Alliance divided: on Sri Lankan politics
In Sri Lanka’s interest, President Sirisena and PM Wickremesinghe should work together
Sri Lanka is in the throes of a political crisis after the two main parties in the ruling coalition (गठबंधन) suffered a dramatic defeat in the recent local government elections. Fissures (दरार) between the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, led by President Maithripala Sirisena, and the United National Party, led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, have deepened. The fragile ‘national unity’ government they run together is beset (रोकना) by instability and uncertainty. The local council polls, won resoundingly by the Sri Lanka People’s Front, which has the backing of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, have brought to the fore popular disenchantment (मोहभंग) with the ruling parties, particularly over unemployment and rural distress caused by drought. Even prior to the elections, Mr. Sirisena disagreed often with his Prime Minister over policy measures. In his campaign, he highlighted an inquiry report that indicted some associates of Mr. Wickremesinghe in a mammoth (महाकाय) scandal in the sale of government bonds by Sri Lanka’s central bank. It was no surprise when the parties contested separately, but neither of them foresaw (अंदाज लगा लेना) the outcome, which could mark the return of Mr. Rajapaksa as a major political force. After the results were out the alliance came under stress as Mr. Sirisena wanted the Prime Minister to resign, but the latter has made it clear he will stay on. Amidst efforts by each camp to form an alternative regime that would exclude the other, Mr. Wickremesinghe has said the coalition stands. There is talk of a Cabinet reshuffle as a means of settling their differences, but the durability of the alliance remains in doubt.
The coalition rides on the moral strength of the twin mandate of 2015: Mr. Sirisena’s victory in the presidential election over Mr. Rajapaksa, and the alliance’s decisive win in the parliamentary elections held later. It is imperative (अनिवार्यता) to Sri Lanka’s interest that the President and Prime Minister remain faithful to the original mandate, which was for good governance and institutional reform. Mr. Wickremesinghe says he is committed to it, and that he will take “corrective measures” on the economic front. The fact that economic disillusionment (आशाभंग) had in the past led to social unrest, conflict and extreme nationalism should not be forgotten. The alliance had obtained public support for its reform agenda and for showing a path away from authoritarian trends and institutional decay. It would be unfortunate if partisan interests are placed above the people’s aspirations. The two leaders should seek to sink their differences and win back popular confidence. The coalition should continue to pursue the process of framing a new and inclusive constitution. It should fulfil its promises on reconciliation to the war-affected Tamils, whose backing proved crucial in their march to power. One electoral setback should not result in the project of national reconciliation falling victim to narrow political interests.
1. Coalition: an association of persons, parties, or states for mutual assistance and protection
Synonyms: alliance, axis, bloc, block, confederacy, combination, combine, confederation, federation, league, union
2. Fissures: A state of incompatibility or disagreement.
3. Beset: (of a problem or difficulty) trouble (someone or something) persistently.
Synonyms: plague, bedevil, attack, assail, beleaguer, afflict, torment, torture, rack, oppress, trouble, worry, bother, harass, hound, harry, dog
Antonyms: cover, defend, guard, protect, secure, shield
4. Disenchantment: A feeling of disappointment about someone or something you previously respected or admired; disillusionment.
Synonyms: disillusionment, disappointment, dissatisfaction, discontent, discontentedness, rude awakening
5. Mammoth: unusually large
Synonyms: king-size (or king-sized), leviathan, huge, massive, mega, mighty, monster, monstrous, monumental, mountainous, oceanic, pharaonic, planetary, prodigious, super, super-duper, supersize, supersized, titanic, tremendous, vast, vasty, walloping, whacking, whopping
Antonyms: bantam, bitty, diminutive, infinitesimal, Lilliputian, little bitty, micro, microminiature, microscopic (also microscopical), midget, miniature, minuscule, minute, pocket, pygmy, teensy, teensy-weensy, teeny, teeny-weeny, tiny, wee
6. Foresaw: to realize or know about beforehand
Synonyms: anticipate, divine, forefeel, foreknow, prevision
7. Imperative: forcing one’s compliance or participation by or as if by law
Synonyms: compulsory, forced, mandatory, incumbent, involuntary, necessary, nonelective, obligatory, peremptory, required
Antonyms: elective, optional, voluntary, inconsequential, insignificant, nonessential, unimportant
8. Disillusionment: A feeling of disappointment resulting from the discovery that something is not as good as one believed it to be.
