Cohabit or co-perish
President Kumaratunga set out to address the nation, but she seemed to end up saying how deeply aggrieved she is about the fact that she and her party had been subject to harassment and vilification. If statesmanship was expected, what the people got was a transparent attempt at eliciting some sympathy after her disastrous Polonnaruwa speech in which she bad-mouthed the Cabinet. She now says she was only delivering a pep talk aimed at the internal party faithful. At least now we know what she goes back and tells her party men.

The President is seen to be the jealous guardian of the constitution which she trashed in the remembered past as the "bahubootha vyvasthava.'' But, it is a document which incorporates part of the British and the American systems with the Westminster tradition, resulting in a monstrous hybrid in which two contending parties can be locked into a situation of continuing confrontation, within the parameters of the so called arrangement of governance by cohabitation.

This is a President who wanted the abolition of the Executive Presidency, but later reneged on her election pledge to that effect, and enjoyed the full powers of the institution for seven years. Minister Karu Jayasuriya has suggested in the meanwhile that the Presidential and Parliamentary elections be held on the same day, which is not a bad idea at all, while the Prime Minister seems apparently to favour the American system in its original form without any substantial tinkering.

After 50 years of nation building since independence we as a country are still in the process of deciding which system is best for us. This brings us to that tattered but true invocation with regard to democratic governance which is "for forms of government let fools contest, but that which is administered best is best.''

Watch the East
The volatile situation in the Eastern prov ince cannot be heading for a tragic denouement as in 1990 when hundreds of policemen in that province were murdered when the LTTE suddenly decided to end hostilities.

The Peace Secretariat which operates from the sky in rarefied offices in the Twin Towers, needs to bring itself down to earth and examine what's going on in the East, and formulate contingency plans in the event of a major breakdown in the ceasefire in that province. A total breakdown in the law and order situation there is possible in the form of two scenarios. First, in the form of an LTTE massacre as set out above, or else in the form of a Muslim jihadist movement which takes the law into its own hands against LTTE hegemony, and creates more trouble there than the Sri Lankan forces are equipped to handle.

It may be argued that preparations for war must be handled by Defence specialists, and that therefore if the Peace Secretariat is averse to the task, the JOH (Joint Operations Headquarters ) should busy itself with the task of monitoring the East and coming up with emergency plans. But apparently the JOH had been transformed into a bit of a talking shop with the civilian Ministry of Defence Secretary overseeing operations. It appears that complacency has set in so thick that the JOH prefers to engage itself in some convivial chatting while the East burns.

The ground situation in the East itself is anything but cosy. The army is caught between observing the ceasefire agreement and readying itself for any eventuality - but the moment the forces seek to consolidate their position, there are howls of protests from villagers who are probably put up to the task by the LTTE. Seems the government painted itself into a corner in the East, and is confined there, courtesy of the ceasefire agreement.

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