COLOMBO: The recent public outburst of Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena over being kept in the dark about certain key decisions of the administration led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickemesinghe, has led to the decision to set up a committee to coordinate policies in matters of national and political importance.
The panel will keep track of the investigations into the questionable deals of the Mahinda Rajapaksa government; the treatment meted out to top officials of the Rajapaksa regime; progress in matters relating to the proposed war crimes probe; and the drafting of a new constitution for the country.
President Sirisena had publicly berated the administration for not informing him about the decision to question former navy chiefs and temporarily incarcerate former Defense Secretary, the war winning Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Sirisena said that as the C-in-C and Defense Minister, the investigators were duty bound to inform him.
The President has clearly indicated that the political marriage between his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) is going sour with the latter (with an edge in parliament and the Council of Ministers) taking the SLFP and the President for granted on vital issues of national, international and political importance.
If the gap is not narrowed, the coalition government may not be able to fulfill its goals and meet its deadlines in regard to the taxation proposals; the setting of a war crimes judicial mechanism; ethnic reconciliation and constitution making.
Some of these deadlines are at the end of the year, and some in March 2017. As the investigations into the corruption charges against members of the Rajapaksa regime's progress, expectations go up in certain circles and some feathers in the majority Sinhalese community get ruffled. These could adversely affect Sirisena’s political future. Sirisena therefore desires that caution is exercised.
But Sirisena’s sensitivity to the political implications of the probes has come in for heavy flak from civil society and the Tamil minority.
Civil society leaders have issued statements expressing dismay at the soft line preferred by the President and have dubbed his government as a clone of the Rajapaksa regime. The Tamil papers have come out with scathing articles accusing Sirisena of being biased in favor of the armed forces which they accuse of war crimes. The emerging scenario favors the Rajapaksas.