Smooth pathways to move forward is what the new Government will be expected to achieve this week as the new Parliament takes oaths to carry out its mandate. But some roads are easier than others.
Perhaps to drive this point home the Sri Lankan military authorities have removed the security check point located at Omanthai in Vavuniya with effect from Saturday. The check point, established during the war at Omanthai along the main north-south A9 road, was the main entry/exit point between LTTE controlled areas and Government controlled areas during the war.
After the war ended, the check point remained open with the presence of Army soldiers checking vehicles. Even late as last year the military authorities on the instructions of the Government barred foreign nationals visiting the north beyond the check point without prior permission. The checkpoint is now open to everyone.
In the spirit of openness, President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have thrown open the doors to anyone willing to join their National Government venture. This will see an interesting result in the Well as even those that are seated in the opposition are not in fact the Opposition. Even though the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) claimed the right to be the main Opposition given on the basis of holding the largest number of seats after the United National Party (UNP) and Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), it was reported over the weekend that this suggestion was rejected, mostly by the latter group.
The rejection of what can be seen by some as an effort to move pigeonholed minority parties more towards the mainstream by making them responsible for the welfare of the majority as well is an example of the deep challenges before the freshly-minted National Government. If concentrated efforts are to be made to spur reconciliation, then the TNA has to be at least given the space to prove their credentials as a party that can stand for the rights of all communities.
Another problem before the new Parliament is to move ahead with corruption investigations, which many fear will be undermined by the hybrid system in play. President Sirisena is scheduled to make an address during the first session in Parliament where he is sure to outline the tasks before it but making it stick to such an agenda will take all the political astuteness possessed by him and the Prime Minister.
The next task for the week will be finalising Cabinet appointments that have been in limbo for nearly a fortnight. The reportedly tough fight for portfolios will determine party loyalties and the pace of reforms. The UNP in particular will find it difficult to justify a jumbo Cabinet to its voters.
The National Government was mooted as a fix-all to spur reconciliation, which will likely require Constitutional amendments that would need a two-thirds majority in Parliament. But indications are that the President and the Prime Minister aiming for the stars will be undermined by political greed and party loyalties. Losing sight of the big picture so early on does not bode well for the future and could well undermine public faith in the Cabinet even before it is born.