The ruling party which seemed invincible since the military defeat of the LTTE now appears to be blundering into one thing after another, not realizing that the “war victory bubble” would burst sooner than later. The government’s actions in Parliament last week were a classic example of how it is mishandling matters, which can only work against its own interests.
First there was the Right to Information (RTI) Bill which UNP Gampaha District MP Karu Jayasuriya attempted to present to Parliament for the second time on Tuesday, after he was forced to withdraw it the first time he presented it in September. Chief Government Whip Dinesh Gunawardena said at that time the government was drafting a similar Bill and hence there was no need for the UNP MP to present another.
With eight months lapsing since that assurance was given and with no such Bill in sight, Mr.Jayasuriya made a second attempt to present it last Tuesday. This time the government’s reaction was even more aggressive. They called for a vote and the RTI Bill was rejected outright.
The sensible move for the government would have been to allow Mr. Jayasuirya to present the private members’ bill and then get him to withdraw it on a later date when the government presented its own bill. But in its undue haste to completely override the little opposition it has in the legislature, the government exposed its real intention of not wanting to bring about an RIT Bill.
Otherwise what could be the reason for the long delay in drafting such a Bill when there has been no such delay in bringing about bills such as the Private Sector Pensions which has created a lot of public opposition. The government can rest assured that an RTI Bill would be supported by all political parties, civil society groups and the public at large.
The day after the RTI Bill was rejected, acting cabinet spokesman Anura Priyadharshana Yapa told reporters that the government would soon introduce an RTI Bill. This appears to be a mere damage control measure in the face of the wide publicity given both locally and internationally, to the rejection of the bill.
Meanwhile, even before the dust could settle on that matter, UPFA National List MP A.H.M.Azwer dropped a bombshell the following day from the floor of the House saying that the family of slain LTTE leader V.Prabhakaran was being looked after by none other than the President. The news was shocking because it was reported that Prabhakaran and his immediate family members were killed in the war, two years ago.
While the story received wide publicity in the local media, it was also highlighted overseas and by next morning Mr.Azwer was back on his feet to explain that what he had meant to say was that it was the slain LTTE political wing leader S.P Thamilselvam’s family that was being looked after by the government.
While the MP had every right to clarify his statement, what was irksome were his attempts to blame the media by saying that his comments had been misreported in certain sections. What the media did was to report what Mr.Azwer said, but like most politicians, he also chose to make the media look the villain of the piece to cover up his gaffe.
These incidents only highlight the fact that the government needs to get its act together if it wants to retain the confidence of the people. The government’s image is being eroded by its own actions and not by the actions of the opposition.