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Majorities get politicians intoxicated with power: Sri Lankan daily

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Colombo: The electorate has not given the winner a majority as they “realised that majorities make politicians lose their heads and get intoxicated with power”, said a Sri Lankan daily which cautioned the new government to “tread cautiously”.

An editorial “Happy Jumbos” in The Island on Wednesday said that the people have spoken and their message is loud and clear.

“They, however, haven’t given the winner a working majority. Perhaps, they have realised that majorities make politicians lose their heads and get intoxicated with power. The new government to be formed will have to be mindful of public opinion and tread cautiously if it is to avoid the fate of the UPFA (United People’s Freedom Alliance) administration which, having secured 144 seats in 2010, failed to manage its electoral gains and came crashing down,” it said.

dd2The daily said that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has silenced his critics who, on numerous occasions, questioned his ability to steer the United National Party (UNP) to victory and went so far as to conspire to oust him.

“True, he failed to beat Mahinda Rajapaksa in the presidential race in 2005 and avoided the 2010 contest, not wanting to lose again. But, he has won against (former president Mahinda) Rajapaksa 10 years later. It is no mean achievement and let him be congratulated.”

The daily went on to say that the UNP has played its cards well since late last year against numerous odds.

“Its government succeeded in keeping itself afloat and granting some relief to the people. It tried to live up to their expectations. It failed to honour most of its promises, but it managed to convince the public that it was genuine in its efforts to make good those pledges.”

“The UNP government also made some blunders but the people voted for it in spite of them. Above all, it benefited immensely from the UPFA’s debilitating internal crisis.”

The daily said that the people gave a “mild knock to the UNP and a sobering slap to the UPFA on Monday. But, they dealt a knuckle sandwich to the Bodu Jana Peramuna (BJP), which is the political face of the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS). It was simply routed!”

It asked the UNP-led new administration to learn lessons from its predecessors.

“The UPFA will have to brace itself for bitterly fought internal battles, legal wrangles and, more than anything else, a winter of despair. The UNP is faced with the uphill task of fulfilling its promises. People’s expectations are high and it will have to live up to them,” it added.

(IANS)

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Sri Lanka On The Brink of ‘Economic Anarchy’

Sri Lanka will have issues on accessing government money if the stalemate is not resolved by the end of the year.

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Sri Lanka
Members of a civil society group attend a silent protest to demand democracy, after Sri Lankan opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa was appointed prime minister when President Maithripala Sirisena dismissed Ranil Wickremesinghe, in Colombo, Sri Lanka. VOA

Two men each claim to be the prime minister. Lawmakers are exchanging blows in Parliament. A former finance minister says Sri Lanka is on the brink of an “economic anarchy.”

Welcome to Sri Lanka, where the political crisis is getting worse by the week.

The trouble started when President Maithripala Sirisena, fed up with disagreements with his prime minister over money, an alleged conspiracy plot and unresolved issues of wartime crimes against civilians, fired Ranil Wickremesinghe and his Cabinet and replaced them with a government headed by a popular former strongman, Mahinda Rajapaksa.

But lawmakers balked and twice passed a no-confidence motion. Sirisena, however, refuses to accept that his choice of prime minister has been defeated.

Sri Lanka, parliament, political
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena waves to supporters during a rally outside the parliamentary complex in Colombo, Sri Lanka. VOA

Sirisena government can’t be legal

Jehan Perera, head of the local analyst group National Peace Council, said that the government appointed by the president can’t be called legal because Sirisena had not sought a parliamentary vote when he dismissed Wickremesinghe.

“It can be called illegitimate because provisions for a confidence vote in Parliament are being blocked by the president’s own party through their riotous behavior,” Perera said, referring to a brawl last week that was followed by another pandemonium in the chamber when Rajapaksa loyalists refused to let the speaker conduct proceedings.

Wickremesinghe says his dismissal is invalid because he still holds a majority in the 225-member Parliament. The dismissal is also disputed because of the latest constitutional change, which lawyers say has taken away presidential powers to dismiss the prime minister.

sri lanka, parliament
Sri Lankan former President Mahinda Rajapakse addresses journalists at his residence in Colombo, Sept. 22, 2018. Rajapakse has been appointed the Sri Lanka’s new prime minister. VOA

Life goes on

Despite all the drama and two rival prime ministers, life hasn’t collapsed, thanks to the efficient bureaucracy that keeps the wheels of administration turning.

Even though there is no Cabinet recognized by Parliament, and despite warnings by Wickremesinghe supporters that state officials should not take orders from an “illegal government” of Rajapaksa, bureaucrats continue to work with the president who is the chief executive and the ministers appointed by him, officials said on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media.

Budget dilemma looms

However, decisions regarding new projects or purchases involving large sums of money are on hold.

The absence of a recognized government has delayed the budget for 2019. Mangala Samaraweera, who was finance minister in Wickremesinghe’s Cabinet, said that there will be no legal way of spending money in the coming year without a parliament-approved budget.

sri lanka
Sri Lanka’s ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe reacts during a news conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka, VOA

Sri Lanka’s Constitution says that control over public finances lies with Parliament and no funds can be released without a warrant signed by the finance minister and approved by the legislature. That means all government payments starting from January can be deemed illegal, Samaraweera says.

Sri Lanka is on the brink of an “economic anarchy and chaos as never experienced before.”

“The cavalier and irresponsible actions of the president … based on personal animosities and precipitating a series of illegal acts, places at risk Sri Lanka’s ability to meet its immediate debt obligations,” he said.

Sri Lanka has to repay $1 billion of its foreign loans in early January, which is also in the prerogative of Parliament to approve.

Sri lanka
Sri Lanka’s former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, front left, is sworn in as prime minister before President Maithripala Sirisena in Colombo, Sri Lanka. VOA

Wickremesinghe’s lawmakers have presented a motion to the speaker seeking to block funding to the prime minister’s office, which if passed, would curtail Rajapaksa’s functions.

“As far as the people are concerned, they are witnessing the normal functioning of the country,” insisted government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella.

Also Read: Regional Political Turmoil Reflects India-China Rivalry

However, he conceded that Sri Lanka will have issues on accessing government money if the stalemate is not resolved by the end of the year. Sirisena called snap elections for Jan. 5, but the opposition challenged the decision, and the dispute is in court. (VOA)