Last Week was a turning point in the Yahapalanaya government rule. This is because the budget was passed in Parliament with 165 votes and more than a two-thirds majority. However, I do not wish to speak about the government’s victory, but rather, about the day preceding the budget vote, where several MPs of the United National Party including Thushara Indunil and Mujibur Rahman held a press conference where strong criticisms were leveled at the previous SLFP regime and its Ministers. They also went on to say that if they could not remain in the system, that they should simply leave. This is a symbolic threat.
I believe that there is a large political significance behind the statement made by the UNP Ministers, just prior to the budget vote. To elaborate further, they are simply stating that the opposition, instead of pulling the leg of the government and enjoying the power and privilege of government jobs and posts, ministerial and state position reserved for the UNP, they should hand those said benefits over and leave. I personally believe that at the time of the press conference, the government had already obtained the votes of TNA MP’s Thondaman and Douglas Devananda’s in favour of the budget and secured its majority.
However, in the days preceding the budget vote, the very same SLFP Ministers who held press conferences and hurled criticisms and accusations towards the Prime Minister and the UNP, voted for the budget without a single muttered protest. This, in a way, is a letdown. Symbolically, they may still enjoy the privileges afforded to them by the government, obstruct and complicate government affairs and create a singular and powerful SLFP government, cancelling out any ability for the rational people to conduct themselves.
The backbenchers and supporters of the United National Party wish for, not a government with a two-thirds majority, but a UNP government, where there is a simple majority, and they not only hold Ministerial positions, but their supporters too are guaranteed with jobs. A Parliament team has been authorized to work in regards to maintaining the Presidency under the UNP working committee decision. Therefore, the ability for the UNP to remain influential has been lost by showing the SLFP a two-thirds majority and threatening to destroy the constitutional reforms. If there are no constitutional reforms in the country, it will prove disastrous for a single UNP government, for the continuation of the Party and the continuation of Sri Lanka. The backbenchers of the UNP state that the UNP, together with the President, can maintain a government for the next three and a half years with a simple majority. The President himself was appointed by UNP supporters, and therefore, they have an inherent respect towards him.
What is now left for the SLFP Ministers to do is to leave behind the state power, contracts, vehicles, living quarters and other benefits which they enjoyed over the last 20 years, and follow the example of Mahinda Rajapakse and get onto the streets and protest, hold conferences, and engage in the difficult act that is politics. If they chose to do so, not only will they be insignificant in the presence of the SLFP supporters, but they will also be subject to vile insults and berating from the public, and be thieves amongst the thieves of the Mahinda Rajapakse led opposition. In my opinion, after this incident, the SLFP ministers lost any ability they possessed to influence the United National Party.
The other incident occurred last week is that of the Magampura Port in Hambantota. As we all now undoubtedly know, contract employees of the port detained two ships transporting goods for more than 72 hours. According to International Maritime Law, this is nothing short of Piracy.
Despite the job security of the contract employees of the government port being guaranteed, the Navy had to be commanded by the government to manage the violent and disruptive behavior by these same employees which was causing immense damage to public property. The Navy Commander had to personally intervene in this matter due to two reasons. The first is that he is a well-trained pilot, and the second is that as the Sri Lankan Naval Commander, he has an immense responsibility in ensuring that the Indian Ocean is devoid of acts of piracy. In the aftermath of the events of Hambantota, despite several protests around the nation against the Navy Commander, the Government has remained firm in its stand to defend and protect him.
The wonderful irony of this is that the very same opposition comprising of the joint opposition, nationalists and representatives of the SLFP, all of whom constantly pledge their allegiance towards fighting for the soldiers, raising money for them and holding press conferences for them, have suddenly done a complete 180 degrees and are now taking the side of the local journalists against that of the Navy Commander and the Navy.
My conclusion from this, is that the joint opposition and the national forces of this country lack an organized and theoretical foundation. Furthermore, junior journalists within several media organizations broadcast these simple arguments as the day’s news in order to further their political agenda. This however is not a political process which is strong enough to send a government packing.