By Sarath Wijesinghe –
Sri Lanka follows the Westminster modal, though currently transformed to a mixture of Presidential/ Parliamentary system. Opposition exists by customs, and normal expectations and customs were modified by political realities from time to time. Sri Lanka followed the Westminster model since 1935 and a country mastered on the conventions and practices of the British Model. Free and fair elections supervised by thousands of foreign observers and their positive comments on the General Election and the way the elections were conducted are a credit and an example to the civilized world of democratic ideals. Opposition and the leader of the opposition is a necessity to the democracy and a democratic modelled government system. Sri Lanka can be proud to have followed the democratic ideals and systems based on the British Model following the conventions and traditions of the Western world and Sri Lankan experiences which is exemplary.
In 1846 the Conservative party split into Protectionist Conservative and “Peelite” or liberal Conservatives fractions. The Protectionists became the largest group; the recognized large group in the same party, the recognized leader of the opposition were drawn from the ranks. Though Britain is free to change the conventions and procedure in the absence of a written constitution they continuously adhered to the previous traditions and we too followed the traditions, conventions and the writings of the Jurists and the directions of series of case law and opinions on the subject.
Sri Lanka is facing a dilemma and a complex situation on the same issue in a different situation based on the change of Government and the President in a most unusual manner unique to Sri Lanka in which the President of the country happened to be the Head of the State, Cabinet, Armed Forces and the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party which has secured the second highest Members in Parliament. Prime Minister who is the leader of the UNP with the highest Members of Parliament but not the absolute majority, has formed the government and steps are being taken for the formation of cabinet with the participation of the Major Opposition and other parties to be called a National Government with objections from the JVP which has secured few seats and a sizable number of SLFP Members of Parliament. Many names and proposals have emerged and it is time for the Political leaders and the concerned citizens to arrive at consensus on this matter based on past experiences national and international.
TNA which has secured 17 members in the Parliament is a party with a restricted agenda for the Tamil Community confined only to North and East has to National Agenda for the entire population as in any other party. SLMC restricted to the Muslim Community however has integrated with the united National Party and their aspirations are limited to the Muslim population in the country. Therefore the credibility and competence for TNA or the SLMC to be the opposition leader is doubtful.
“The Ideal candidate for the leader of the Opposition is the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa who led to SLFP to near victory. He has gracefully and politely declined the offer and chose to be an ordinary member of the Parliament which is not an unusual scenario. He is a political animal who likes to be in politics in some way refusing to retire in public life. Most world leaders were active in social services after retirement. Bill Clinton is still active in public services. Prime Minister Edward Heath of the Conservative party continued to be a member of the parliament until his death”.
We should be capable and free to transform ourselves according to needs and situations and this is the time to show statesmanship of those who are genuinely interested in the country. It is pleasant to hear and notice that the dust is settling and the venom and vengeance is fading away gradually proving that “no permanent friends or enemies in Politics- only political interests remain”. Absolute power corrupts and there are numeral examples in the world for us to be cautious. It is time for us to emerge with a unique system to set an example to the world that we are capable to manage our own affairs of world standards. It is time for all political parties to incorporate and practise internal democracy and to incorporate a model constitution of political parties in the constitution as long as we follow the party system which is an integrated part of Parliamentary democracy. Giving freedom for the party members to arrive at a decision independently is an option open and available. Voters should not be disappointed as they will in future have no trust in the electoral process. Voters declining to vote and the wasted votes given the recent polls are giving a dangerous signal.