subtle pacts tearing, needs to realize where he is alluring Yahapalanaya this time.

    If New King becomes success with striking a deal with Donald Trump to save Old Royals then Jehan PhD sees no reason for New Constitution, no reconciliation with minorities and with the minor changes to stop Tamils interfering in EP election he wants to fish the game. Further this half-baked SLFP socialist sees that is the good way for the demise of the minority supporting UNP Yahapalanaya too. If New King is success in forging a deal with Trump’s administration, New King Knows it may not be the end of it at UNHRC or even at UN. These are some kind of tangling so they are not easily done or undone. But he wants to go for it because he sees this as way out from uneasy relationship with UNP and to a SLFP only government. They did a thief to thief deal by letting out FCID arrested criminal to prevent Emil Mahendran witnessing at a court of law. As Jehan PhD described that is how the coalition partnership survived the recent test. But they are still at very unease.

    Ranil said to have replied to Old King Challenge of topple the Yahapalanaya government to “Go ahead and do it when I am on the next week’s foreign visit”. It is not 19th amendment, which prevent Old King being able to canvass for his presidency, Ranil is taking his courage from to challenge back Old King, but from the retaliation he thinks would come in from IC. India, EU & China looks like no longer would take the Old Royals for a while. One has to wait and see what is going to be American attitude towards Lankawe under the new administration.

    • 0
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      A load of rubbish not worth reading by the New York TGTE man!

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