2017 will be the year in which the future of Sri Lanka will be decided. The government’s devolution package to divide the country into what they call ‘distinct spheres of authority’, the ETCA with India to open up Sri Lanka to Indian service providers and workers, the privatisation of the Hambantota harbour and other government owned assets, are just some of the unwelcome changes that the government has planned in the new year. All this will come on top of the gross economic mismanagement, declining growth rate, declining foreign reserves, the deteriorating exchange rate, increased taxation, increased interest rates, increasing inflation and a phenomenal increase in the national debt that we have seen over the past two years.
The SLFP members in the government who were elected to parliament on an anti-UNP, anti-government platform, but have since joined the UNP led government, now appear to be engaged in a struggle with their conscience. Uncertain of the correct path to take, they keep vacillating. While condemning Arjuna Mahendran over the bond scam they defend the Prime Minister. They criticise the UNP in public but vote with them on the VAT Bill, the Office of Missing Persons Bill and the Budget. They cooperate with the Joint Opposition to defeat the ‘super minister’ Bill, but at the same time they cooperate with the UNP on the devolution proposals. At this decisive moment, they should be mindful of the future of the country above everything else.
Those who hold portfolios and vote with the government on important matters, are members of the government despite any criticism they may make in public about other political parties and ministers in the government. There are many Ministers and MPs in the SLFP group as well as the UNP who are genuinely perturbed by what the government has been doing. When the leaders of the Joint Opposition so decide, the doors of the anti-government coalition of forces will be thrown open to all such individuals. The sovereignty and territorial integrity of our motherland and the fate of future generations will hang in the balance in 2017 under this increasingly dysfunctional government. May all citizens of Sri Lanka have the courage and strength to meet the challenges that lie ahead from the first week of January onwards.
Former President of Sri Lanka