jittery over uncertainty
Dark clouds of uncertainty are once again looming on the horizon
just as the country was feeling good about itself and settling down
to the prospect of a lasting peace following the seeming success
of the talks between the government and the Tigers in Thailand.
The crisis of
cohabitation between President Chandrika Kumaratunga and the United
National Front government led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe
appears to be getting worse. The repeated incidents of violence
in the east - the killings, the kidnappings, the extortion - are
the most serious threat to the peace process since the truce came
Of course, these
irritants were not entirely unexpected. To the credit of the UNF
government, it could be said that it had the foresight to anticipate
problems in the peace effort, especially in the light of the experience
of past negotiations, and the courage to be honest about it in warning
the people to expect setbacks. Government spokesmen have gone to
great lengths to repeatedly appeal to the public not to get discouraged
when things go wrong.
Given the increasingly
bold and blatant manner in which the Tigers seem to be taking the
law into their own hands, it is only natural that the rest of the
country, and especially the business community, are feeling jittery.
After all, it is the business community that is being called upon
to put their money in rebuilding a shattered economy and to bear
the risks of doing so even before the last shot has been fired in
the Eelam war.
posturing and the violence in the east and the uncertainty they
generate naturally have a ripple effect across the entire economy.
The stock market has crashed, with the All Share Price Index diving
below the 800-point level. Tourists who flocked to resorts in the
east are leaving. Foreign investors, who the government was trying
to attract into places like Trincomalee, would undoubtedly have
second thoughts about putting their money into such a volatile environment.
the brave talk of the government it now seems clear that the UNF
will not be able to muster the required numbers in parliament to
get approval for the 19th amendment to the Constitution to curb
the president's power to dissolve parliament.
The UNF leadership is reportedly under growing pressure to go for
a general election which its proponents say would give them a stronger
mandate and a stable majority in parliament. This seems unlikely
given the prevailing electoral arithmetic. By most accounts, another
election would only result in another hung parliament.
too has not taken off as anticipated. The euphoria that followed
the United National Party's victory has long since evaporated. The
rosy forecasts of a 'peace dividend' and of an economic boom under
such a pro-business government have proved to be premature.
has even revised downward the forecast growth rate for this year.
The petty and unseemly squabbling between the prime minister and
his cabinet and the president, the kind of behaviour that betrays
the kindergarten mentality of some of our political leaders, only
adds to the prevailing uncertainty.
of affairs of state has degenerated into political farce with threats
by the president not to heed parliament's call for another poll
and counter-threats by parliament to cut off her funds.
What is required
is more mature conduct on the part of our political leaders and
for clear signals from the government that it has the ability to
maintain law and order, revive the economy, and plod on with the
peace process despite all efforts to derail it.