1 October, 2020

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Time Is Right To Deal With The “Joint Opposition” And “I, Me, & Mine” Politics

By Gamini Jayaweera

Gamini Jayaweera

Gamini Jayaweera

In the Sri Lankan General Election on 17 August 2015, the United National Party won the highest number of seats in the Sri Lanka Parliament but they failed to get the overall majority to rule the country. The leader of the second largest party, UPFA decided to form a coalition government with the UNP to govern the country for the next five years. The Central Committee of the SLFP ratified the proposal forwarded by its leader to join the coalition government, hence the so called “National Government” mainly consist of MPs from UNFGG & SLFP was established after the election under the premiership of the UNP leader, Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe.

As per the constitution of Sri Lanka, the Opposition Leader is elected from the party which has got the largest number of seats in the opposition. Accordingly the parliament has elected the Leader of the Tamil National Alliance party, Mr.R. Sampanthan as the Opposition Leader of the new parliament. Mainly the government is represented by the coalition led by two major parties, UNFGG & UPFA and the Opposition is represented by mainly TNA and JVP. This is how the parliamentary democracy works in practice and the process has been accepted by the civilised societies in all over the world. If so, what is this so called “Joint Opposition” formed by some members from one of the parties in the coalition government in the Sri Lankan parliament? Has it been given any legitimacy to function in the parliament under the banner of “Joint Opposition”? Do these MPs represent UPFA or any other “invisible” party which is known to themselves only?

“Joint Opposition”

It appears that the minority partners of the UPFA, namely MEP, NFF, DLF, and PHU together with some SLFP members of parliament who supported the former President Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa in the general election to become the Prime Minister, have formed an informal group to oppose the Coalition Government because it is led by Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe, the leader of the UNP. The irony is that the members of the so called “Joint Opposition” are still members of the coalition government’s parliamentary group (UPFA & UNFGG), but behave inside and outside the parliament as a “separate party”. It has been reported by some of the members of the “Joint Opposition” that the leader of the UPFA, President Maithripala Sirisena has granted permission for the rebel MPs of the governing coalition to sit in the opposition and carry out their parliamentary affairs as members of the “opposition”. If this is true, there is no doubt that we have become the laughing stock of the civilised world because the ruling party members cannot represent the official opposition in the parliament unless they resign from the governing party and sit in the opposite side of the chambers. This is traditionally known as “Crossing the floor” which means the changing allegiance. The naked truth of the matter is that there is only one official “Joint Opposition” in a parliament and that that is the combination of all parties in the opposition which have been accepted and approved by the parliament.

Mandate for Change

Sri Lankans of all races and of all religions have given the mandate in millions on 8 January and 17 August in favour of a real change in political culture that is required to run our country for the next 5 years. It appears that the MEP, NFF, DLF, PHU and several other SLFP members are not willing to accept the coalition government of the UNP and the SLFP or the new political culture which has been advocated by the President and the Prime Minister. If so, they should do the decent thing of leaving the UPFA and “crossing the floor” to operate as separate minor opposition parties or form a new party to represent them in the parliament. It appears that the SLFP members who have joined this so called “Joint Opposition” are behaving in a most undemocratic manner taking no notice of the decisions and policies advocated and approved by the Leader and the Central Committee of the SLFP. If the rebel members of the SLFP feel that they cannot support the UNP led coalition government, the general public expect them to do the decent thing of either changing the leadership of the SLFP by democratic means and withdrawing from the coalition government or resigning from the SLFP to represent the opposition. It is apparent that these rebel MPs neither want to leave the party nor they want to support the policies of the Leader and the Central Committee of their own party. If so, people in Sri Lanka cannot understand why the Leadership of the SLFP is not taking any disciplinary action against these rebel members? How long the Leadership of the SLFP is going to tolerate this “Tail Wagging the Dog” culture practised by the rebel MPs of the SLFP?

