When will they ever learn?

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The Cabinet is to be expanded, according to media reports. Thirty-eight State Ministers have already been appointed. This is a sure sign of the government’s desperation to prevent a further erosion of its parliamentary group, and lure some more Opposition MPs into joining it. The SLPP managed to muster 134 votes in Parliament to ensure the election of Ranil Wickremesinghe as the President. Among those who voted for Wickremesinghe were some Opposition MPs and SLPP dissidents. There is no such thing as a free vote in the Sri Lankan Parliament, and those who sided with the government and Wickremesinghe will have to be given ministerial posts lest they should vote with their feet. Most of all, the government has undertaken to amend the Constitution, and it takes a village to ratify a constitutional amendment; the SLPP is desperate to win over more MPs.

It was ironic that SLPP MP Premalal Jayasekera happened to be sworn as a State Minister, on Monday, before President Wickremesinghe, who is also the leader of the UNP. Jayasekera was sentenced to death over the murder of a UNP supporter at Kahawatte, Ratnapura, in the run-up to the 2015 presidential election. He was later acquitted by the Court of Appeal. But the UNP has insisted all along that he is not innocent. How would the family members of the victim, his friends and the UNP supporters in Kahawatte and elsewhere have felt when they saw Jayasekera receiving his letter of appointment from their leader? When will the people stop falling for the wiles of politicians and realise that no political party is worth dying for?

There is reason to believe that in Sri Lanka, Justitia is not fully blindfolded and can recognise those in power. Basil Rajapaksa, one of the persons responsible for bankrupting the country and inflicting so much suffering on the public can travel overseas, but those who protested against the economic crimes the current government leaders have perpetrated against the people cannot leave the country!

The recent ministerial appointments make one wonder whether the government thinks expedience and consensus are synonymous and interchangeable. President Wickremesinghe promised to bring about consensual governance and invited all parties represented in Parliament to come together to make a concerted effort to hoist the economy out of the present crisis. He held discussions with Opposition politicians, and their talks received wide publicity. The naïve among us even thought they were witnessing the dawn of a new political culture! But the SLPP has not scrupled to adopt a confrontational approach in a bid to compass its ends. Maybe the President was keen to fulfil his pledge, and enlist the government support for his efforts, but the SLPP has demonstrated once again that it always operates on the basis of political expedience, not of principle. The President cannot bend the SLPP’s will for obvious reasons.

The intensity of anti-government protests has decreased, and this may be the reason why the SLPP has taken to political muscle flexing, again, and is trying to bulldoze its way through. While resorting to retaliatory action such as having the leaders of the Galle Face protest movement arrested and harassed in every conceivable manner, it is doing everything in its power to weaken the Opposition by causing defections. There has been a steep rise in underworld activities during the past few weeks, and several dozens of people have perished at the hands of underworld characters who are having a field day, but the police are all out to arrest protesters and not criminals. The government leaders are engaged in political kerb-crawling; they have already succeeded in picking up some Opposition MPs of easy virtue, so to speak. They are labouring under the delusion that they could form an ‘all-party government’ by enticing the MPs from other parties into joining the government instead of securing the support of the Opposition. The need of the hour is a national unity administration to usher in political stability and facilitate economic recovery. But the government is busy engineering crossovers to steady itself instead of getting its act together. It is asking for trouble.

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Disclaimer: When will they ever learn? - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Latheefarook.com point-of-view

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