Saner counsel, it appears, has prevailed in the end. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has informed the UNP membership not to criticize the President in public for whatever reason. Presiding over a UNP Working Committee meeting, the Premier informed UNPers to desist from attacking the President, and, that, they could come to him if there was any problem. Cabinet Spokesman Dr. Rajitha Senaratne told the post-Cabinet media briefing that the President, on his part, too had given an undertaking to rein in SLFPers who were attacking the Prime Minister.
These attacks, and, counter attacks had been a feature since the formation of the Unity Government, following the August 2015 General Election. It must be said that the UNP acted with great restraint, at the outset, amidst pot shots directed at the party by SLFP MPs, particularly at it's leadership. It is understandable that they could no longer hold onto their fire when the pot shots turned into frontal assaults on the Prime Minister, particularly from the likes of Susil Premajayantha and Dilan Perera. Things deteriorated to such an extent that the public began wondering if the SLFP was acting towards undermining the UNP led administration rather than being a party of the Unity Government. The differences were also seized upon by the Joint Opposition to make political capital out of the initial cold war that eventually degenerated into direct combat.
It is significant that the fusillade directed at each other became pronounced with the announcement of LG elections and there was natural curiosity if all this was a contrived exercise. It has to be borne in mind that, both, the UNP and SLFP, although cohabiting in government, are traditional foes. To act otherwise and appear to be chummy on the electoral battlefield is not going to do either party any good in terms outdoing each other (at the poll). They have to appear to be rivals, if they are to galvanize their respective grassroots supporters to put in their heart and soul into the campaign. Victory must be the bottom line. However, there will be those who will contend that the differences are for real, particularly, given the harsh words directed at the President by certain UNP backbenchers and the not so complimentary remarks made, targeting the Prime Minister, by some SLFP stalwarts.
Now that the guns have, hopefully, fallen silent it is important that the cohabitation arrangement of the once bitter rivals is put back on track and both parties rule in unison to realize their common goals to take the country forward for which they have signed an agreement, underwritten by the late Ven Sobitha Thera.
Besides, being at constant loggerheads is going to send the wrong signal to the general public of disunity and destability. Both parties are without working majorities in parliament to form governments on their own and bickering can only lead to complete derailment of the administration that could seep down to the second tiers, leading to chaos and dislocation. The lack of unity will also pave the way for anarchic forces to gain the upper hand and dictate terms to the government. As this is being written the CEB trade unions have threatened a countrywide strike and the doctors are once again set for their ritual work stoppage over the SAITM matter. All that these saboteurs need is a government in disarray, with the UNP and SLFP factions going for each others' jugular, to make the achievement of their sinister political agendas that much easier.
Besides, this will be a big let-down for those disgusted with the acrimonious political culture in post independence Sri Lanka and who may have breathed a sigh of relief when the two arch rivals joined together to govern in unison, to see the arrangement disintegrating before their eyes, due to the immature conduct of elements on both sides.
The President and Prime Minister, hopefully, would put things right in their respective houses, that would see an end to the petty squabbling that had been a feature between the parties in recent times that also has detracted from the main tasks they have undertaken on behalf of the country. Like the President had already reiterated, he did not set up the Bond Commission to target any individual or political party, but in furtherance of the promise made to the people to eradicate corruption. The UNP should take the President's statement in that spirit and act with due circumspection. The SLFP, on the other hand, should not unfairly target the Prime Minister and the UNP, in general, since this will only reflect badly on the party.
The Blues came second best to the UNP at the hustings and would have been relegated to the Opposition if the Greens cobbled together the numbers to achieve a simple majority and govern without the help of the SLFP. In that event, all those SLFP MPs and ministers now shouting from the rooftops accusing their partner of all things and ills besetting the government would have been left high and dry, sans their present portfolios and the perks and privileges that go with it.
Daily News, January 19, 2018