“I, Me, & Mine” Politics

It appears that these rebel MPs are still bitter about the defeat of their former leader and they do not want to change their mind-set to accept the reality and move forward. Some of our politicians have already demonstrated that they practice “I, me, & mine” politics and they have failed to see the bigger picture. They are not interested in national policies which bring peace and prosperity to the country. Some ministers of the coalition government, from both parties argue in public stating that one is better than the other clearly exhibiting their upbringing, culture of “I, Me, & Mine” politics, and lack of political experience & political maturity. Recent activities of some of our politicians have demonstrated that they are lacking a very important leadership quality of humility and they are full of ego which defines the strength of ignorance, greed, and hatred according to Buddhism. The irony is that they call themselves as ardent Buddhists who are working to preserve the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha in Sri Lanka!

The President and the Prime Minister have demonstrated, as Ezra Taft Benson stated “Pride is concerned with who is right. Humility is concerned with what is right.” We have witnessed that so far the President and the Prime Minister are singing from the same hymn sheet demonstrating that they can work together in open and honest manner to establish the new political culture. On a positive note we have also witnessed during last few months that some politicians from both parties are willing to learn and embrace the new political culture which has been promoted by the President and the Prime Minister.

Time is Right

It is fair to say that the President Maithripala Sirisena has allowed a reasonable period of time for these rebel members to reflect on the present political climate and respect the democratic decisions taken by the leader and the central committee of the SLFP to govern the country for the next five years as a coalition partner of the present government. It appears that they do not want to embrace radical changes to our old style political culture which supports short-term political goals and hinders the long-term religious, moral, social and economic developments in the country. The nation believes that radical changes on all fronts are urgently required if we are going to provide an efficient, cost effective public service and compete for our goods and services in the global market.

The general public feels that the time is right for a decision by the Leadership and the Central Committee of the SLFP to take disciplinary actions against these rebel MPs to maintain the party discipline and safeguard the wider interests of the country.

The voters feel that the time is right for the leaders of both major parties to demonstrate that they do not support or tolerate the narrow minded party members who practice “I, Me, & Mine” politics to sabotage the advancement of social, religious, cultural, economic, and technological developments which the nation now deserves.

The general public also feels that the time is right for the President to demonstrate that he leads our country as a Statesman, not as a Politician and as James Freeman Clark said in 1870 “A politician thinks of the next election; a statesman of the next generation. A politician looks for the success of his party; a statesman for that of his country. The statesman wished to steer, while the politician was satisfied to drift.”

*The writer is a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and has obtained a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Henley Management College, Oxford

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Latest comments

  • 2
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    Clearly this writer has very little or no understanding of ‘democracy’. Democracy is the governance and the decision making based on the will of the people. For democracy to function and prosper, things like free speech, the rule of law and a strong opposition are vital.

    Representative Democracy at a national level happens through parliament and in Sri Lanka, president, provincial and local government level. Those elected by the people must represent the people that elected them and the interests of those who elected them. It is not their role or function to betray the mandate of the people that elected them, merely to follow the dictates of the party hierarchy of their political party ( which in Sri Lanka is not even democratic).

    The joint opposition is the real opposition in this country and the only opposition. Both the JVP and TNA while officially in opposition, enjoying the privileges afforded to them are in reality supporting the government. While the real check, the holding to account of this government is done by the ‘joint opposition’.

    The writer should stick to surveying. Democracy is not about everyone supporting the government that wins the last election. Thats more commonly seen in doctatorships.

    • 3
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      The day – law and order will be able to convict this man – the day, lankens in general will work on peace and reconciliation.

      Else, all the peace initiatives being made by current rulers, will have to move on a snail walk – since stupid, guillible, gawky people will only listen to their leader – according to them, Mahinda Rajapakshe and his magical powers only caused to save the nation from Ltte terror. These people are abused by Rajaapkshe media men-and artists, that hyped up Rajapskhe by narrating them stories that are not based on facts. Those stories are tarred in the mind sets of those vulnerable folks.

