The Guest Column

10th October 1999

Chandrika administration on verge of an internal explosion

By: Victor Ivan

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President Kumaratunga's inten tion appears to be to hold an early presidential election and to hold the parliamentary election thereafter with a group of candidates hand-picked by her and to administer the country for another term with the help of that group.

It may be recalled that after Mrs. Kumaratunga and a group of people led by her husband left the SLFP and formed their own organization, the relationship between her and the SLFP, which may be considered the organisation built by her father, was not a cordial one.

In the conflict that resulted, her attitude to all those who did not support her and remained in the SLFP supporting her mother and brother was one of enmity. At the time she came back to the SLFP long afterwards, all the leading figures of the Party ganged-up with her mother or brother, both of whom she dislikes.

It was soon after she came back to the SLFP that she became the head of state. By that time all those who had left the SLFP along with her had abandoned her, and she had no time to build her own group in the SLFP. Although she was able to enrol as Cabinet Ministers a few persons selected from various places (like Kadirgamar and Peiris) she had to choose a majority of her Cabinet colleagues from among the old members of the SLFP who had displeased her for a long period of time. Therefore she always relied on the few who were recruited from outside and on those like Mangala Samaraweera and S. B. Dissanayake who had taken the lead in her returning to the party. Although, in the absence of an alternative, she had to accommodate party veterans in the Cabinet, she did it quite unwillingly.

Due to the policy followed by her, of not giving up, even after coming to power, her dislike of the party seniors based on old enmities and of oppressing in one way or another all those falling into that category, there grew up inevitably among the seniors a hidden opposition to the leader.

The debate on Channel 9 was the first occasion when the hidden opposition among the seniors to the President which had been growing for sometime, came to the surface, and there is no doubt that this incident contributed to the further development of the President's dislike for the seniors.

Not only in the SLFP but also in the other parties of the PA there is a growing discontent about the President. Although at the beginning there was a feeling among the other parties in the alliance that it would be easier to work with the daughter who had a closer relationship with the other parties than the mother had, their former faith in her is dissolving fast. There is almost no attempt to get the other parties to participate in the process of taking fundamental decisions relating to the administration.

The fact that the President has shown an interest in driving the smaller parties out of existence, instead of encouraging them to maintain their identity and to develop, has led to displeasure in all those parties. At the beginning only the SLFP had been given the opportunity to appoint Samurdhi animators. There is a grievance that, in regard to employment opportunities, the other parties are getting step- motherly treatment. There is criticism not only in the LSSP but also in the other small parties about the fact that instead of allowing Athauda Seneviratne to assume the post of Chief Minister of the Sabaragamuwa Province as a member of the LSSP he was enrolled as a member of the SLFP before his appointment to that post. A long time has passed after the death of an MP of the Mahajana Party but that vacancy has not been filled with a member of that party. A majority of the seniors in the SLFP do not like the idea of holding the presidential election before the parliamentary election and that view is shared by the other parties of the PA too.

There is a fear among the SLFP seniors that after a victory in the presidential election a majority of them will not get party nomination for the parliamentary election. The smaller parties also fear that after victory in the presidential election she would no longer depend on the support of those parties and they might become disposable. In this circumstances it is unlikely that the President will be able to implement her political plans without opposition. The opposition that is building up among the party seniors might reach bursting point at any time, and the discontent among the other parties of the PA too might lead to a split in the PA. In the period of administration of President Premadasa, a serious political revolt arose not from the Opposition but from amongst the ranks of the government. President Premadasa appeared to think, in view of the lethargy in the opposition, that he was in an extremely strong and powerful position.

The cyclone that arose from inside the government party shook entirely the basis of his strength. The Chandrika administration is also now moving towards a possible internal explosion rather than an external one.

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