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A dangerous deviation

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Dr Dayan Jayatilleka Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Jayatilleka says formation of a National Government is

Dr Dayan Jayatilleka who is an expert in many fields expressed his ideas regarding the present political developments in the country in an interview with The Nation. Dr. Jayatilleka did not agree with the formation of a National Government, suspending the normal competitive functioning of the two-party system. He considers this move as a “dangerous deviation” and said that Sri Lanka doesn’t have such a requirement.

He also questioned why the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) bothers to assist a program (100 Day Program) which was not approved by its vote base. He further gave the reason why Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha was not given a slot in the Cabinet and also criticized the effort of the SLFP to retain the post of Opposition Leader while representing the government.


The full interview
Q: What is a national government? During what situations, have the world used this concept?
A National Government must not be confused with a coalition government which is a government of many parties. A National Government is an all-parties government or at least a government which brings together the two major rival parties. A basic principle of multiparty democracy is that competition and choice provide the most space and best deal for the citizenry, just as in the marketplace, competition assures the best deal for the consumer. Therefore it is only under highly exceptional circumstances that National Governments are formed, suspending such competition. In the 20th century, National Governments or ‘grand coalitions’ were formed in the context of World War II and the threat of enemy invasion (Britain) and post WWII reconstruction from devastation (Germany). In Sri Lanka today nothing remotely comparable exists. Therefore the formation of a National Government suspending the normal competitive functioning of the two-party system is a dangerous deviation. 

Q: What has Sri Lanka actually formed? Is it a national government or should it have another name?
It cannot really be called a National Government because there is no agreed-upon common program for National Salvation or any need for such.

Q: How do you see both JVP and TNA not joining in such a Government?
 The JVP, having helped oust Mahinda Rajapaksa, served in the National Executive Council,  remained uncritical of both Ranil Wickremesinghe and Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, and criticized Russia and China while remaining silent on the US, the UN Human Rights High Commissioner and Prime Minister Modi’s statement, is belatedly trying to retrieve lost ground as an Opposition. As for the TNA, it doesn’t have to join because it can feel quite comfortable with the fact that ex-President Kumaratunga, the Sudu Nelum Queen of the ‘Union of Regions Package’ is said to be handling the ethnic issue.     

Q: Is it ethical for the SLFP to hold the post of Opposition Leader while the SLFPers represent the Cabinet? What made the SLFP to make such a move?
 Nowhere in the world does the same party remain in Cabinet and in the Opposition at the same time. If the SLFP is in Cabinet, how can it hold the office of Opposition Leader? This is utterly ridiculous and makes a mockery of parliamentary institutions. The reason for all this is that the SLFP top rank is increasingly influenced by Chandrika Kumaratunga, who works in concert with Ranil Wickremesinghe. These are all CBK loyalists so they dance to her tune however discordant it is.

Q.   Some claim that all these moves are aimed at preventing former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s re-entry into active politics. Do you agree with this?
 That is one objective, but it isn’t the only one and may not even be the main one. The main objectives are to implement Chandrika’s and Ranil’s long  standing agendas, especially on the so-called ethnic question, as well as to permit CBK to assume to the role of Sonia Gandhi to President Sirisena’s Manmohan Singh. Another objective is to weaken the protective ties that Sri Lanka had with China and to substitute them with Western or Indo-US patronage. It is because Mahinda Rajapaksa, as a strong popular nationalist leader, is an obstacle and an alternative to this total project of re-colonization that the dominant new players are moving against him. 

Q. How do you analyze Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha’s leaving from the Government and joining a team of SLFPers in the government?
 He is not willing to be anyone’s serf or puppet; he is an independent academic. Sadly, that is why he is not included in the Cabinet. 

Q. Some allied parties to the UPFA suggest that MEP leader Dinesh Gunawardena should be made the leader of the Opposition? Should the post go to a party like DNA or TNA that contested separately?
 Whoever it goes to it shouldn’t stay with the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. Someone should go to court on this matter. 

Q. The appointment of the new Prime Minister and the new government was not questioned by anyone. Former PM and the Cabinet of Ministers maintained silence. What are the legal aspects there? Don’t you think that is humiliating the people who voted for the common candidate Maithripala Sirisena?
As I said, Chandrika finally gets to play Sonia Gandhi and has finally found a Manmohan Singh figure. She also influences the Leader of the Opposition. She and Ranil work in concert. They have living ‘policy links’ such as Mangala Samaraweera and Dr. Jayampathy Wickremaratne. God only knows who else, here and overseas, they work with and have arrived at agreements with!  No wonder they are getting away with all these antics which will only weaken Sri Lanka.

Q. As a respected academic and a political analyst, what is your take on 100 Day Program? Should Parliament be dissolved on April 23 or should more time be given to keep the promises?
 The 58 lakhs who voted for the SLFP candidate didn’t vote for the 100 day program, so why on earth should the SLFP help in its implementation? On balance, I think that program was a bad one because its centerpiece was and is the abolition or drastic cut backs in the executive powers of the presidency. As for elections, they will have to be held before the Constitutional deadline of April 2016 or else there will be a crisis of legitimacy of governance and the accumulating contradictions will make governance impossible.

Q. some have already lost the faith on this Government as they seem to be there to safeguard corrupt politicians like with the previous governments. Do you agree with this and what do you suggest to remove these corrupt politicians?
 The reintroduction of the 17th amendment and the independent commissions as well as the adoption of a mixed electoral system should reduce if not resolve the problem. The bulk of the 19th amendment is unnecessary and unhelpful.

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