      So to the very same manner current rulers should work on proving MR and his high profile abuses. There fund grabs ranging to billions, and murder cases hidden by their own men all should be exposed to people sooner than later.

    • 3
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      Dear Mr. Judas,
      Thank you very much for your comments.
      It appears that you have written those comments in anger which may ruin your health.
      No need to get angry and make personal attacks as this is a civilised forum where people can learn from each others’ different views.

      However, I cannot agree with some of your comments about parliamentary democracy and how you define the real Opposition.

      Of course MPs don’t have to agree on all matters which the government is proposing to the parliament. Please note that I have never stated in my article that these MPs or any other MPs could not voice their dissent to proposals put forward by the governing party.

      But as I understand, and if I am wrong please do correct me, major events like the second readings of important bills. traditionally a “three-line-whip” is applied by each party making sure that the members will vote according to the party lines.
      Defying a “three-line-whip” is a serious matter which means members can be expelled from the party until the whip is restored.

      The freedom to vote according to their personal consciences is defined as “A Free Vote” in the parliament where parties do not ask their members to vote on a certain way.
      For example, if the hanging debate comes to the parliament a free vote should be allowed because it is a matter of conscience.

      In 1951, Mr.SWRD Bandaranayake and few other MPs crossed the floor of the chambers and joined the Opposition and accordingly they also got the privileges of the opposition.
      As I could remember, in 1964 Mr.C.P.De Silva and 13 others of the SLFP crossed the floor of the chambers against Mrs. Bandaranayake’s govt. and joined the Opposition UNP to defeat the govt.
      Very recently in 2014, Mr Maithreepala Sirisena and six others crossed the floor of the chambers and joined the opposition because they did not agree with the policies of the previous regime.

      Hope you agree that the those politicians have done the decent thing.

      As I have explained, the problem with the members of so called “Opposition” is that they are still members of the ruling party and they have demanded that they wanted to sit in the opposition.
      They are voting against the government where important bills are presented for approval.
      They have also demanded that they wanted to enjoy the privileges that have been allocated to Opposition parties. They do not want to leave the governing party but they demand for additional debating times which have been allocated to Opposition members.
      They must understand that they have contested on the UPFA manifesto and the people have voted for them accordingly.

      They cannot have both ways.

      Either they should resign from the governing party and enjoy the privileges allocated to opposition or they should comply with the processes and procedures approved and advocated by the majority of
      their party.

      Please also note that there are only six political parties have been accepted and approved by the Speaker to represent the parliament.

      May you enjoy good health always.

      Kind Regards
      Gamini Jayaweera

      • 1
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        Mr. jayaweera

        Again you have got your wires completely crossed. Democracy is not fostered, strengthened or nurtured by the political party that wins the election infiltrating the opposition party hierarchy, then putting a deal with that hierarchy that goes against the mandate given by those people who voted for the opposition.

        90% of the people who voted for the UPFA in 2015 did not vote for a UNP led government. What is happening in the country now is the most dangerous form of supression of dissent in recent times e.g. the ruling of the speaker about recognising political parties, appointing the leader of the opposition and an opposition whip who are in support of the government. The effect of these moves is to silence the voices of all those MPs representing who do not support this government (whether as you say these MPs and the people they represnt are: uneducated ediots, racists etc.,

        You may not understand this now, but when the legitimate mechanisms of voicing dissent is curtailed by the government, people will resort to other means. There is a dark age for Sri Lanka coming if this trend of supression continues much longer.

        As to your references to crossing the floor etc. those are comstitutional conventions obseved by some other parliaments in the world. Our Parliamentary procedures are goverened by the Constitution and the Standing Orders of Parliament. Just for your interest H E Mithreepala Sirisena never crossed the floor, infact he claimed he never left the party even claimed he was still the General Secretary of the SLFP while he ran against the candidate who he nominated as the General Secretary of the SLFP to be the presidential candidate for the 2015 election. Not only that he lived in his official residence given to a Cabinet Minister used vehicles and security detail afforded to a Cabinet Minister.

