COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena told parliament on Tuesday that he would like decision making in all critical areas, including ethnic reconciliation, to be on the basis of parliamentary consensus.
Addressing the opening session of the newly elected 8 th. parliament, Sirisena said that consensual decision making will ensure that all Lankans live in peace and harmony. He strongly advocated support for the proposed National Government.
To assuage fears among the Sinhalese majority that concessions to the minority Tamils could be at the cost of national security, Sirisena said that national security would his top most concern and that he would himself be in charge of it. He is the defense minister mandatorily.
Tamil MPs were divided in their reaction to Sirisena’s speech. “We are disappointed that he made no mention of the Tamil question and did not spell out how he is going to solve it. This is sad in view of the fact that he was elected in January on the basis of a massive Tamil vote,“ said Selvam Adaikalanathan, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP from Wanni.
But his party colleague from Jaffna, E.Saravanapavan, said that the President had appealed to all Lankans to learn to live together. “ His address was vague as far as the Tamil issue is concerned, but he was primarily addressing the Sinhalese, stressing the need to live in harmony. On the whole the speech was positive,” Saravanapavan said.
Earlier in the session, Karu Jayasuriya of the ruling United National Party (UNP) was elected Speaker. Former Mahinda Rajapaksa attended the session but left after taking the oath. He is the first ex-President in the history of Sri Lanka to come back to politics as an ordinary MP.
Confusion in Opposition Ranks
The Lankan parliament is yet to resolve the issue of naming the Leader of Opposition. President Sirisena has left the matter to the opposition. But the opposition is unable to decide. The largest opposition grouping, the United Peoples‘ Freedom Alliance (UPFA), is to be part of the proposed National Government. While the pro-Sirisena faction of the UPFA thinks that the UPFA can have one foot in the government and the other in the opposition, but the pro-Rajapaksa faction of the UPFA disagrees. So does the TNA.
The TNA says that with its 16 MPs, it should be the opposition, but the pro-Rajapaksa faction of the UPFA says that 55 of the 95 UPFA MPs want to sit in the opposition and claim leadership of the opposition. The matter is expected to resolved by the Speaker in a day or two.