Directing reforms: on candidates disclosing sources of income
It is only logical that the sources of income of candidates be disclosed
Adding to the growing body of judicially inspired electoral reforms, the Supreme Court has imposed (अधिरोपित करना) an additional disclosure norm for candidates contesting elections. It has asked the Centre to amend the rules as well as the disclosure form filed by candidates along with their nomination papers, to include the sources of their income, and those of their spouses and dependants. The court has also asked for the establishment of a permanent mechanism to investigate any unexplained or disproportionate increase in the assets of legislators during their tenure. The verdict of the two-judge Bench on a petition from the NGO, Lok Prahari, is one more in a long line of significant verdicts aimed at preserving the purity of the electoral process. These include the direction to provide the ‘NOTA’ option in voting machines, and another striking down a clause that saved sitting legislators from immediate disqualification upon conviction. It has ruled that the act of voting is an expression of free speech, and that it is part of this fundamental right that voters are required to be informed of all relevant details about a contestant. This led to the rule that candidates should furnish (प्रस्तुत करना) details of any criminal antecedents (पूर्ववृत्त), educational qualifications and assets. If disclosure of assets is mandatory, it is only logical that the sources of income are also revealed. And as it is often seen that there is a dramatic increase in the assets of candidates at every election over what was disclosed in previous affidavits, it stands to reason that any rise should be explained or probed.
Few will dispute that lawmakers amassing (इकट्ठा करना) wealth or gaining unusual access to public funds and loans are concerns that need to be addressed through new norms. To give teeth to its order, the court has made it clear that non-disclosure of assets and their sources would amount to a “corrupt practice” under Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. Lest a question be raised whether the court’s order to amend the relevant rules amounted to legislation, the Bench has said it sees no “legal or normative impediment”, as the Centre is empowered by the Act to frame rules in consultation with the Election Commission. The idea of a permanent mechanism to collect data about the assets of legislators and periodically examine them is laudable (प्रशंसनीय), but it is not clear which authority will run it. The court envisions a body that would make recommendations for prosecution or disqualification based on its own findings. The Centre and the Election Commission will have to jointly address the issue. The larger message from the verdict is that a fully informed electorate and transparent candidature will be key components of future elections in India.
1. Imposed: to establish or apply as a charge or penalty
Synonyms: assess, charge, exact, fine, lay, levy, put
Antonyms: remit, condone, disregard, excuse, gloss (over), gloze (over), ignore, pardon
2. Furnish: to provide (someone) with what is needed for a task or activity
Synonyms: accoutre (or accouter), equip, fit (out), gird, kit (up or out) [chiefly British], outfit, provision, rig, supply
Antonyms: deprive, dispossess, divest, strip
3. Antecedents: going before another in time or order
Synonyms: previous, anterior, foregoing, former, precedent, preceding, prior
Antonyms: after, ensuing, following, later, posterior, subsequent, succeeding
4. Amassing: to bring together in one body or place
Synonyms: accumulate, gather, assemble, bulk (up), collect, concentrate, congregate, constellate, corral, garner, group, lump, pick up, round up
Antonyms: dispel, disperse, dissipate, scatter, break up, disband, disintegrate, dissolve, separate, sever, split (up)
5. Laudable: deserving of high regard or great approval
Synonyms: applaudable, commendable, creditable, estimable, admirable, meritorious, praiseworthy
Antonyms: censurable, discreditable, illaudable, reprehensible