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Maturity and morality

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Veteran political scientist Prof. Jayadeva Uyangoda delivering the memorial oration to mark the third death anniversary of Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero on Thursday called for the reformation of a broad front against the Constitutional deadlock, insisting the only hope for democracy lay in mature and moderate political action. He insisted that it was time for a politically-conscious public to be joined by civil society, religious leaders and likeminded politicians to push back the tide of unconstitutional decisions being considered, which included the possible dissolution of Parliament.

Prof. Uyangoda argued that the window for the peaceful resolution of the standoff is shrinking as the number of crossovers have stopped over the last few days and minority parties have steadfastly refused to back Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. The ideological differences between the United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) is growing deeper, he warned, and threatening to become an all-out battle between the Executive and Legislature. The academic was also concerned about what he termed as the growing use of Executive power over the other branches of Government, which threatened to undermine the mandate given by the people in 2015.

The call for stronger engagement rather than protest is a desperate one made for desperate times. Speaker Karu Jayasuriya this week said he recognises the Government that existed prior to 26 October and subsequently made the decision that he would call for a vote when Parliament convenes on 14 November. However, this has been steadfastly rejected by the SLFP, which continues to insist that Parliament tradition should be respected with other business being postponed after the speech by President Maithripala Sirisena. In this context, engagement becomes a viable and vital option because continuation of the Constitutional deadlock would only plunge the country into deeper uncertainty. 

The option floated by the SLFP to dissolve Parliament is also an untenable one as it cannot be done constitutionally. The 19th Amendment clearly states that Parliament cannot be dissolved until four-and-a-half years of its term are completed or two-thirds of the Members of Parliament vote for dissolution. The latter cannot be accomplished until Parliament is reconvened. Therefore if President Sirisena cannot muster the magic 113 it is likely that his party will take drastic steps to push Parliament out of the equation. This does not bode well for Sri Lanka’s already battered democracy and increases the economic risks correspondingly. 

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has already stated that he is still willing to work with President Sirisena, despite the fallout over the last two weeks. The Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA) led by Mano Ganesan, which has six seats in Parliament, following a meeting with President Sirisena had said that while they cannot approve of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s appointment, they are willing to support him to end the Constitutional crisis. It is likely that other minority parties, including the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), could be persuaded to think along these lines, allowing for the emergence of a moderate platform. 

While this would be in line with Prof. Uyangoda’s call, it would require the setting aside of political agendas and interests. Unfortunately Sri Lanka’s politicians are not known for their ability to make compromises in the best interests of the country.

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