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Role of the Opposition

Sep 22, 2011 4:46:44 PM - www.ft.lk

THE JVP has gone the way of the UNP, one might think, looking at the present chaos. The reports have shown that the JVP, which in 2004 had significant clout within the Government, has now reduced its mark, resulting in internal disputes splitting the party apart.
Newspaper reports indicate that the JVP dissidents are planning to take court action against the leaders of the party and have voiced intention of registering themselves as a separate party. This alone shows the seriousness of the split and it is doubtful that the party will be able to keep itself together. Attempts to iron out this situation will make for interesting observation in the coming days.

There is also the fear that an underground movement will launch a “revolution” against the party leaders, which could very well be an armed struggle. However, given the militarisation of Sri Lanka at present, it would be highly unlikely if not outright impossible for the JVP to instigate such a move without a strong response from the Government.
 The memory of past insurrections and the lives lost in them as well as the dwindling popularity of the party, well shown in the recent election results, are two other contributing factors that would make the prospect of an armed struggle remote.
In addition, the fact that the dissidents are considering legal action shows that they too are conscious of the fact that times have changed and they must adapt or face a struggle for survival. This struggle is by no means limited to the dissidents or the party alone; it spreads to the entire political fabric of the country.
A strong opposition is an essential component of democracy. Given that Sri Lanka does not have one strong opposition party, it has depended on the combined efforts of smaller parties represented in Parliament. There have even been times, such as in the last presidential election, opposition parties came together to provide a scintillating race for the top spot in the country. Whatever the views are of the outcome of that coalition, the fact remains that a balance of power must be maintained to promote democracy within the country.
As the drama within the JVP plays out on the public stage, there still remains a need for all opposition parties in general not to lose sight of their duty. Ensuring that good governance, transparency and democracy exist at least to some extent within politics is essential for the equitable development of this country.
Political stability is not simply about one party governing with absolute power. It is also a balance of power maintained by the Judiciary and other political parties as well as the active participation of the public. On Thursday the Board of Investment (BOI) signed the largest foreign investment deal to enter Sri Lanka yet and on the same day there was an important debate in Parliament on the allocation of State land for development.
This is but a small example of the momentous role that opposition parties must play in Sri Lanka’s future. They must fix themselves for the country to stay whole.

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