Strike a chord with Opposition
Not only was it just the week after Poson - the day venerated for centuries commemorating the introduction of the sublime teachings of the Buddha to the people of this island, but the Chief Monk of one of the country's two main Buddhist Clergy Chapters had passed away and his mortal remains were lying-in-state.

We all know that the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) rode to the seats of civic power on the wave of a campaign to safeguard Buddhism and introduce a new political culture. Last Tuesday's incidents speak for themselves - Res ipsa Loquitor.

That a man of the cloth had to be manhandled, the way the new monk-MP was, was indeed a heinous, moral crime. That this incident has not led to greater calamity in the country is only an indicator that the people are so anaesthetised to violence that nothing no longer shocks them.

And we can expect that outside the august assembly too, the perpetrators will be at large, only to be unleashed over and over again. It is now patently clear that Parliament cannot function. The UPFA government has no working majority, and cannot bring in any new laws for fear of defeat. The Opposition on the other hand, has been strengthened by the foolhardy conduct of the ruling alliance MPs. After the previous incidents in the House, which were only a run-up to what happened on Tuesday, we feared a Hitler-style approach to parliamentary democracy with the JVP openly canvassing the subservience of Parliament to the mandate of the people.

In Hitler's Germany, the climax was the burning down of the Reichstag, their Parliament, after his Nazi party had won the elections. That cleared the way for a dictatorship.

In fairness to the JVP, they were not the ones responsible for the ugly events of last Tuesday. They may have shouted, and shouted in unparliamentary language, but the real culprits were those from the PA - in fact, the SLFP camp.

No doubt, parliamentary commotions are not uncommon around the world. One-time British Defence Minister Michael Heseltine grabbed the mace of the House of Commons - the Mother of Parliaments and waved it around, earning him the nick-name 'Tarzan' forever, thereafter. Last week, Japan's Diet broke into fisticuffs, and in Taiwan, MPs regularly practise kung-fu with each other.

In Sri Lanka, however, this recurring problem since the 13th Parliament first met on April 22, seems to have a hidden agenda. There is a school of thought that suggests that these orchestrated disruptions of the House proceedings are pointedly aimed at promoting the Doctrine of Necessity theory to introduce a new Constitution to enable the President to become the Prime Minister through a kind of Referendum arguing that Parliament is unworkable.

The reliance is on the belief that the UPFA has a people's mandate to do this. In reality, the UPFA does not have a people's mandate - it has less than 50 per cent of the nation's vote. The exercise is going to be fraught with impurities and we will see street-fights in time to come.

In any event, until the UPFA Government is able to muster the 113-seat working majority in the Legislature, we will not see the passage of any new laws, other than those that have the approval of both sides of the House.

It is, therefore, crucial that this Government begins a programme of reconciliation with the Opposition rather than going heavy-handed on a head-on collision course. It must change course now, if it is not to hit a rock soon that will sink the Ship of State.

All the Government's efforts at bribery and skullduggery to win Opposition MPs over has not materialised, and the powers-that-be have a lot of egg on their faces in trying to pursue this path. Their financiers are running out of cash and their strong-arm tactics seem to be backfiring on them.

It seems the easier path would be to make-up with the Opposition and at least do the things where there is all-party consensus; in areas such as health, education, poverty alleviation, transport, environment, good governance etc., areas which affect the lives of thousands of ordinary people. And yet, the Government makes it seem so hard to do even that.

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