12th August 2001
By Victor Ivan
The government does not seem to have realised the depth of the crisis it is facing. The government views it as a simple question of numbers. The government thinks that it can escape from the morass in which it finds itself today if it manages to solve that simple question of numbers through the help of Sarath N. Silva or in some other way.
Although this crisis has given a new strength and stimulus to the opposition parties they do not appear to have the vision which is necessary to resolve the problems facing the country.
The President announced a referendum without properly assessing its consequences. When she realised that the result would be a humiliating defeat she postponed it to October 18.
The JVP said that if the five commissions are brought into existence by law, it (JVP) is ready to support the government from the opposition for a probationary period. However, the magnitude of the crisis that the government is facing is greater than what the JVP has estimated it to be. The ten JVP MPs cannot help the government to survive.
Now that the referendum has been postponed, what can the President do?
She could summon parliament immediately. Otherwise she can summon parliament on the day already announced, and, if considered necessary, prorogue it again and hold elections after the present parliament completes one year.
A policy of proroguing the parliament again and again will aggravate the instability that prevails in the country and can even lead to street demonstrations. Even if nothing of the kind happens and a parliamentary election is held, the PA cannot avoid a crushing defeat in the prevailing circumstances.
In the event the public gives vent to their fury after a crushing defeat, it is unlikely that the President will be able to continue in office. Even if she is able to do so, the new parliament that will come into existence will inevitably rise against the President in a stronger manner.
When all those facts are considered, it is clear that the President is enmeshed in a political trap from which she cannot escape. If she is wise, she would not pursue a stubborn policy but summon parliament and allow the opposition to form a government. The government that emerges would doubtless clip the wings of the President. The President would have to tolerate the unpleasant situation or resign.
In the present circumstances the opposition too cannot form a stable government. It would be more fruitful to have an all-party interim government because an all-party consensus should be able to overcome the problems that beset the country.
Although it would not be difficult to enact democratic reforms immediately, the most difficult challenge should be to reach an agreement with the LTTE. It would be impossible to bring stability to the country without such an agreement.
The best thing the interim government which emerges could do is to turn parliament into a constituent assembly, as South Africa did, then proceed to identify the principles that should prevail in all important sectors, instead of first seeking solutions to problems.
The instability in the country can be overcome only if the aims of both peace and democracy are reached. Peace depends on democracy as much as democracy depends on peace. Peace should not be risked for democracy, as much as democracy should not be risked for peace
JERUSALEM, Saturday (AFP) - Israel's takeover of the unofficial PLO headquarters in east Jerusalem, after a devastating suicide bombing, has sparked threats of Palestinian reprisals as the tit-for-tat violence spirals.
Israeli police descended on the Orient House offices of the PLO yesterday after a Palestinian suicide bomber delivered the most damaging attack on the city of the 10-month intifada, killing himself and 15 others in a crowded west Jerusalem pizza parlour.
Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority accused Israel of tearing up all peace agreements between the two sides, while also condemning other Israeli retaliatory strikes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip."
The occupation of Orient House and the attacks upon other localities nearby in Jerusalem is the equivalent of a unilateral renunciation of all agreements," said Arafat advisor Nabil Abu Rudeina.
The Palestinian Authority and the PLO later demanded that Israel immediately withdraw from the building where, as dawn broke, an Israeli flag was fluttering before being removed later in the day.
The United States also condemned Israel's seizure of the unofficial PLO headquarters in Jerusalem and a West Bank raid as a "serious political escalation" of the conflict with the Palestinians."
We are concerned about the Israeli actions against Orient House and the Palestinian town of Abu Dis," on the West Bank, said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher."
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