Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera yesterday praised the formation of what he termed as first genuine National Government in the history of Sri Lanka and said it would now ensure the formation and implementation of urgently-needed national policies.
“This is the first genuine National Government in post-independence Sri Lanka. The so-called ‘National Governments’ of the past were either, an exercise in ‘power politics’ based on political opportunism and self-interest, or a coalition of the unwilling put together through intimidation, bribery and blackmail. Opposition Members of Parliament were spirited away to the Government benches without the consent of the political parties they represented, leaving a trail of splintered political parties in the country weakening the very fabric of democracy,” he told Parliament.
He noted that during the last presidential election, both President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe promised to depart from this “unsavoury and undemocratic practice.” In the first 100 days itself, the 19th Amendment was passed which, along with many other important constitutional reforms, introduced the contours of a National Government, he pointed out.
“We have opened new chapter in Sri Lanka’s history: forming a genuine National Government through consensus rather than subterfuge will help entrench good governance and create a new political culture in Sri Lanka.”
The reset in political culture was also demonstrated in the unanimous appointment of the Opposition Leader, he said. The upholding of Parliamentary convention and tradition marks a departure from the divisive and self-interested partisanship which was a hallmark of Sri Lanka’s politics since independence.
“The appointment of TNA Leader R. Sampanthan, one of the most senior and respected politicians in the country, as Opposition Leader also reflects Sri Lanka’s commitment, resolve and determination to the reconciliation process and the establishment of a Sri Lanka where every citizen feels that they are free and equal. In the new Sri Lanka no one would be denied their rightful place in society due to race, religion, caste or gender,” he added.
The National Government will ensure the formation and implementation of urgently needed national policies he went onto say.
“In particular, we will pass a new Constitution that will include a Bill of Rights. This constitution will not only take into account civil and political rights but economic, social and cultural rights as well. It will be a Constitution that addresses the requirements of all citizens and communities; one which will allow greater public participation in decision-making processes. These measures will enable more accountable and more responsible government in the country. Such a Constitution, with electoral reform and the restoration of stronger Parliamentary Government, will be essential to ensure reconciliation and durable peace with justice and rule of law. The bipartisan consensus intrinsic to a National Government will also be able to secure the legislative reforms, policy stability and level playing field that are urgently needed for our economic development.”