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A second chance

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Saturday, 17 February 2018 00:00

As a week of political turmoil came to a close on Friday there was evidence that the worst may be over with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe announcing he would stay on in his position and the two main parties considering a Cabinet reshuffle as a compromise to maintaining the coalition Government. 

However, there are signs the coalition may not be out of the woods quite yet as the Joint Opposition and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) are reported to be in negotiations about the possibility of working together in the future. President Maithripala Sirisena, who had earlier announced he would make a public statement on Friday and meet with media heads at President’s House, suspended both events and decamped to Polonnaruwa. Reports indicated that talks between the Joint Opposition and the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) continued with UPFA Senior MP Susil Premajayantha mediating between the two factions. More information on these meetings is likely to come out over the weekend.    

Nonetheless, given the shock results of the Local Government elections and the marathon rounds of deal making and talks that dominated the better part of the week, these indications of a way forward will bring much relief to many people who elected the “Yahapalanaya” Government with much hope and high expectations. Central Bank Governor Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy on Thursday warned prolonged political instability could affect market sentiment and called for the two main political parties to resolve their differences swiftly as loosening of fiscal policy would lead to serious challenges in future debt servicing.    

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe had admitted to reporters that the Government accepted it needs to fast-track its work and would focus on its key tasks in the weeks and months ahead. From the, start this Government has been handicapped by lack of policy consistency and coordination with different policies being trotted out at different times. The complicated nature of coalition politics will clearly not be tolerated by the masses, as was evidenced last Saturday; and the top Government politicians need to understand this. Whether it was the fuel shortage, the controversy of allowing women to purchase alcohol, changing of the fertilizer subsidy, drought and flood relief or the bond scam investigations the public had ringside seats to the Governments actions and drew their own conclusions as to what was happening. This independence in the vote base is growing and no longer will people be limited by party lines or spin doctors. 

The reinstating of civil liberties is to the credit of this Government. But it also means that they are held to far higher standards than their predecessor. People want tangible change and quick action when problems occur irrespective of how difficult it may be to actually implement them. The Government has to work extra hard to bridge the gap between reality and this aspiration in the remaining two years if they want to make a better showing at the upcoming elections. 

This is a chance for the coalition Government to reset and reorient itself to the demands of the public. It is time for the President and the Prime Minister as well as those below them to come to a common platform to work together and coordinate action on key pledges in their mandate such as fighting corruption and developing the country. What was indisputably proved on Saturday is time to do so is running out.

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