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Stick to the mandate!

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With the 100-Day program of the Maithripala Sirisena government now in effect, it has become all about promises -- the ones kept, the ones that need to be kept and the ones that have already been broken. Some pledges, such as the one to limit the Cabinet of Ministers to 25, have already been quietly pushed aside for the sake of ‘convenience’.

Meanwhile, after all the rhetoric of ‘Right to Information’ and ‘Media Freedom’ that the Maithri era was supposed to usher in, we find ourselves in a situation where no government official, including ministry secretaries, can speak to the media without prior written approval from the relevant minister. Media personnel would know just how absurd this situation is. If the only person authorized to speak to the media is the minister, and all others must first obtain his or her ‘permission’ to speak, what happens when the minister is unreachable? Can the media be blamed for not getting the government’s side if the government has ‘gagged’ people in authority?

Speaking of giving the government’s side, rumors regarding various secret ‘pacts’ President Sirisena had allegedly signed with this or that party show no sign of abating. Without anyone being able to furnish any real proof, save the blatant lies bandied about as ‘facts’ by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government and its supporters, these remain baseless accusations. 

However, Sirisena did sign a pact on January 9, a pact with the people of this country who elected him president by a resounding margin. President Sirisena has presented two important documents that will govern the rest of his term in office. These are his policy document and the much-scrutinized ‘100-Day Program’. He has promised to deliver much during a short span of just over three months. However, it will not take that long for the voters to determine whether he is delivering on what he has promised. The focus of both Sirisena and his government should now strictly be on implementing this program in accordance with his policy document.

Right now some members of the new government appear to be setting their sights beyond the 100-Day program. While there’s nothing wrong in this, statements such as the one made by Housing and Samurdhi Minister Sajith Premadasa when assuming duties recently should sound alarm bells. Premadasa is quoted in sections of the media as stating that Ranil Wickremesinghe would remain the Prime Minister irrespective of the outcome of the next general election. 

That’s like saying former President Rajapaksa would remain President irrespective of the outcome of the presidential election. Let us not forget that some of those supportive of the former president did actually put forward this argument prior to the election, claiming he would still be able to serve two years more even if he had lost, on account of him having called the election two years before the end of his term. Fortunately for all, this claim was immediately proved to be without foundation by lawyers and even the Elections Commissioner. But what could have happened had Rajapaksa actually stayed on even after defeat? What could happen if Wickremesinghe chose not to go?

One must also point out that Wickremesinghe has not said a word about remaining prime minister after the 100-Day program. One would think it’s because he, like President Sirisena, knows full well the pledges made in the program and intends to follow them through. That is what one means by ‘Good Governance’. That is also what people would envisage when talking of ‘Compassionate Rule’ (Maithri Palanaya).

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