Will the Sri Lanka government fall this week?

THURSDAY is another red letter day in the Sri Lanka’s political calendar. The JVP the junior government partner has announced that it would pull out of the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance unless President Chandrika Kumaratunga announces that she will call off the Joint Mechanism with the Tamil rebels for tsunami distribution.

By Keith Noyahr

Published: Tue 14 Jun 2005, 10:08 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 3:16 PM

The chances are that Kumaratunga will not call off the Norwegian-facilitated deal with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

But, the million dollar question is whether the government will fall like nine pins. Or will there be a new government formed with new alliances. The options are many and unbelievable.

Ever since the minority United UPFA government took office in April 2004, the numbers game was played in the 225-strong Parliament.

A simple majority has simply eluded this government despite many an attempt at back-door deals. So much so, that the all-important post of Speaker went to opposition United National Party in a secret ballot. But, the UNP recognised the UPFA working majority and sat in the opposite benches.

The Sri Lanka Freedom Party, the main governing party with a few fringe parties account for 66 seats in the House, while the UNP has 68 seats. The JVP, which has 39 seats and has joined the SLFP to form the ruling alliance, has threatened now to withdraw support.

The JVP, the UNP and most opposition parties accused the President of not making the document final. A local newspaper the Daily Mirror published the full document.

To meet the JVP threat, Kumaratunga has threatened to use her executive powers to dissolve Parliament as a last resort. But, she knows her party is not prepared to face a general election as the government has nothing to brag about after a year in office. Also, the SLFP organisers have not been working adequately among the grassroots.

The JVP has been working among its grassroots but the organisation is unsure whether it could better its performance- 39 seats under a alliance formed before the polls. In a rare turn of events, JVP leader Somawansa Amerasinghe invited the ultra-capitalist UNP to form alliance with his Marxist party.

Will the grand old party, in the wings waiting to finish unfinished business after it was dismissed midway, grab the opportunity through an alliance with the JVP.

The UNP knows that it may emerge as the single-largest party in a general election even if it contests without the JVP. But, it also knows that the proportional representation system might not give the party a simple majority and a hung Parliament would be inevitable.

If it joins the JVP right now, Kumaratunga is sure to dissolve parliament. If it forms an alliance with the JVP and contests it was likely to win but will remain a lame duck government on two important issues.

Kumaratunga is likely to have the support of the pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance which has 22 seats in parliament and could be a kingmaker. She assured them of her commitment to the Joint Structure also called Post-Tusnami Operations Management Structure (P-TOMS).

She is trying to align herself with the UNP and has sought a meeting with the Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe who will find it difficult to withdraw support now that the P-TOMS document is made public and there is nothing all that controversial.

The UNP went beyond even the existing laws when it signed the ceasefire agreement with the LTTE in 2002. If the UNF fails to support the President after going thus far with the LTTE in the peace process, Kumaratunga would call off the party’s bluff.

The UNP will try to buy time and extract major concessions from the President’s party if it is to support her. Will the moderate parties come together at last for the sake of peace as many view the Joint Mechanism as an ideal basis for resuming peace talks with the Tigers stalled since April 2003?

Keith Noyahr is KT’s Colombo correspondent

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