        Again- representative democracy is not about following the dictates of an undemocratic party hierarchy of the opposition infiltrated (through money and power) by the pary that won the last election, rather their role is to give voice and affect to the will of the people that elected their representatives.

        • 1
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          Dear Mr. Judas,
          Thanks for your comments.
          It appears that you are not answering the question, try to Play with words and complicate the issue.
          You sound like a politician!

          The UNP led govt. has been accepted and approved by UPFA.
          If the dissapointed “Joint Opposition” feels that they could not support this govt. the DECENT thing to do is either to capture the power in the UPFA and remove the current Chairman and the CC or leave the govt. and join the opposition.

          That is what I was asking them to do in my article. What is wrong with that?

          Are you saying that they do not have the freedom to do that?
          How Do you explain that it does not tie up with our parliamentary democracy?

          If you are a member of a political party or any other organisation you have to abide by the constitution of that organisation. If you do not agree with the policies, you have the right to leave the organisation. No one is keeping you in the organisation by force. This is common sense.

          In practice you cannot satisfy all. You have to accept the majority verdict otherwise you will be faced with anarchy not democracy.

          With regards to MS’s crossover you are incorrect because the recognised party he represented in parliament was UPFA. He left the UPFA and contested as a candidate of DNF.
          Isn’t it a crossover?
          By the way soon after MS declared his candidacy, he was sacked from his general secretary post of the SLFP by MR and appointed a new general sec.

          Thank you very much for participating in the discussion.
          Wish you all the very best.

          Kind regards
          Gamini Jayaweera

          • 1
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            Mr. Jayaweera,

            You are getting tied up with your own words. The members of the Joint opposition officially informed the speaker that they do not support the government. The speaker refused to recognise this and appointed the leader of the TNA (who actually supports the government). The Opposition leader appointed JVP leader as the opposition whip. The members of the so called ‘Joint opposition’ are now not allocated time to speak in parliament.

            Mr Jayaweera, you fundamentally misunderstand democracy. Democracy is not giving effect to the will and dictates of a political party hierarchy (i.e. the UPFA and UNP deal).

            Democracy requires those elected to represent the people in parliament, to represent the interests, sentiments, and views of those people and abide by their wishes (not support the government). Why have elections if you want to run the country by party CC and secretary decisions?

    • 3
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      Judas

      “While the real check, the holding to account of this government is done by the ‘joint opposition’.”

      Please bear with me for I am bit thick.

      What or who are in this joint opposition who do they represent, party, people, electorate, clan, crooks, war criminals, …… ?

      Are the members of the same party also benefiting from being part of the government?

      Do they support the government’s effort to bring the crooks to book?

      If they do could you name the crooks and their detractors from the joint opposition.

      In opposition what have they done to review previous government’s record, daylight robbery, war crimes, abuse of power, nepotism, commission, human rights violation, …..

      Is it possible to have the cake and eat it?

      • 1
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        Yes I agree with you. You are a bit thick.

        Just for your benefit: the role of the opposition, any opposition im a democratic system is to hold the present government to account. Its not generally the role of the opposition to investigate their own faults, frauds, thefts etc. while they were in government. That would be a conflict of interest too.

  • 2
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    Majority rule only works if you’re also considering individual rights. Because you can’t have five wolves and one sheep voting on what to have for supper.)(Larry Flynt)

    • 3
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      Picutrs worth thousand words –

      Please study who are on the picture – what kind of backgroudn they have got. How the THAKKADIYA -former President dirigates them. It is almost like a KAPURALA explains about a marriage proposal to a villager.

      We perfectly know a man who blindly believed an Astrologer whose education is not even to grade 8 at the time he was risking to hold previous prez eleciton – how the bugger would regain the power to abuse the very same folks – is like we wait to see PIG MIGHT FLY oneday.

      Guys, please inform your people more – by everymeans, AWARENESS is the intial step to protect the nation and country.

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